Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

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Those of you who love Kate DiCamillo and her “Raymie Nightingale” will remember Louisiana Elefante. In this middle grade novel, the next chapter of Louisiana’s story is told. This was a quick read with a very distinct narrator’s voice (I don’t think Louisiana ever speaks with contractions), and while it was sad (the child is basically abandoned – twice), it has a sweet ending with a theme of accepting yourself for who you are.

I’ll be sure to recommend this one to our school library. Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

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The Christmas Forest by Rebecca Boxall

 

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A Note From the Publisher

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I loved this short story about quirky and endearing Enid and her online relationship with Fred and the time when she tries to go to Australia to meet him. Enid is sensitively portrayed and if you have someone in your life like her (and who doesn’t?) you can’t help but appreciate how spot on the character is with her sensitivities to certain things and her wonderful strengths. I hadn’t read a novel by Rebecca Boxall before and, to be honest, I chose this by the title and cover (beautiful!). I will look for her other work.
Thank you for my review mobi! Another great holiday read!
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Audiobook Pick: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris; Narrated by Richard Armitage

 

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I had heard a bit about this book, so I chose it with my Audible credit this month. What a story! First of all, it held my attention during my lengthy commute (no easy feat) and it was wonderfully narrated by Richard Armitage. The story was truly remarkable and at one point I thought that this could not possibly be true. Some of the things that happened seemed fantastic to the point of being too incredible to believe (SPOILER! for example, their finding each other after the war, or how Lale seemed to be able to get the things he needed to get by and to help others). Yet, this is a true story. While it is a story of the horrors of Auschwitz, it’s an amazing story of bravery and resistance and resiliency that makes you feel connected to these characters and wanting more of them. The last chapter and epilogue of the book could have been a whole other novel in itself. (Just a note, from a cursory glance online, most people seem to enjoy the audiobook more than the novel itself).

Here’s the overview:

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov – an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for “tattooist”), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism – but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful recreation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

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The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay

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The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen

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I loved this story about a slightly quirky girl coming to terms with the ups and downs of life. It made a great YA read, with the message that life can throw you some curve balls, it’s how you deal with them that matters.

Here’s the description:

“If I got to be God for one day, I’d like to say I’d end world hunger and create world peace. But I wouldn’t. Because if God could fix the big stuff, he’d have done it already.”

Malin knows she can’t fix the big stuff in her life. Instead, she watches from the sidelines, as her dad yells, her brother lies, and her mum falls apart. At least after she meets Hanna, she has a friend to help her. Because being Malin is complicated – learning how to kiss, what to wear to prom, and what to do when you upset the prettiest, meanest girl in school.

It’s tough fitting in when you’re different. But what if it’s the world that’s weird, not you?

A beautiful, funny and honest coming-of-age story that never pretends life is perfect.

About the Author

Linni Ingemundsen is from Norway, though she currently lives in Malta. She does not know how to draw but is somehow a freelance cartoonist. Some of her favourite things in life include chocolate, free Wi-Fi and her yellow typewriter.

Linni has lived in three different countries and will never be done exploring the world. She has worked as a dishwasher in Australia, a volunteer journalist in Tanzania and has approximately 2.5 near-death experiences behind her. Still, what truly inspires her writing is her background growing up in a village on the south-western coast of Norway.

Linni began writing The Unpredictability of Being Human while on the Oxford Brookes MA in Creative Writing. Her dark, comical storytelling is fully displayed in this unusual, slice-of-life telling as experienced by a fourteen year old girl in Norway.

 

Highly recommend for teens and adults alike, I loved seeing the world through Malin’s eyes. While never directly stated, Malin appears to maybe on the spectrum (though I ask you, aren’t we all somewhere on multiple spectrums?). I think it’s great to read a story where the reader can experience life in what may be a slightly different way than they usually do.

Thank you for my review pdf, which I received from Incorgnito Press, the US publisher.

