Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

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I love a good thriller and I especially love YA boarding school settings – the perfect place for a murder! This was a thriller about twins that are sent to a prestigious boarding school and while one is the good, quiet twin, her sister promptly gets in trouble. Told in more than one voice, the story has its twists and turns and will keep you guessing! For older YA and adults due to sexual scenes and violence.

Here’s the overview from Net Galley – thanks 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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LOSING LEAH HOLLOWAY by Lisa Regan

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A Note From the Publisher

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This novel is the second in a series, but can work as a stand-alone. I hadn’t read the previous title.
I chose this book on Net Galley as it looked intriguing and suspenseful. It was, but it was also rather sad and depressing. The novel starts with a carfull of passengers plunging off a bridge. The driver, a young mother, refuses to be saved and drowns. The story then goes from the present unraveling of the mystery to the past to uncover the chain of events that put the tragedy in motion. While at some points you know the characters’ motivations, there are some twists and surprises as well.
While this was a solid read, it felt different from a typical mystery to me. I generally don’t relate to the murder victim (especially when they die at the beginning of the novel). This story was different in that you could see why and how things came to be.  I found the final ending to be so sad for the children involved, too. Definitely not your typical mystery. Well-paced and plotted, I’d recommend it to those who want a mystery that goes beyond the action.
Thank you for my review e-copy.
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Audiobook Review: ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS by Adriana Trigiani

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I recently had the chance to get ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS with my Audible credit for the month. I LOVE Adriana Trigiani’s books and I was quite excited to listen to her new one. This is a wonderful story, set in the golden age of Hollywood and involving familiar and beloved classic stars.

Gretchen Young took the screen name “Loretta Young” and spent her life as an actress. Witty and hardworking, Gretchen and her sisters all worked in the movies, supporting themselves and their mother, from early childhood into adulthood. In her early twenties and recently having her marriage annulled, she is coming off an infatuation with the already married Spencer Tracy, when Loretta finds herself drawn to the always irresistible Clark Gable (another married man). Her strict Catholic upbringing makes her unable to engage in an open affair, and she fights her attraction to him, all while they are filming The Call of the Wild together. However, weeks after filming Loretta discovers she is pregnant and has to decide how she will proceed in her life — both personally and professionally.

While I knew Loretta Young from the movies, I had no idea she had a child by Clark Gable (true). The whole story is something Hollywood-esque. (However, there are also stories that she later said she was date raped by Gable — decidedly not exciting/romantic/humorous/okay if that’s true). If you know me, you know I LOVE stories of classic Hollywood, and I love anything to do with movie stars and Hollywood, especially in the old days (I also love plays and theater and Broadway but that’s for another day).

Trigiani does her usual excellent job in evoking a sense of place and personality here — doubling challenging as she is taking on the personas of living legends. Even the minor characters are exciting — Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, etc. (and I want Myrna Loy for a friend!).

The audible version was read by Blair Brown and she does an amazing job in telling the story, pitching her voice with variety, and pulling the reader in. Truly, this was one of the best “aud-itions” of a novel that I’ve experienced.

While this book released recently, it is EVERYWHERE! Get yours pronto and let me know how you like it!

 

 

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Review: THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy

I had heard some chatter about this book while I was at BEA this spring, but I couldn’t find an ARC around, thus I pre-ordered it for my kindle. It downloaded last week when it was published and I started it on the plane ride home from California.

Wow! What a read this was!

THIS IS THE WATER focuses on a New England swim team and the parents of the girls on the team. One of the parents is struggling in her lackluster marriage. Another parent is sure her husband is having an affair. A third parent is an annoying and interfering mother. Along with the daily intricacies of life, a serial killer is stalking one of the girls and when he strikes, their whole swim team world is temporarily turned upside down.

This was the type of book that once I started, I could not put it down. Not only was there a lot of information on the main characters and their trials and tribulations, but the focus on the murder and the killers’ motives and actions served as a subplot. I wanted to see if he would be caught. I wanted to see if Annie’s marriage could be saved. Was Paul having an affair? Would the killer strike again? Would annoying Dinah ever stop being annoying?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this book is written in a unique and innovative style. The entire book is written in the present tense (hence, “this is the water”). The style is almost that of a children’s book: “This is the water” etc. While some may find this different (or even annoying), I found it almost lulling, similar to a gentle lapping of (wait for it!) water. And while we are onlookers throughout,  at times we are Annie, and the story switches to second person:”You go the pool.” etc. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel written in second person. Somehow, reading it that way made me identify very closely with Annie. It was almost uncomfortably creepy. While I’m sure this style wouldn’t work for some readers, I absolutely loved it and found it quite brilliant.

So – I highly recommend this book (one of fave summer reads so far!) for those who want the suspense and intrigue and the distinct writing style of Ms. Murphy.

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

 

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Quick Review: THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE by Thomas Christopher Greene

So I had heard about this book when it first came out and put it on my wish list. I bought it as a birthday gift from Amazon (yes, my bday is on Saturday!). Most bloggers had said things like “I can’t even talk about what this book is about because I will give it away!” or something similar, so all I knew was that it was about a headmaster and his wife at an independent boarding school. If you know me, you know I’ve spent my professional life in independent school (aka “prep” schools) and I LOVE to read about them.

So – the bloggers were correct. I can’t talk about this book without giving it away. It is MUCH better to go into this book not knowing what to expect. When I started reading last night after dinner I thought, “Oh no. Not THIS storyline again.” However, I continued, and at the end of part one (there are three major parts/POV in the book) I was blown away and so hooked that I kept reading straight through until the book was finished at 11 PM.

This was a fascinating read – one that kept me guessing and puzzling and thinking about it long after it was over. It some ways it reminded me of “Gone Girl”. In other ways, it reminded me of “Shutter Island”. Regardless, I’ve said enough. Do yourself a favor and if you choose to read it, read it cold. Be surprised.

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

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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: Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

A Net Galley find, “Everything We Ever Wanted” by Sara Shepard tells the story of a family broken by crisis, and examines the ties that bind people together. Sylvie Bates-McAllister is a widowed mother of two grown sons: Charles, the upright businessman (who is considering having an affair) and Scott, the adopted son who’s a bit of rebel. Sylvie’s family history is tied closely to the prestigious independent school that her grandfather led and where she serves on the board. Her son Scott is a wrestling coach there. Disaster looms when Sylvie is notified of an unexpected student death at the school, possibly related to hazing on the wrestling team. This is the type of thing that can bring a school, a family, and an individual down, and Sylvie struggles to keep her head above water, while Charles fights his own demons and Scott maintains his independence. Added to this is the shadow of a supposed illicit affair that Sylvie’s husband had before his death- an affair that Sylvie seeks to know more about, yet wants to pretend never happened. All things tie together at the end of this well-written and compelling story.

I enjoyed reading this novel. My history in independent schools always puts me in line to read a novel set in one. While I related to the sense of identity that the characters felt in relation to the school, the thing that stood out to me was the stark emptiness of the character’s emotional well-being in this novel. They were all pretty much miserable: Sylvie, Charles, Scott, and Charles’ wife Joanna. Joanna’s intrepid and over-the-top mother was another unique but pathetic character as well. I found this book very grey – when I imagined the action, the setting, the mood, it all seemed overcast to me (until the end).

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading about independent schools and women’s lives. I really liked Sara Shepard’s writing as well.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy.

This author is the author of the “Pretty Little Liars” series for YA readers, so I may pick that up to check out!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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