Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

BRIDGES by Maria Murnane

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A while ago I was contacted by the very pleasant author of this novel, Maria Murnane, to see if I’d like to read and review her novels – BRIDGES and WAITING FOR THE RAIN. I had a tbr list of 35 titles, but said yes and Ms. Murnane has been quite patient in awaiting my thoughts on her novels!

This appealing story covers a long weekend in NYC when three best friends from college get together for a girls’ weekend. Each woman has something on her mind and challenges she is facing. Here’s the overview from Amazon:

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

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The women in this story are all around 40 years old, and that really appealed to me, because personally I have trouble connecting with free-wheeling 20-somethings that often are peppered throughout books like this. These women’s challenges are familiar and their relationship is one that has gone through the test of time, reminding me of my own friends. While certainly problems exist, this is a light read, perfect for summer, with likable characters and an uplifting and positive ending. I really enjoyed it!

Here’s some info on Maria:

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Biography

The story of how Maria became an author is a little crazy. She used to work in high-tech PR but hated it, so she quit and ended up playing semi-pro soccer in Argentina for a year. While she was down there she decided to write a novel, which was something she’d always dreamed of doing. Fast forward a few years, and she’s now the bestselling author of the Waverly Bryson series (Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly), plus Katwalk, 2015 International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane, Wait for the Rain, and Bridges. And yes, she still plays a lot of soccer!

Learn more and sign up for her mailing list at http://www.mariamurnane.com

If you enjoy Maria’s books, please tweet @mariamurnane and “like” her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/mariamurnane.

To contact her via email, send a note to maria@mariamurnane.com. She loves hearing from readers and personally responds to every message!

THANK YOU so much for my review copy of BRIDGES! WAITING FOR THE RAIN (which has the same characters and actually comes before this title) is next!
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Saturday Snapshot — More from NYC!

Following up on last week’s post, I wanted to add some shots from St. Pat’s Cathedral and also show the two shows we saw: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Waitress. We really enjoyed both of them!

I’ve added a picture of the cute little apple pies they were selling at intermission at Waitress!

One morning my husband had to make a business call, so I went out and about and ended up in the Today Show crowd on tv! Now I wish I had a picture of that!! 🙂

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at westmetromommyreads.com. See her site for full participation details!

 

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From CookBook to Real Life! Eating at HEARTH in NYC

On our recent trip to NYC, we made a reservation to eat at Hearth, Marco Canora’s restaurant in Manhatten. Last year I read Marco’s cookbook A GOOD FOOD DAY and loved loved loved it!

See my post about it here!

Since the rugrats were at summer camp, we figured this was the best time to have a new dining experience.

Hearth is located off First Avenue on 12th Street in a cute little brick building. It felt very cozy and was lit by candles (thus the dim pictures — sorry).

My husband ordered the Restaurant Week menu, which was prix fixe (it was “restaurant week in NYC when we were there). It included really yummy meatballs and a cheese course for dessert.

I ordered the grilled pork chop with pork sausage, summer kale, and peach balsamic. Yum!!

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My husband and I shared a side dish of mushroom trifolati. That was a new term for me, and I always have to ask a million questions when we dine because I am allergic to some things. It means they were fried with olive oil, garlic, and parsley, and let me tell you – I wanted to lick the bowl! (but I didn’t..after all, we were in a nice place!).

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For dessert, we shared a yummy piece of tiramasu cake:

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And then – to my excitement, they brought out a chocolate tray with chocolates from around the world!

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You could sample as much as you wanted – they all had differing amounts of cocoa in them. Of course, we were behaving, so we each tried two different ones. Yummy!!

Our server was super nice and took good care of me and my allergies (shellfish and cilantro). They also had a nice wine selection (we chose a Cote de Rhone I believe).

All in all, visiting HEARTH was a bit of a dream come true since I’m such a fan of Marco’s cookbook!

Check out Hearth’s website at http://www.restauranthearth.com/ You can read about their mission and philosophy of food.

Or even better — check it out the next time you are in NYC!

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Saturday Snapshot: NYC!

So last week we dropped the kids off at summer camp and went to NYC for a few days. As always, we love the Big Apple and had a great time!

Here are a few pictures from Central Park and the Met’s fashion exhibit. I will post more pictures next week.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at westmetromommyreads.com. See her site for full participation details.


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Review of FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to read and review FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey.  This was a rather gritty look at life for an orphan in NYC who goes on one of the “orphan trains” to a new life if rural New York in the 1860’s.

