Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

For My Ears: What I’ve Been Listening To…(it’s a lot!)

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Where would I be without audible during my daily commute (over an hour each way!) ??

I have listened to a LOT of really great reads this spring and have been so busy with work (and running around performing in a community theater production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) that I haven’t posted recently about my listening finds.

Here’s what I’ve been spending my audible credits listening to:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a well-written, wrenching and vividly accurate portrayal of life for a black teenager, as she deals with her death of her close friend. It is superbly narrated by Bahni Turpin. A must read for teens and those who care about them, it’s on my 15 year old’s summer reading list and I’ve encouraged our school to incorporate it into our reading list.

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From Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does-or does not-say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

And don’t miss On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s powerful follow-up to The Hate U Give.

One of Us Is Lying  by Karen M. McManus is a thoughtful and twisty mystery, as a group of teens grapple with the death of a classmate, which leaves them all suspects. Multiple narrators help keep the story straight as you listen (as they are in first person) and thankfully each chapter is headed by who is speaking. I figured it out in advance, but hey – I’m a teacher! 🙂 Great narration!

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention, and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday he died. But on Tuesday he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Cast of narrators:

Kim Mai Guest – Bronwyn
Shannon McManus – Andy
Robbie Daymond – Nate
Macleod Andrews – Cooper

Some Luck: A Novel by Jane Smiley is Ms. Smiley at her finest – telling an ordinary story about ordinary people that shows us just how extraordinary life can be. Her ability to take the simplest things – the dust floating in the air of the parlor, a mother tucking in her child at night, a man looking out over the  vast fields of his farm – and imbue them with a beauty and a life of their own, well, she is just simply extraordinary.

Ably narrated by Loralei King.

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From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy – a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a story of a Polish Jewish family during WWII. The family is divided and spread across the world in order to survive. In the end, they are reunited, and to be honest, I thought, “Well that could never happen, because the Jewish population of Poland was almost completely destroyed by Hitler’s forces.” Amazingly, the author’s note says that this is a true story of her family! Reading that at the end truly made my day. This is a wonderful story about the power of resiliency and the love of family. It is read by Kathleen Gati and Robert Fass.

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An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive – and to reunite.

It is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable, and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports listeners from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow’s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment, the human spirit could find a way to survive and even triumph.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and read by Julie Whelan, was a truly interesting and engaging read, following a family that moves “off the grid” to Alaska and the struggles they have, both physical and personal, to survive.

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This program is read by acclaimed narrator Julia Whelan, whose enchanting voice brought Gone Girl and Fates and Furies to life. Kristin Hannah reads the acknowledgments.

Alaska, 1974.

Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in 18 hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and read by Mary Ann Lee, was a riveting, suspenseful story, some of which I was able to figure out, but some of which kept me guessing until the end. This is always a joy to have during a boring commute!

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For listeners of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in 36 languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: A twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening….

Anna Fox lives alone – a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is beautifully read by Caroline Lee and while it is a lot like the HBO series, the book is SO much better! A parent is murdered at a school function and the book works back in time to give the stories behind each of the main characters. This was the first read I’ve done by Ms. Moriarty, and I can see why she has a legion of fans.

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Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

In this thought-provoking novel, number-one New York Times best-selling author Liane Moriarty deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families. And in her pitch-perfect way, she shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

 

So — this is what I’ve been listening to. What do you have lately for your ears??

 

 

 

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For My Ears: ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman

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So I had heard about this book as folks chatted about it in the blogisphere. Everyone seemed to love it, so I was immediately suspicious. I find that if everyone loooooves a book, I can’t stand it. Then I end up feeling rather clumsy and socially awkward, like something is wrong with me. However, I got this one with my audible credit and listened to it during my commute. At first I was wondering where it was going, but then I was drawn in and grew to love Eleanor and Raymond and Eleanor’s story. I ended up laughing and cheering and crying and generally being a possible road hazard. It was also delightfully read by Cathleen McCarron and I loved her accent.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes…

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (Read by Jennifer Lim)

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From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

(from Amazon)

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Wow! I loved Celeste Ng’s first book, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, and I loved this one as well. What a great story. Ng has a way with words, and her prose paints such a vivid depiction of daily life. It’s all in the details.

This was a captivating story, which I listened to on my commute. You could see where things were headed and that disaster was looming on the horizons, but I just couldn’t stop listening. Devastating yet memorable, this was one of my fave books of 2017.

I got mine from Audible, and you can, too — or get it an your local favorite indie bookshop, online, or at the library!