 

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Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

 

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I absolutely loved Elizabeth Berg’s The Story of Arthur Truluv which I read earlier in the year (reviewed here: My Review). In fact, I love all of Berg’s novels (and there have been many!). This one continues the story of the characters from Arthur Truluv:

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And yes, I did maybe shed a little tear at the end!
Thank you for my review e-copy via Net Galley!
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Christmas at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild

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Yeah!! Bring on the holiday books! It’s one of my favorite times of year and I love, love, love holiday stories. Susan Schild has written a new one and it’s a keeper – a feel-good story about a woman starting a “new life”.

Here’s the overview:

Christmas at the Lakeside Resort

Love and Adventures after 40

Forty-two year old Jenny Beckett is dreading the holidays. Her fiancé has just called off their Christmas wedding, and she’s been evicted from her darling chicken coop cottage. When her estranged father dies and leaves her eight rustic guest cabins on Heron Lake, Jenny seizes the chance to make a new life. She packs up her dogs, her miniature horse and her beat up Airstream trailer and moves to the lake.

Short on time and money, Jenny and her contractor, widower Luke, work feverishly to renovate the cabins in time for the festive holiday event she’s promised her very first guests. When an unexpected blizzard snows them in and jeopardizes the resort’s opening, Jenny and Luke work to save the event and, along the way, find true love… and the magic of Christmas.

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I just adored this character. She loves her dogs and has a miniature horse as a pet. She is intelligent and self-sufficient. She loves curling up with her book and a cup of tea while wearing her nightgown. And she finds love in this story.

I think because I met my husband after we were 35, I have a strong affinity for these types of romances, where the main character is capable and productive, but then finds someone who loves and appreciates her. I think it would appeal to those who enjoy a “clean” read or who enjoy Christian romances (though it’s not one). (To be honest, I’d rather my protagonist curl up with a library book then be out on the town having sex indiscriminately).

This looks like part one in a series, which should be fun to read, as Jenny runs her resort and has interactions with all the different people there. Of course there will be more of Luke as well! To be honest, these books remind me a bit of the Mitford series, which I absolutely love.

Thank you so much for my review mobi, Ms. Schild! I look forward to reading more of this series. And thank you for writing about adult woman who live simply, love their pets, find a partner at 40, and remind me of me!

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Us Against You by Frederik Backman

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I absolutely love the writing of Frederik Backman. His novel A MAN CALLED OVE made me both laugh and cry. His story of a hockey town in crisis, BEARTOWN, also made me cry. This summer he has a new novel out, a sequel to BEARTOWN, called US AGAINST YOU. It takes up the story of the families of Beartown and brings them through the next year as they continue to struggle and cope with the actions and activities of the past. Peter and Kira struggle with their marriage. Maya struggles with trying to live her life in the shadow of her assault. Leo struggles with adolescence. And throughout, the lives of these very ordinary people are set against the struggles of a hockey team (with a new coach) and the rivalry Beartown has with neighboring Hed. “Rivalry” might be too tame of a word for it, though.

One of Backman’s gifts as a writer is that he takes the very ordinary and makes it extraordinary. He can craft a simple moment and make it memorable; and he gets to the heart of emotion and humanity in doing so.

If you haven’t read Beartown, it makes most sense to read that novel first, but this can be a stand alone title as well.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy from Net Galley!

Here’s the overview:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown returns with “a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow” (The Washington Post).

A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that Beartown ice hockey might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. As the tension mounts between the two adversaries, a newcomer arrives who gives Beartown hockey a surprising new coach and a chance at a comeback.

Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big game approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt intensifies. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you.

Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.

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The Good Twin by Marti Green

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A Note From the Publisher

Evil twins? Unreliable narrators? Double-crossing husbands who get their comeuppance??
Sign me up!
This was a fast and fun read that I was afraid would disappoint me, but didn’t!
Thank you for my e-copy!
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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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