Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for THE IRISH INHERITANCE by M.J. Lee

02_The Irish Inheritance

A few weeks ago I posted a HFVBT book blast about THE IRISH INHERITANCE by M.J. Lee. I also received a mobi copy of the ARC and read it as well.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced and interesting mystery, which ties into my own family history!

Here’s the overview:

The Irish Inheritance: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery
by M.J. Lee

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
eBook; 285 Pages
ASIN: B01FR5PP9S

Series: The Jayne Sinclair Series, Book One
Genre: Historical/Mystery

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June 8, 1921. Ireland.

A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.

Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.

How are the two events linked?

Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past.

The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

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So — this is the start of a series with Jayne Sinclair as the protagonist. I liked her a lot — tough, former DI, marriage in trouble, multi-layered. What I loved best, though, was the timeline of the story from past to present, which explains who the father of Jayne’s client is, and why he was sent to America for adoption, etc. The Irish War of Independence and the Easter Rising were portrayed in depth, with some perspectives that were new to me, too.

I’d love to see this book as a movie! It kept me reading to the past page.

If I had one issue, it was that ¬†– being a reviewer – my copy did not have final edits, so I struggled a bit when that pulled me out of the story. Alas, that is the challenge for us ARC readers! ūüôā

Look for this novel at a bookstore near you – or online – or ask your library!

Thank you for my review e-copy and for making me part of the tour!

About the Author

03_MJ Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

You can find more information on M.J. Lee and his novels on Goodreads, Amazon,Facebook, and Twitter.

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Review: A MEDICAL AFFAIR by Anne McCarthy Strauss

My friends at Booktrope sent me a kindle copy of this book to review. In this riveting story, Heather Morrison is a thirty-something professional in NYC who has worked hard to be professionally successful in life. She has not been lucky in love, however, and she has spent months going through the process to adopt a baby girl from China. Heather seems to have it all together until she lands in the ER one night with a surprise asthma attack. There she meets Dr. Jeff Davis who becomes her pulmonologist, and then her lover. Heather and Jeff’s relationship has disaster written all over it right from the start. Jeff, while seemingly caring and very attractive, is¬†married and (as if that wasn’t enough)¬†her doctor. Heather, though, almost cannot control her attachment to him and the affair develops. As things progress, Heather’s insecurities surface, along with some serious emotional vulnerabilities and issues which were screaming out for her to get help from a trained therapist or psychiatrist. Instead Jeff treats her with his own techniques and a virtual smorgasbord of pills. When Jeff unceremoniously dumps her (of course that was coming – the guy is a serial cheater), Heather decides to fight back by taking him to court.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

As I read this book I wanted to think that stuff like this couldn’t/wouldn’t/doesn’t happen, but I’m sure it does. Jeff was just sleazy and arrogant enough to think he could break the law and get away with it. Heather was just frail enough to go along and pretty much lose her sense of rational thought (until after the break up). By the time Heather regains her senses (and it is even doubtful to me if she has by the end), her life is a mess: she has lost her job and lost the baby she was in the process of adopting, and she is popping valium, sleeping pills, and more like they are M&M’s, all the while she is chain-smoking. This book spends much time covering legal issues and ethical/medical issues. Sometimes it felt like a lot of “telling” – such as when Heather would meet with her lawyer – but a reader needed that information in order to understand and believe the story (someone might have instead thought “hey – they are consenting adults; what’s the issue?”). Poor Heather is pretty much put through the wringer and while the ending is hopeful, I can’t say it’s completely happy.

This was a really interesting read to me, and I could barely put the book down because I wanted to make sure Heather would get justice. I could see this story being made into a Lifetime movie! I know these characters weren’t real, but that little baby Lin who missed getting adopted really weighed on my mind at the end. Alas, I do take my books seriously!

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

 

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Review: A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers

My new Kindle gives me ads¬†all the time when I turn it on or off. Of course this means I am purchasing WAY more things than I used to for my Kindle! One of these purchases was for A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE by Martha Powers. In this story, news reporter¬†Clare Prentice discovers after her mother’s death that she is adopted, and she takes¬†on the mission to discover who her biological parents were. She travels to Minnesota supposedly to interview a popular author, but instead opens up an old mystery and starts nosing around to find out about who her birth mother was, how she was murdered, and what happened to her birth father. Of course the real killer is still lurking about, and is not about to let Clare uncover past deeds!

I enjoyed reading this story, though at times I found it a bit improbable. It is described as a cozy mystery romance. It was a fun read and I enjoyed guessing who the killer was. There were a few surprises at the end!

Ms. Powers has written several books and I might just have to look some more up at the library!

You can see this book on Amazon, where I got mine, and where it is currently $3.99:

 

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Review: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

I love Fannie Flagg’s books! I think I’ve read them all, but “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” and “Standing in the Rainbow” are two of my favorites. Her latest book came out this month and the wait was so long at the library for it, I had to buy it for myself!

(Note: The following may contain SPOILERS!)

In “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion”, we start with middle-aged Southerner Sookie Poole, who is looking forward to relaxing after two weddings¬†in the family. Sookie is a sweet lady, but has no backbone and even less self-esteem. She has pretty much been bullied by her domineering mother her whole life. Then her life changes when she discovers she is adopted. Her years of Southern heritage, her sorority, her “Simmons foot” are eclipsed by the fact that she appears to be ‘Ginger’ – the illegitimate daughter of a Polish Catholic woman and “father unknown”. Sookie first falls apart, but then embarks on a journey to find out more about her birth mother.
At the same time, we have the story of Sookie’s birth mother and her family. The Jurdabralinski family is from Wisconsin and work hard at running their gas station. When WWII breaks out, the girls of the family run the station; then three of them become female military pilots – WASPS. The stories go back and forth between 1940 and 2005, between Fritzi, the spunky eldest sister, and Sookie.