Here’s the overview:

Forgetting Tabitha by Julie Dewey
Publication Date: December 29, 2015
Holland Press

Raised on a farm, Tabitha Salt, the daughter of Irish immigrants, leads a bucolic and sheltered existence. When tragedy strikes the family, Tabitha and her mother are forced to move to the notorious Five Points District in New York City, known for its brothels, gangs, gambling halls, corrupt politicians and thieves.

As they struggle to survive in their new living conditions, tragedy strikes again. Young Tabitha resorts to life alone on the streets of New York, dreaming of a happier future.

The Sisters of Charity are taking orphans off the streets with promises of a new life. Children are to forget their pasts, their religious beliefs, families and names. They offer Tabitha a choice: stay in Five Points or board the orphan train and go West in search of a new life.

The harrowing journey and the decision to leave everything behind launches Tabitha on a path from which she can never return.

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About the Author
Julie Dewey is a novelist who resides with her family in Central New York. Her daughter is a singer/songwriter, and her son is a boxer. Her husband is an all-around hard working, fantastic guy with gorgeous blue eyes that had her falling for him the moment they met.

In addition to researching and writing she is an avid reader. She is also passionate about jewelry design and gemstones. She loves anything creative, whether it be knitting, stamping, scrapping, decoupaging, working with metal, or decorating.

Visit her at http://www.juliedewey.com to get your reading guide for this book and to read an excerpt from One Thousand Porches, her second novel. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

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02_Forgetting Tabitha

Okay — so here’s my take on things. The overview covers the beginning of the book and this was my favorite part of the story. I wanted little Tabitha to find a better life. I was horrified by the squalid conditions in which they had to live (which was very accurate for the time). I also have read a lot about the Orphan Trains, and felt that her experience on them (crying children, people wanting to adopt either little babies or older boys to work on their farms, etc.) was fairly typical.

SPOILER ALERT  — SPOILERS AHEAD!

Where I struggled with the story was at the midway point once Tabitha (now called Mary) was settled into her new life. New characters were introduced and sometimes these characters took over the narrative. There were several points of view portrayed, which was made less confusing by the fact that the chapter titles were the character’s names. However, and this is just for me as a reader, while I would call the first part of the book “gritty”, there were several scenes in the second half of the book that were violent and also portrayed sexual violence (which is not my bailiwick). These included a 13 year old prostitute being brutally raped. I found those scenes disturbing (especially since I wasn’t expecting it, I was still thinking “orphan trains! chance at a new and better life!”); but to be fair, if you read me regularly, you know that I am a “cozy mystery” type of person rather than a “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” type, so this just isn’t my thing.

I did like the ending and I really liked the plucky and resilient character of Tabitha/Mary. I thought it was interesting how much she changed, and yet how much she stayed the same throughout the book.

If you’d like to read and see more about the orphan trains in real life, check out the wonderful PBS special about them. More info here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan/

Thank you for my review e-copy!

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Audiobook Review: THE EDGE OF LOST by Kristina McMorris

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If you follow me regularly, you might remember that back in December I was part of a Historical Fiction Book Blast for THE EDGE OF LOST by Kristina McMorris. The book sounded so good I put it on my TBR list!

Here’s the overview:

On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

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There’s a lot going on in this novel — from Ireland to coming to America to NYC to Alcatraz. Shan/Tommy goes from being a poor child immigrant with no family, to being part of an Italian clan, to trying to make a solid adult existence for himself, to ending up in Alcatraz. I enjoyed reading his journey along the way. Ms. McMorris’s writing kept me engaged and I felt connected to Shan, especially when things were not going his way! While I would have loved even more scenes/details about his life in Alcatraz (Alcatraz was my 5th grade field trip!), the book is already over 300 pages, so I am guessing that she needed to keep it trim.

With themes of forgiveness, self-fulfillment, and the undying bonds of family, THE EDGE OF LOST is a great read and one that lovers of historical fiction will enjoy.

The Audiobook is just under 11 hours and is read by Charlie Thurston. He did an amazing job because this book has Irish accents, New York accents, “gangster accents” (if you know what I mean), Italian accents, and voices that are male, female, and child. It must have been a task to do it and do it well!

I purchased mine from Audible.

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Review of THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Melanie Benjamin

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Last year, I got a galley of this novel signed at BEA. I also received it through Net Galley. I’m a HUGE Melanie Benjamin fan ever since I read THE AVIATOR’S WIFE (reviewed on here) and I follow her on Facebook (where she seems to be incredibly normal, cheerful, and funny).

