A Look Back at February…

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Here’s what was happening around here during the month of February —

Heather Webb came to speak at the Concord Bookshop. I’m reading her book RODIN’S LOVER now (it’s great!).

I reviewed a really great cookbook – A GOOD FOOD DAY by Marco Canora (highly recommended)

I reviewed THE BUTTERFLY AND THE VIOLIN by Kristy Cambron (and I will be part of her blog tour for her next book in this series in April).

I reviewed Laurie King’s DREAMING SPIES (which I loved). I posted about a large giveaway through her publicist and also did my own blog giveaway of her new book!

I reviewed the mystery thriller THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Sara Blaedel (Nordic crime!)

I reviewed THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (suspense/thriller), THINGS HALF IN SHADOW by Alan Finn (historical mystery), THE HALF-BROTHER by Holly LeCraw (fiction), and EIGHT MINUTES by Lori Reisenbichler (supernatural suspense).

I posted about a giveaway for Sandra Byrd’s MIST OF MIDNIGHT, reviewed Melissa D’Arabian’s SUPERMARKET HEALTHY, and reviewed two audiobooks – RIPPER by Isabel Allende and THE NIGHT STRANGERS by Chris Bohjalian.

I took part in the HFVB Tour for THE WITCH HUNTER’S TALE by Sam Thomas (historical fiction) and did a book blast for HFVBT for LETTERS TO KEZIA by Peni Jo Renner.

Phew! It was a busier month than I realized!

Next month you can look for more historical fiction blog tours and book blasts and more book reviews, ranging from Coco Chanel to two sisters disguised as boys in the Civil War to a young woman solving mysteries Nancy Drew style. I’ll also have a few special Saturday Snapshots to share with sandy beaches and sun!

Happy Reading!

Audiobook Review: RIPPER by Isabel Allende

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First let me begin by saying: I love Isabel Allende’s books. THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is one of favorite books ever. EVA LUNA, OF LOVE AND SHADOWS, DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE, PORTRAIT IN SEPIA. You get the idea. So I was thrilled to see she had written a mystery novel – described as “fast-paced” – that takes place in San Francisco (near my old stomping grounds). I got it as an audiobook from my public library.

Wow — what a disappointment. Isabel Allende is an incredible writer. Her attraction for me has always been in the beauty of her language. Her characters are so real and human. Her stories are enthralling.

Not this one. This story had me puzzled right from the beginning. There was WAY TOO MUCH character description and background given. The story is about a serial killer in San Francisco and I felt like I was at about CD 6 before we got a murder (covered in what felt like a few paragraphs). Instead we had this lush, detailed history of our main character (soon to become victim-in-danger-of-being-murdered-by-serial-killer) Indiana Jackson – a woman who was so beautiful, so gifted, so extraordinary, and so not aware of her power over men that she seemed totally unbelievable as she went about her work as a homeopath. Her daughter is the shy and reclusive, but brilliant, Amanda, who spends her time playing an online game called “Ripper” with other teens where they solve murders. Amanda’s father – Indiana’s ex – is luckily a SF homicide cop so that gives everybody access to detailed police information. Amanda’s grandfather is her best friend and plays Ripper, too. When Indiana is finally abducted in about disk 10, Amanda makes it her job to figure out who the killer is and save her mother in time.

THIS PART CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Now, someone who has read this book please tell me: who WAS that killer?? He had like five different names and aliases and he was someone I didn’t even remember from earlier in the novel when we were getting the back story to birth of all those other characters. What??? And all those other people he killed were related to him and his crazy, feral, abused, neglected youth, but why did he want to kill Indiana?? Did she maybe reject him? (I have to say I do struggle with following books while driving sometimes and I can’t really rewind). Also, this was looooong. I just looked it up on Amazon and saw it has over 500 pages. I believe it.

So – in a nutshell – if you want great character descriptions and Allende’s writing, you might like this. If you want a fast-paced thriller, skip this one. My expectations were really high, so that didn’t help.

But Isabel, I still absolutely love your (other) books!

PS – forgot to mention the narrator, Edoardo Ballerini — LOVED his smooth voice!

Book Blast – LETTERS TO KEZIA by Peni Jo Renner

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As part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours event, I’m posting about the newly published LETTER TO KEZIA novel today.

Here’s a synopsis of the plot (courtesy of HFVBT):

It is 1693 in Hereford, Connecticut, when Mary Case, the spinster daughter of a Puritan minister, finds herself hopelessly smitten by the roguish thief, Daniel Eames. Betrothed to a man she does not like or love, she is soon compelled to help Daniel escape from jail. Suddenly, she finds herself on the run, not only accused of being Daniel’s accomplice, but also of murder.

The fugitive pair soon finds solace-and a mutual attraction-among the escapee’s Algonquin friends until two men from Daniel’s dark past hunt them down. After Mary is captured and returned home to await trial, a tragedy takes the life of her younger sister, revealing a dark secret Mary’s father has kept for months. But just as Mary learns she is pregnant, she makes a horrifying discovery about Daniel that changes everything and prompts her to develop an unlikely bond with his mother, Rebecca, who soon saves Mary from a shocking fate. It is not until years later that her daughter, Kezia, finally learns the truth about her biological father and family.