I really enjoyed reading this book! Fannie Flagg’s writing always makes me laugh out loud, then suddenly I’m crying. It’s funny, poignant, silly, and touching all at once. I particularly liked the chapters on Fritzi and her sisters. I found the information on the WASPS (something I knew little about) very interesting! Sookie’s chapters made me laugh as some of it was pretty silly. I did like the resolution and end of this book.

So glad to see a new one by Ms. Flagg!

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

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Review: SECRET STORMS by Kathy Hatfield and Julie Mannix von Zerneck

I was recently contacted by Rachel, the publicist for SECRET STORMS, to see if I’d like to read and review this novel. It sounded interesting — a mother and daughter reunited 43 years after the young mother had given her baby up for adoption. It was a true story, too, and I said yes.

Once I started SECRET STORMS I could not put it down! I read 300 pages the first afternoon and finished it the next day. SECRET STORMS (which is subtitled:¬†A Mother and Daughter: Lost then Found) starts in 1963 with teenage, Philadelphia debutante Julie Mannix being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. She is nineteen and pregnant. Her parents feel that hospitalizing her for the extent of her pregnancy is for her own safety and well-being, and they really want her to have an abortion, but she refuses. So Julie experiences her pregnancy while living with some interesting characters who are suffering from various psychiatric illnesses, oddly reminiscent of¬†Girl, Interrupted. Upon having her baby girl, the baby is taken away for adoption and Julie goes home and tries to return to a “normal” life (though her family life is far from normal). Julie continues with acting and has a growing career as a stage and screen actress. She marries the father of her child and they start a life together. However, she never is able to forget her first baby, or truly forgive herself.

Meanwhile, baby “Aimee” grows up as “Kathy”, in a loving family with two brothers. Sadly, her adoptive mother dies from cancer when the three children are all less than ten years old. This is a devastating loss for the family and one from which they never truly recover. Her father tries to keep it together, with first his parents living with them and then by remarrying the beautiful but unpredictable and abusive Gloria. I felt for this family so much. This poor man lost his wife, then had a disastrous marriage, then lost his job and his house and a lot of his income. The kids were amazingly resilient, but it was a sad story.

Eventually, though, Julie and Kathy’s paths cross, and they finally build a life together as mother and daughter.

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I felt so much for little Kathy growing up and all the hardships she faced. I was also fascinated with the unique childhood that Julie had with her somewhat eccentric parents and their lifestyle. It seemed incredible to me that, with a little luck, Kathy was able to find her mother in about 15 minutes using the Internet. If this wasn’t a true story I would have said that was unbelievable!

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy this type of family drama and memoir.

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

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REVIEW: The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

I received this novel through Net Galley and was excited to read it. Taking place in the 1950’s and 60’s in Ireland, it tells the story of a young, Catholic¬†woman, Marian, who finds herself in love with a Jewish colleague at the school where they teach. When she discovers she is pregnant, she goes away to a “home” to have the baby and then puts the baby up for adoption, thinking he will have a better life in America. Ten years later, and now married to her then boyfriend and with a young daughter,¬†she discovers that their son has lived in a nearby orphanage all his years. Marian and her husband try to get custody of their son, Adrian, and work to fit him into their family, even as they continue to struggle as an inter-faith couple. But first they must convince the establishment that they are capable and worthy of raising their son.

While I really enjoyed this book, and particularly couldn’t put it down in the last few chapters, I was a bit disheartened at the portrayal of the religious people in this book as fanatical, sadistic, and depraved (full disclosure: I’m Catholic). I guess I’m just tired of reading books and seeing movies where 99% of the nuns/priest/brothers are portrayed as evil. That said, I know that deplorable conditions existed in some places (anyone see the movie “The Magdalenes”??).

Beyond that, I found the main character portrayals and the depth of emotions in the main characters the strengths in this novel. How would it feel to find your son after all those years? How do you unite a family that has never been a family yet? How much does our religion guide our lives and relationships?

A thought-provoking book! I’ll look forward to more from Ms. Henry.

Thanks for my copy, Net Galley and T.S. Poetry Press!!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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(Quick) YA Review: Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent

While shopping for our school library at the Scholastic warehouse nearby, we picked up this little gem of a book. “Kimchi and Calamari” centers on 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, a Korean boy adopted in infancy into a NJ Italian family. Joseph struggles with his identity and his unknown past when his English teacher assigns his class to write about their family’s past. Joseph creates a fictional story based on an Olympic athlete, which gets him into hot water when his essay is selected as a winner for a local contest. He also secretly posts on a Korean adoptee website in an effort to track down his birth mother.

This was such a charming book to read. I couldn’t help but like Joseph right from the onset as he endured the daily ups and downs of your typical 8th grader: friends, girls, little sisters, and family matters. Joseph’s quest to better understand him past and thus himself is a touching one, and one I would think many adopted individuals would relate to. Kent does a good job in making Joseph believable and likable, and I appreciate that while the story has a happy and positive ending, she does not tie¬†up all the loose ends in a neat package with a bow on top!

This would make a good summer read for 5th through 7th graders, in my opinion, especially if you are looking for a male protagonist and for something in the realistic fiction genre.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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