Here’s the description of SWANS:

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Review: Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue – a Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson

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If you know me, you know I love the cozy mystery series of “Gaslight Mysteries”, following the adventures of midwife Sarah Brandt in turn-of-the-century NYC. A new one came out at Christmas time and my husband bought it for me – MURDER ON ST. NICHOLAS AVENUE.

Unlike the former novels – all of which I’ve read – this one has Sarah and Frank off to Europe on their honeymoon with the house and children left in charge of assistant Maeve, with Mrs. Malloy and Mrs. Decker (Sarah’s mother) assisting. When a family friend comes to them because she feels her daughter is unjustly accused of murdering her husband, Maeve and the rest of the family – along with friendly police officer Gino – know they must work together to solve the mystery. Of course nothing is simple and the events keep the characters and this reader guessing right up to the last chapters!

I enjoyed this installment in the series, which Ms. Thompson mentions in the afterward she was asked to write for the holidays. Seeing further character development of some of the minor characters (e.g. Mrs. Malloy, Mr. Decker, Gino) was gratifying. I was never fond of the Felix Decker character, but he was much more multi-dimensional after reading this novel.

The characters hint at the fact that they will work together on future mysteries for the “Malloy Detective Agency” so I trust that Ms. Thompson has many more creative plot lines in store for us!

If you like historical cozies, this is a series for you. Each title can stand alone, but reading them in order is a treat as you get to know the characters along the way.

Find this title at a bookstore, library, or online – below is to Amazon where I am an Associate:

Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue: Gaslight Mystery (A Gaslight Mystery)

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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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Audiobook Review: THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

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A while back, everyone was reading THE GOLDFINCH. Thus, I stayed away. Several people told me they read it in their bookgroups. When I asked how it was, I inevitably got the same answer: long. So, when I saw it at the library on the audiobook shelf, I snatched up all 26 CD’s of it.

THE GOLDFINCH is a tale that covers years in a young man’s life – from the fatal day when a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art takes his mother from him, to time with his friend’s family, to years with his father, to adulthood back in NYC where he works in an antique shop, gets involved in the “art underground”, and tries to reconnect with a girl he has always been fascinated by, a girl he first saw the day of the bombing. This story fascinated me and held me, even though it is long. I loved Tartt’s writing and how she captured the characters and sense of place.

In the beginning, Theo Decker is just thirteen and living with his mother in New York. They go to see some art at the MET that his mother likes and it is clear that they share a special relationship. Theo is enjoying himself and has his eye on a red-headed teenage girl with her grandfather when the bomb blast happens. Theo panics. He  can’t find his mother. In his confused state he finds the grandfather and takes a ring from him. He then takes a picture his mother loves – The Goldfinch – from the wall and puts it in his bag. Within days, Social Services arrives at this apartment as they know his mother is missing/dead. Theo goes to live with a wealthy classmate and his family, the Barbours. The family is fairly dysfunctional, though Theo and Andy get along well. Andy’s older brother terrifies Theo and his younger sister is rather annoying. In time his father comes to look for him, with his girlfriend Xandra, and Theo heads out to live with them and their small dog in Las Vegas. In Vegas he meets Boris, his only friend, and together they spend a lot of time hanging out. In time, Theo’s father dies and he heads back to NYC, to an antique shop where the friend of the girl’s grandfather lives. The parts of his life begin to merge together at this point as Theo tries to win over Pippa (the girl), makes a name for himself in antiques with the older gentleman, has Boris re-enter his life, gets into the art forgery business, and grows into adulthood and into a relationship with Andy’s younger sister. All the time, the priceless portrait of the Goldfinch is hidden in his bag.

Okay – that is way more summary info than I usually give in a review, but it gives you an idea of the scope of this book. That said, when I finally got to the end I was a bit disappointed as I felt that I was left hanging. What happened? What did he decide? Is there a sequel?? The writing is beautiful and the narration was truly spectacular — this was my favorite audiobook narration ever! David Pittu was the narrator and he did an amazing job. I LOVED his husky-voiced Xandra; I LOVED his spot-on accented Boris. He was one reason I liked this book so much.

So apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this is a well-written story, as it won the Pulitzer for Fiction for 2013.

Highly recommended – but also a really great listen! Let me know if you’ve read it already and what you thought about it.

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

The Goldfinch

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