Letters to Kezia shares a courageous woman’s journey through a Puritan life and beyond as she struggles with adversity and betrayal, and discovers that loyalty can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

This book is Book Two of The Puritan Chronicles and it has 208 pages.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve added it to my GoodReads – and so can you:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24512890-letters-to-kezia

Here’s some info on the author:

03_Author Peni Jo Renner

PENI JO RENNER is the author of the IPPY award-winning novel, Puritan Witch: the Redemption of Rebecca Eames. Originally from North Dakota, Peni now lives with her husband in Maryland where she is currently researching for the third book in the Puritan Chronicles series.

I need to check this series out! 🙂

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HFV Book Tour Review: THE WITCH HUNTER’S TALE by Sam Thomas

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I’m happy today to be taking part in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Sam Thomas’s THE WITCH HUNTER’S TALE, part of the Midwife Mysteries series.

Bridget Hodgson is the midwife of the town of York, England, in the 1600’s. She and her deputy, Martha, are called to be involved when another woman is accused of witchcraft at a birth. This is Puritan England and it doesn’t take much to have folks turn on you and accuse you of being a witch (believe me — I often am so thankful that I did not live in those times!). Bridget tries to not be involved, but there are powerful men controlling the whole situation, and they will stop at nothing to have things happen as they want them. Added to this is one of Bridget’s enemies, a former midwife who is now a witch hunter. Soon things turn against Bridget’s family and she becomes desperate to save them. Will she succeed?

I enjoyed reading this historical mystery! I don’t often read mysteries from this time period, so it was different and interesting to me. I really liked both the characters of Bridget and Martha. They were smart and tough. I’d like to read more in the series!

Look for this book at an indie bookstore near you, online, or at your library.

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Here’s some information on Mr. Thomas, via HFVBT:

Sam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children.

Audiobook Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

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Chris Bohjalian is one of the most versatile authors I know. Each thing he writes is unique and quite different from his other works. As I loved his THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS and CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS, I pulled this from the library audio shelf (as I’ve mentioned before, I spend a LOT of time in the car).

THE NIGHT STRANGERS reads like a classic Stephen King novel – normal people with extraordinary happenings that are ghostly in nature. The novel starts with a plane crash. Told from the point of view of the pilot, the writing was so accurate and tense that I actually started crying as I was driving down the road (okay – my husband was travelling to Europe that day, so I might have been a little over-sensitive about plane crashes). The story is then told from both the pilot’s point of view — interestingly, using the second person “you” for narration — and the wife’s and daughters’ points of view. The narration on this audiobook is done by a man and a woman for these respective parts.

The plot in short is that the pilot survives his crash, but 39 passengers and crew do not. His family moves to a New Hampshire farmhouse to try to pick up their lives. Chip is still suffering. When he finds a strange door in the basement – with 39 bolts on it – he becomes a bit obsessed with discovering what lies in their basement. Meanwhile, wife Emily befriends the local neighbor women – who happen to be into witchcraft, herbs, and a few other things. Their twin daughters, Garnet and Hailey, are doing their best to adjust to fifth grade in their new town and school. Things start to spiral out of control when supernatural events start occurring and the friendly neighbors reveal their not-so-friendly agenda.

I enjoyed listening to this book. As always Chris Bohjalian is a gifted writer. He’s amazing. That said, I didn’t love his choice of ending – but again, it had that classic “horror” feel to it (sort of a “The Shining” meets “Salem’s Lot”). I just always like a “good guys win” ending! 🙂

Ably read by two distinct voices, this was one audiobook that made me not mind spending extra time in the car!

Cookbook Review: SUPERMARKET HEALTHY by Melissa D’Arabian

I recently received the new Melissa D’Arabian cookbook from Blogging for Books. The subtitle is “Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well without Spending a Lot”. I enjoy watching Melissa on the Food Network and I had heard good things about her first cookbook – $10 Dinners – though I don’t own it.

This book is chock full of healthy recipes, all made with affordable ingredients found at your typical grocery store. I have a pet peeve: cookbooks that have strange, hard to find ingredients in them that cost a lot and we don’t usually eat. None of these recipes were like that! Melissa does give some suggestions of how you can substitute various grains, etc. in some of the recipes, to modify them. Most of the recipes were geared to four servings, which is perfect for our family. Melissa also has some “blueprints” which gives you a visual of how to create a staple dish in various ways.

There are lots of good sounding recipes, but the first on my list is the potato-cauliflower soup. It substitutes cauliflower to make the soup less starchy. There are lots of healthy suggestions/recipes like that in this book! There are some delicious sounding breakfast smoothies that we will be trying soon, too.

Fresh, affordable, and healthy — this book of recipes will be sure to be a staple in your kitchen!

Thanks, Blogging for Books, for my copy —

Find it at an independent bookstore near you:  (I am an Indie Bound affiliate)


Find it at an Indie!