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For My Ears: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate – Read by Emily Rankin

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Wow! This story was recommended online in the blogisphere, and I thought I might enjoy it, but I was blown away by this story of a family torn apart and the young girl who tries to keep her siblings together against all odds.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge – until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents – but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals – in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country – Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

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While these children weren’t real, this is based on true events, and you will be forever haunted at the shocking and terrible things that happened to poor families in the Depression and post-Depression era South. Normally I don’t like disturbing books centered on children, but this story was so compelling, and I loved the character of Rill so much, along with the fact that the present day protagonist was unraveling the mystery of the family tree, I just could not stop listening!

Beautifully narrated, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

I used my audible credit for this one.

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Audiobooks I’ve Been Enjoying…

I’m embarrassed to say that I am way way WAY behind in blogging about the audiobooks I’ve been listening to during the commute from Hades. I purchase most of my audiobooks via Audible/Amazon (links to Amazon where I am an Associate and where you can read more about them).

A while ago I listened to THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Let’s be honest, everyone was reading this and I heard nothing but amazing reviews. It was well written but I found it too violently disturbing and graphic. Not sure what I was expecting from a novel on slavery, but I did struggle to get through this one.

THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by Kate DiCamillo, read by Juliet Stevenson, was one I got for the kids. This was a sweet, solid story.

WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple and narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite was a novel that I’ve been avoiding because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. Boy was I wrong. I loved this story and the characters! It was a great listen and I’m so happy I finally got to it. I thought it would be depressing but it wasn’t.

HILLBILLY ELEGY written and read by JD Vance was one for our work book club. To be honest, I feared this non-fiction read would be boring. Not at all! This was a relatively short listen (about 7 hours) and I loved it! It was incredibly interesting, and having it read in Mr. Vance’s voice made it even more compelling. I have no hillbilly background, but this story speaks to more than one area of the US. It’s a commentary on social class and economic status and how these things separate us and how difficult it is for someone to pull themself from poverty. Fascinating and well done!

I followed ELEGY with MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena Ferrante, read by Hilary Huber. Where has this series been all my life? This was an incredibly gritty look (book one of a series) at a life growing up outside of Naples. I loved it as that’s where my heritage is – culture, family values, and faith were main players in guiding these folks lives, and I can’t wait to get the next novel in this series.

Nothing helps the commute from Hades than something suspenseful, so I got a deal on SK Tremayne’s THE FIRE CHILD, read by Imogen Church. Suspenseful and fun, this one kept me entertained while fighting Boston traffic.

I received a free copy from the publicist of Amity Allen’s POISON MY PRETTY, the first in the cozy witch mystery series (read by Rachel Fulginiti). This was a great cozy read, following a mystery, a beauty pageant, and a young woman who is part witch. I look forward to hearing about (no pun intended!) more books in the series!

I was SO excited to get LINCOLN IN THE BARDO (read by a whole host of people) because I heard this was the best thing since — well — The Underground Railroad. All I can ask is: what is happening in this story? I was so confused. Perhaps it’s one you should not listen to in traffic? Who were all those people? I feel like I should have had an introduction to whatever was going on well before I purchased it. I DNF’ed it.

Slightly less confusing, but still confusing, was INTO THE WATER by Paula Hawkins, read by Laura Aikman et al. I loved Girl on the Train and I expected more of the same. Well, it was and it wasn’t. Again – confusing while commuting as I was asking myself who all these people were. While I eventually “got it”, I had to work at it, which is hard to do in traffic, so I think this one is better read.

Finally, I’ve ended this week on the high of an incredible read: Lisa See’s THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE, read by Ruthie Ann Miles et al. I love everything Lisa See has ever written and this historical fiction piece following a young woman in China and the baby she gives up for adoption was just sublime.

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Audible Find: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena ~ Read by Kirsten Potter

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What??

This was one of those “can’t stop listening to this roller coaster ride of a story” experiences for me last week. I had purchased this audiobook with my monthly credit.

Read it! Listen to it! Get it!

If you like those suspenseful books like “Girl on a Train” or “Gone Girl” or “Behind Closed Doors” -things like that, this is one for you!

Overview via Amazon:

How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even yourself?

People are capable of almost anything….

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors – a twisty roller-coaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives.

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all – a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets – secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family, a chilling tale of decepti

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Audiobooks! For my Ears – for the past few months…

I’ve been totally remiss in documenting my audiobooks for y’all, so I wanted to do a big post on all the great stuff I’ve been listening to.

First I have to say: where would I be without Audible? I am a total convert. I’ll be honest. I did NOT want to spend the money to be an Audible subscriber, but, as someone who commutes now about 12+ hours a week (plus weekend fun!), I am hooked on books and get the most bang for my buck by digitally downloading books through Audible. I also buy them cheaply through their Daily Deal. And I still get CD’s to listen to from the library, because I love my local library.

