REVIEW: The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey

I loved Patricia Falvey’s “The Yellow House” so I dowloaded a sample of “The Linen Queen” for my Kindle, guessing I would love it, and then got it from the library. “The Linen Queen” also takes place in Northern Ireland, but during WWII. It centers on Sheila McGee, a young Irish Catholic, as she struggles to break out of the life of poverty and boredom that she is living with her immature and pretty much useless mother, her overbearing aunt, and her lecherous uncle. Sheila dreams of getting away from the mill life and Ireland, and thinks she has found her ticket in a young Yank – Joel Solomon – who is stationed nearby and who begins seeing her. But will Sheila be able to break the ties that bind and start a new life?

I just loved reading this book. Sheila was an interesting character – one who kept me cheering for her and who changed considerably throughout the novel. Initially self-centered and selfish, Sheila learns that beauty is power as she is crowned the “linen queen” for the mills of Northern Ireland. She uses her position to the best of her ability in order to gain attention and attract men. Her relationship with Joel was intriguing and I wished I had the chance to discuss it – along with her other relationships – with a bookgroup — did she really love Joel or not? Were her feelings for Gavin (her childhood friend) keeping her from committing to Joel, or was it fate that intervened? And how does her relationship with the young refugee, Grainne, show how Sheila is changing?

A bit of fun in this book is that Eileen O’Neill, the protagonist of “The Yellow House”, makes a cameo.

I look forward to reading more by Patricia Falvey. She has a wonderful writing style and captures the essence of Ireland and Irish speech. 5 Stars!

Quick Review: The Body in the Gazebo by Katherine Hall Page

Love, love, love these cozies and have read them all! I bought this one for my Kindle so I didn’t have to wait for it at the library.

Faith Fairchild is mixed up in two mysteries this time: someone has stolen a large sum of money from her husband’s parish and the most likely suspect appears to be Faith’s loving and very honest husband, Tom – and – Pix Miller’s mother Ursula revisits a tragedy from the past when her brother was murdered when threatening notes start arriving. Subplots abound as well — little Amy is struggling with some mean girls on the bus and Pix and Sam’s son is getting married in Hilton Head.

I always love a Faith Fairchild mystery – with recipes no less! I had a bit of a time keeping the characters straight for the parish finances mystery (my one beef with the kindle is that I can’t go back and page through things easily!). I loved the historical mystery – which took place in the early 1920’s on Martha’s Vineyard. Learning about Illumination Night and the hearing impaired people on the island was so interesting, too (I hadn’t known that Martha’s Vineyard can be considered the birthplace for the American Deaf culture – found that on google after I read the book).

Another Faith Fairchild mystery solved!!

Audiobook Review: Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

I picked this up at the library as I was immediately drawn to it since I like Dennis Lehane’s books a lot (e.g. Shutter Island)! It brings back the characters of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro and picks up the story line from “Gone Baby Gone”. It’s 12 years later and Amanda McCready, the little girl they found in “Gone Baby Gone”, is missing again. Patrick and Angie have felt unsettled over the years in bringing little Amanda back to her drug user mom (taking her from the loving couple that – unfortunately – were kidnappers). Patrick decides he’ll take on the case to find her before he “retires” to a more conventional job.

Read by Jonathan Davis, this audiobook kept me engaged. The plot was a bit complicated – particularly while driving – when the Russian mob got involved, but all in all, it was a good listen. Davis’ narration was just okay for me. The Boston accent is always hard for me to listen to – since I live in the Boston area and am thus always analyzing people’s attempts at a Boston accent – and since the book was narrated from Patrick’s point of view, the Boston accent was used for the narration piece, as well as the speech. I think I would have preferred it just for the characters’ spoken bits.

If you like Lehane, you’ll probably like this book!

REVIEW: I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

She’s at it again! That Queen of Suspense – Mary Higgins Clark – has penned a new one. These books are always my guilty pleasure read. Perfect for summer or a time when you have a big long chunk of time to read and can plow right through a whole one!

In this latest, her thirtieth it seems, Alexandra “Zan” Moreland, an attractive and intelligent (of course!) interior designer, is dealing with the grief of having had her child kidnapped from Central Park two years earlier. Suspicious purchases suddenly are being made on her accounts and Zan is seen around town (New York) though she claims to have not bought these things or gone to these places. Everyone asks – is she crazy? Zan even begins to doubt her own sanity. Of course, it’s all a big intricate plot, devised to drive her to suicide or her own murder (whichever comes first). And it all typically ends with a great big happy ending!

I have to say, as a MHC fan, the word “far-fetched” immediately pops to mind. It does seem that some of her earlier works were more credible. It was interesting to me that Zan was a typical MHC heroine in that she was pretty and smart, but atypical as others often described her as pathetic, selfish, and whining. Some people hated this woman. Mary usually also has some sort of romance going on, but in this novel it was pretty much on the back burner, then suddenly boom – in the epilogue Zan was in a serious relationship with one of the other characters.

