Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Publishing in March, 2019

If you know me, you know that I LOVE the novels of Lisa See and that I have read them all! Her writing is so evocative and beautiful, and her stories often focus on the power of family, love, and friendship. I also always learn something new! This novel was no different. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. From the interesting facts about the Korean women divers, to the tragedies that befell their families and villages, to the storyline of Mi-Ja and Young-Sook’s friendship, this novel was pure Lisa See goodness!

Description via Net Galley (thank you for my review copy!)

A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

But wait! There’s more! I get Lisa See’s newsletter and her website has wonderful resources, information, and in depth looks at the stories behind her novels. I highly recommend you check it out! Additionally, Lisa has information on tea you can serve at your book club and how to Skype with her, too. It’s all at http://www.lisasee.com

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Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Description via NG

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

I loved reading this touching and memorable story about plucky Merci and her family. The portrayal of family and culture were so moving, and Merci’s navigating of her private school world should be required reading for many private school classrooms. If I had one less than positive thing to say, it is that the story felt a bit long for children. I loved it – but I’m a reader and I regularly read 300 page novels when I was a middle-schooler. This story deserves to be read by all children, not just those that will stick with it for the whole 300 pages.

Thank you so much for my review copy via Net Galley!

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The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Description (via Net Galley)

A Note From the Publisher

If you read me, you know I LOVE Rhys Bowen’s books — Molly Murphy Mysteries, Royal Spyness mysteries, Tuscan Child, In Farleigh Field, etc. etc. This novel is a stand alone, historical fiction piece, that reminded me a bit of In Farleigh Field, as it was a war story. I loved Emily’s character and found the historical piece so interesting — young women volunteering to work on farms in the British countryside as “land girls’. She is quite resourceful and plucky, though when she becomes pregnant she certainly has to make some decisions as to where her future will lie. There is a bit of mystery, too, as to the history of the cottage where she lives and its former inhabitant. All in all it was a great read and I hope Ms. Bowen continues to writes historical stand alones!
Thank you for my review e-copy!
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Blog Tour for The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome Charyn

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I’m happy today to be part of Over the River PR’s blog tour for Jerome Charyn’s The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King A Noveld of Teddy Roosevelt and his Times. I’ve never read Charyn before, though I’ve heard of him, and I have to say that his writing makes the characters just come alive and jump right off the page!

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

Raising the literary bar to a new level, Jerome Charyn re-creates the voice of Theodore Roosevelt, the New York City police commissioner, Rough Rider, and soon- to-be twenty-sixth president through his derring-do adventures, effortlessly combining superhero dialogue with haunting pathos. Beginning with his sickly childhood and concluding with McKinley’s assassination, the novel positions Roosevelt as a “perfect bull in a china shop,” a fearless crime fighter and pioneering environmentalist who would grow up to be our greatest peacetime president.

With an operatic cast, including “Bamie,” his handicapped older sister; Eleanor, his gawky little niece; as well as the devoted Rough Riders, the novel memorably features the lovable mountain lion Josephine, who helped train Roosevelt for his “crowded hour,” the charge up San Juan Hill. Lauded by Jonathan Lethem for his “polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing,” Charyn has created a classic of historical fiction, confirming his place as “one of the most important writers in American literature” (Michael Chabon).

I have to say that Roosevelt was a far more interesting man that I’ve ever given him credit for! In fact, this novel is filled with interesting characters and events.

Thank you for my e-copy and for inviting me to be part of your tour!

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The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

Description (via Net Galley)

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we know the people we love most?

Well – I got this one a while ago via Net Galley (thank you!) and I started it right away and could not put it down! It was a suspenseful read and not easy to figure out. I really liked Sylvie’s character and I had my fingers crossed for a happy (or at least uplifting) ending with a sense of resolution and forgiveness. I was not disappointed! I read it in two evenings because I wanted the resolution.

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She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

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Description (via Net Galley)

We all know that I love a suspenseful read! Winter is the best time to pick up a thriller and to try to reason out who the killer is. I was a bit worried that this one might really bother me since the victim is a teen, but I was okay as it was certainly troubling/disturbing/sad but not overly graphic. (see tags for possible triggers)
A great read while cuddled up in bed! Thank you for my review e-copy!
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