So – here are some of the things I’ve been listening to (with blurbs from Amazon):

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis Read by Katherine Kellgren

Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration – Female, 2013

Audie Award Nominee, Best Thriller/Suspense Category, 2013

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is trying to live a quiet life. The last thing her husband wants is for her to go running off on another dangerous mission to help illegal refugees. But when Nina’s estranged friend, Karin, leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, and begs her to take care of its contents, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous case yet.

Because inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive. Nina’s natural instinct is to rescue the boy, but she knows the situation is risky. Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is hunting him down. When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy’s are in jeopardy, too.

**This was a great story that I  got as a “deal”. Loved the narration. The plot kept me listening. And it’s the first in a series!

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman Read by George Newbern

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell”. But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

**Hard to say why I loved this so much, but it reminded me of “Storied Life…”. Such a lovely story of a life well lived. Made me cry. I heard there’s a movie in the works. The narrator had the perfect voice quality for this novel, too.

FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella Read by Gemma Whelan

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.

An anxiety disorder disrupts 14-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

**LOVED this one- made my daughter listen to it, too. Then I asked our school librarian to get it for the middle school. The accent of the narrator was perfect.

PAX by Sara Pennypacker Read by Michael Curran-Dorsano

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house 300 miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be – with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own….

From best-selling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker comes a beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the essential truths that define us and the devastating costs of war.Pax is destined to become a beloved classic.

**So — I got this as it was listed in one of my GoodReads groups as a potential Newbery winner. I have to say, while well-written, it just didn’t do much for me. I found it slow and my mind wandered while listening. I am thinking that I’m not a good candidate for books told from animals’ points of view.

SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea Read by Shannon McManus

“A gem of a mystery, fast-paced and suspenseful.”–Catherine Coulter, # 1 New York Timesbestselling author

Set in a small, picturesque North Carolina town, Charlie Donlea’s suspenseful debut novel tells the haunting story of a murdered law school student, the reporter assigned to her story—and the intimate connection that comes when the living walk in the footsteps of the dead.

“No suspects.  No persons of interest.  Just a girl who was alive one day and dead the next.”

Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled.

At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca’s friendships, her love life—and the secrets she was keeping—the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past…

Advance Praise for Summit Lake

“An exciting debut, with all the right touches, captivating from the first page to the last.  There’s a bright future ahead for this newcomer to the thriller genre — definitely a talent to watch.”–Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

“Gripping! This one kept me up late into the night.”–Nancy Bush, New York Times bestselling author

“A swift, outstanding debut. Summit Lake engrossed me then knocked me cold. Charlie Donlea is a superb storyteller sure to damage the best seller lists.”–Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author

Summit Lake makes a small town come alive through the lens of madness, misunderstandings, betrayal, and a pile of the kind of secrets that makes a mystery of a life so hard to untangle from its death. The pages fly by, zinging through the twists and revelations, all the way to the shattering conclusion.”–Jamie Mason

“A brilliant, haunting thriller in which The Lovely Bones meets The Silence of the Lambs—with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure! Charlie Donlea weaves a unique, spellbinding tale about a bond between two fascinating women—one living, one dead. Full of unexpected twists and turns, Summit Lake is an irresistible page-turner.”–Kevin O’Brien, New York Timesbestselling author

“Grabs you from the very start and doesn’t let go! This gripping thriller keeps you at the edge of your seat and gasping in all the right places. Donlea spins a perfectly crafted story of two women, both victims of violent crime, searching for justice, redemption and ultimately—peace. You won’t be able to put this book down until you’ve uncovered all the secrets hidden inside the picturesque town of Summit Lake.”–Emily Bleeker

**I liked this one! Though I had it all figured out, I still liked the twists and turns. Great narration, too.

THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue Read by Kate Lock

*The latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room*

ACCLAIM FOR THE WONDER: “Deliciously gothic…. Dark and vivid, with complicated characters, this is a novel that lodges itself deep” (USA Today, 3/4 stars);“Heartbreaking and transcendent” (New York Times); A fable as lean and discomfiting as Anna’s dwindling body…. Donoghue keeps us riveted” (Chicago Tribune);“Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief” (Newsday)

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

**So — I’m on chapter 12 of 17 of this one and it’s slow going. The story barely moves and there is a lot of character speculation and ruminating and not much action. I’m hoping things will suddenly pick up. And I hate to be less than positive but the narration is quite troubling to me. The reader’s regular voice is lovely – very BBC – and I wish she had read the entire book just in her regular voice. Instead she does all these voices and accents and it’s – well, let’s just say it doesn’t work for me. I often can’t understand her and the accent seems to travel all over Ireland to Scotland to Northern England (I have a thing for accents since I do theater). Perhaps this book would be a better choice to read? Regardless, I still have a couple of hours left so perhaps there will be a rousing ending? One can hope.
I must also put in a plug for NUMBER THE STARS which I’m reading with the fifth graders. Lois Lowry’s story of a young girl in WWII Copenhagen is unforgettable and the kids have loved it. Blair Brown’s narration is soothing and beautiful. All the kids agree: she’s a great reader!
I love using audiobooks in class to reinforce/build comprehension. The kids really enjoy it, too.
What are YOU listening to today?
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For my ears: ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

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So I’m totally late to the party on this one. I found it on sale on Audible and remembered that I had always meant to read it.