Is this the best Mary Higgins Clark? Not in my opinion. But if you enjoy her, you’ll read it, as I did!! I got mine on my Kindle as I knew the library wait would be weeks!!!

Quick Review: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

I was looking over my blog and realized that I had forgotten to post about this latest installment of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Society!! I had ordered this to download to our Kindle when it released. I just love, love, love this series. The characters are unique and unforgettable and the feeling of these books is so charming and cozy. Additionally, I love the touch of mystery each one has. All I can say is: HBO please bring back the mini series for another season!!!

In this installment – number 12 I believe – Grace is preparing for her wedding and Precious is solving the mystery of some slaughtered cows. The little white van also mysteriously appears, toodling around the town. You could jump in with this novel, or have read them all. I do enjoy seeing the characters resurface – such as Violet – over time.

All in all, an enjoyable read!!

What’s on my Nightstand…

A lot these days!
I got a copy of the charming “Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English” by Natasha Solomons from my friend Dawn. I’m halfway through.
On the Kindle I am reading Mary Higgins Clark new one: “I’ll Walk Alone”. I started it yesterday and am halfway done!
I also got “The Peach Keeper: A Novel” by Sarah Addision Allen and Katherine Hall Page’s latest: “The Body in the Gazebo” for my Kindle.
I am waiting for a TON of things to come in at the library:
Patricia Falvey’s “The Linen Queen: A Novel” for the Kindle. She does great historical fiction of Ireland.
Maeve Binchy’s “Minding Frankie”
Rhys Bowen’s latest Molly Murphy mystery: “Bless the Bride”
“The Paris Wife: A Novel” by Paula McIain
“The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown
“A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness
I’m first on the wait list for “Caleb’s Crossing” when it arrives.
That should keep me reading for a while!!!
What’s on YOUR nightstand?

Quick Review: The Union Quilters: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini

I’ll need to make this quick as we’re about to leave on vacation, but this past week I read the new Elm Creek Quilters novel: “The Union Quilters” which is set in the Civil War. Chiaverini brings back familiar characters from “The Lost Quilter” and continues their tale, focusing on the women’s battle on the home front to keep morale high and farms going while the men are away fighting. I felt Chiaverini did a good job with the battle scenes and with depicting the deplorable medical conditions of the time. I like her style of writing and find her story lines compelling. That said, I personally could have stood with less of the “love triangle” between Gerda, Charlotte, and Jonathan, but I know some people love that aspect of this story. While the book felt a bit lengthy, it had a satisfying ending.

If you like Chiaverini’s other novels, and especially if you like Civil War era books, then I think you would enjoy it!

I got mine from the library.

REVIEW: Moon over Manifest (Newbery Winner) by Clare Vanderpool

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the 2011 Newbery winner, “Moon over Manifest”. It took some finagling at the library, but I got it eventually. I had heard great things about this book, and since it was historical fiction, I was excited to read it.

“Moon over Manifest” tells the story of 12-year-old Abilene Tucker as she spends the summer in Manifest, Kansas, her father’s hometown, during the Depression. Abilene, who has no mother, seeks to connect to her father by discovering who he was as a boy. She stays with his old friend “Shady”, and quickly makes friends with two girls her age, Lettie and Ruthanne, along with the town medium, Miss Sadie. Soon after arriving, Abilene finds a box of keepsakes and letters, hidden under the floorboards in her room. At the same time, she and her new friends are warned off from looking for a spy called “the Rattler” that they’ve read about in the letters. With a little mystery, this charming historical fiction story keeps you reading as you move back and forth between 1917 and 1936 to discover the meaning of the items in the box, Abilene’s father’s past, and the town itself.

I really did love reading this book from first-time author Claire Vanderpool. There were a few things I wondered about: such as why Abilene’s father sent her to Manifest in the way he did. I also thought Ms. Vanderpool covered a LOT of territory in this novel: immigration, the Depression, the drought, WWI, the KKK, prohibition, and more! There were lots of teachable moments, but I couldn’t decide what age I thought would be best to read this novel. It is lengthy, too – over 350 pages.

I look forward to reading more from Ms. Vanderpool. Congrats to her on her outstanding debut!!

QUICK REVIEW: After the Train by Gloria Whelan (children’s fiction)

I picked After the Train up at the library last week while I was hanging out with my son. It is a short read, less than 200 pages, aimed to upper elementary/middle schoolers. The story takes place after WWII in 1950’s Germany. Tensions are still high and the country is working to recuperate after the devastation of the war. Young Peter and his family live what seems to be a normal life, until one day he discovers a secret about his past that changes how he sees his family, his world, and himself.

I just loved this book. It was an easy, quick read for me, and it had a lot of “teachable moments” in it, I thought. I seem to be finding more and more books lately about the years after WWII, which is a time period I really hadn’t seen a lot on for children.

I look forward to reading more by Gloria Whelan!