What a great book! I know it’s about teens, but I know that adults would love and appreciate it, too. I look forward to my daughter reading this book so we can discuss it together.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Audie Award Finalist, Teens, 2014

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.

So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be, she says, we’re 16.

What about Romeo and Juliet?

Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.

Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.

I’m not kidding, he says.

You should be.

Set over the course of one school year, in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

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This is a sensitively written, multi-layered, insightful story that is not to be missed. I listened to mine as I commuted, and it was ably done in two voices:Rebecca Loman and Sunhil Malhotra.

If you missed this when it came out in 2013, don’t miss it any longer! Look for it at a bookstore or library near you – or online!

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For my Ears: THE LOST WIFE by Alyson Richman

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I was currently reading an ARC of THE VELVET HOURS and enjoying it, so I got THE LOST WIFE, also by Alyson Richman, to listen to in the car.

Here’s an overview via GoodReads:

A rapturous novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Rhythm of Memory and The Last Van Gogh. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers…

Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

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I loved this story, which moved back and forth through time — from the present, to pre-WWII, to post-WWII, to the present. Josef and Lenka are separated by circumstances in the war, and both think the other is dead. Yet throughout their lives they never forget each other.

A lovely and touching story, it is read in two voices (George Guidall for Josef and Suzanne Toren for Lenka), and made me wonder: “Could something like this really happen?” Apparently yes, as in the afterword Ms. Richman states that reading about a reunited couple who thought the other was dead in WWII gave her the idea for this story.

Recommended for those who like the WWII genre – in audio or paper!

I got mine via Audible with my monthly credit.

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A few for my ears….

As you know, I spend a lot of time commuting.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed some really good audiobooks through my Audible account.

ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Krueger was a mixed mystery/coming of age story that was really well-written. Here’s the description from Amazon:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

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I really enjoyed this book — it kept me listening right up unto the end. I particularly loved the main character and his reminiscences of this fateful summer of his youth. It is read by Rich Orlow – who did a fantastic job – and runs 11 hours.

 

Another fantastic book was Z by Therese Anne Fowler. This is historical fiction about Zelda Fitzgerald. Here’s the Amazon overview:

“Picture a late-May morning in 1918, a time when Montgomery wore her prettiest spring dress and finest floral perfume – same as I would wear that evening….”

Thus begins the story of beautiful, reckless, 17-year-old Zelda Sayre on the day she meets Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at a country club dance. Fitzgerald isn’t rich or settled; no one knows his people; and he wants, of all things, to be a writer in New York. No matter how wildly in love they may be, Zelda’s father firmly opposes the match. But when Scott finally sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Zelda defies her parents to board a train to New York and marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Life is a sudden whirl of glamour and excitement: Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel – and his beautiful, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, trades in her provincial finery for daring dresses, and plunges into the endless party that welcomes the darlings of the literary world to New York, then Paris and the French Riviera. It is the Jazz Age, when everything seems new and possible – except that dazzling success does not always last.

Surrounded by a thrilling array of magnificent hosts and mercurial geniuses – including Sara and Gerald Murphy, Gertrude Stein, and the great and terrible Ernest Hemingway – Zelda and Scott find the future both grander and stranger than they could have ever imagined.

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I LOVED this book so much! Zelda’s story is so tragic yet you can’t look away.

The narrator, Jenna Lamia, was AMAZING and I can still hear her voice in my head (in a good way!). It runs approximately 12 1/2 hours.

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I also listened to the novel: THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, by Daniel James Brown, about the Washington college crew team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Here’s the Amazon overview:

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together – a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boatis an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times – the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

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What a great story! I love a feel-good athletic underdog story!!

This 14 1/2 hour book was read by Edward Herrmann. He did a fine job, but his voice reminded me of the voiceover from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when I was a kid. To be honest, I would have loved a bit more pep.

 

Currently I am listening to THE LINCOLN LETTER by William Martin. I love his books! In this one Peter Fallon is looking for a lost diary of President Lincoln.

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What have YOU been listening to lately?

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