Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert

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I received an electronic copy of CONRAD MONK AND THE GREAT HEATHEN ARMY from the publisher, and it was an entertaining read. Conrad is not the most scrupulous of people, and he’s pretty funny as he makes his way around, keeping his own needs first and manipulating others at will. The time period was one I don’t read too often, and I found it well done and interesting.

Definitely entertaining, Conrad Monk is a protagonist you won’t soon forget!

Thank you for my review copy!

MEET THE NINTH CENTURY CAD, REWRITING HISTORY

Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it.
Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.
And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various
means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into
slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.
By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and
completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad, but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?

Conrad and the Great Heathen Army takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and highly informative trip through the Anglo-Saxon world, in the company of a persuasive and likeable — if frequently despicable — tour guide. It is a story that combines painstakingly accurate depictions of history with a fast-moving and often hilarious plot, and as such is bound to appeal to lovers of history, historical fiction and character-driven fiction alike.

MEET THE AUTHOR
Edoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian descent based in London. He has written a number of full length novels, as well as shorter stories for publications ranging from Daily Science Fiction to Ancient Paths.

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HFVBTour for A Hangman for Ghosts by Andrei Baltakmens

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I’m happy today to be part of the virtual tour for Andrei Baltakmens’ A HANGMAN FOR GHOSTS through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

This is a lively tale, which is part mystery/part adventure. It’s chock full of interesting characters and excitement and it makes the world of Sydney in the early 1800’s come alive.

Well-written and paced, I enjoyed my review e-copy.

Thank you – and thank you for making me part of the tour!

A HANGMAN FOR GHOSTS BY ANDREI BALTAKMENS
 
Publication Date: July 1, 2018
Top Five Books
Paperback & eBook; 288 Pages
 
Genre: Historical Mystery
 
“We are transported. We are consigned to the ends of the Earth. And we are therefore as good as dead to the realm and its judges. There can be no hope of reprieve…”
 
Gabriel Carver, the convict hangman of Sydney Prison, knows that none of his kind may depart Australia’s penal colony without the system’s leave. Then three people are murdered, seemingly to protect the “Rats’ Line,” an illicit path to freedom that exists only in the fevered imaginations of transported felons. But why kill to protect something that doesn’t exist?
 
When an innocent woman from Carver’s past is charged with one of the murders and faces execution at his hands, she threatens to reveal an incriminating secret of his own unless he helps her. So Carver must try to unmask the killer among the convicts, soldiers, sailors, and fallen women roaming 1829 Sydney. If he can find the murderer, he may discover who is defying the system under its very nose. His search will take him back to the scene of his ruin—to London and a past he can never remake nor ever escape, not even at the edge of the world.
 

About the Author

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Andrei Baltakmens was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, of Latvian descent. He has a Ph.D. in English literature, focused on Charles Dickens and Victorian urban mysteries.
 
His first novel, The Battleship Regal, was published in New Zealand in 1996. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals, and his first historical mystery, The Raven’s Seal, was published in 2012.
 
Since 2004, he has lived in Ithaca, New York and Brisbane, Australia, where he recently completed a doctorate in Creative Writing at The University of Queensland. He now lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and son, and works for Stanford University as an instructional designer.
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Spotlight on: A Cobbler’s Tale by Neil Perry Gordon

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I’m giving a shout out today for Neil Perry Gordon’s historical story, based on his family’s experience, which I am reading now: A Cobbler’s Tale.

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

A Cobbler’s Tale is an adventure story about Pincus Potasznik, a second-generation Jewish cobbler, born in a small shtetl in the province of Galicia, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1910, at the historic height of the massive Eastern European immigration wave to the New World, Pincus decides to leave behind his pregnant wife, and three small children, in order to seek a new life for his family in the burgeoning Lower East Side of Manhattan. On his traumatic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on the SS Amerika steamship, Pincus meets Jakob Adler, a young man running from an accidental murder of a notorious crime boss in Warsaw. The story also explores the challenges of pregnant Clara Potasznik as she does her best to protect her family, while the bloodiest battles of World War I explode within miles of her family home, a small village called Krzywcza. Moshe, the young son of Pincus and Clara Potasznik, discovers his divine ability to foretell dire events, and to offer real comfort those in pain, taking the reader into the wisdom and mystery surrounding the ancient Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah. A Cobbler’s Tale is a story of a family’s survival against tremendous odds.

Here’s some info about Mr. Gordon:

Biography

Born in the Bronx, Neil Perry Gordon is the eldest son to Elaine and Walter Gordon. At the age of seven years old, Neil’s family moved from the Bronx, to the suburban community of Rockland County. Neil graduated as the first high school class from the Green Meadow Waldorf School in 1976. Shortly after graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Pace University, he moved to south Florida and started a drapery business. In 1990, he relocated back to New York and still operates his business, Decorating with Fabric. He has two adult sons, Samuel and Maximilian. Neil has written two professional trade books, The Designer’s Coach, and An Architect’s Guide to Engineered Shading Solutions.
https://www.neilperrygordon.com/

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Thank you for my copy of A Cobbler’s Tale! I always enjoy a historical story!

Here’s a link to it on Amazon (where I am an affiliate):

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A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

 

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A Note From the Publisher

Advance Praise

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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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Children of a Good War by Jack Woodville London with Author Q&A

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I recently was contacted by Leslie at PR by the Book to see if I’d like to feature this very interesting sounding historical fiction title on my blog.

Here’s the overview:

About the Book:
Eleanor Hastings knew from experience that some bombs lie buried for decades before blowing up to do their damage. Now, 40 years after World War II, one such bomb explodes in the form of a cache of faded wartime letters, hidden in a cellar, that confirm the rumors that her husband, Frank, had heard all his life:  he really was just a bastard that his father brought back from the war in France.  The discovery sends Frank on a quest to find out who he really is – and to uncover his parents’ long-buried secrets.

Children of a Good War is the third installment of the trilogy, French Letters. The series has been praised for its meticulous research and ability to capture the language, attitudes, and moral culture of their 1940’s setting, written in prose that reviewers describe as beautiful and not pretentious, stories that are riveting and real.

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While I haven’t read all three stories, I am currently reading this one (thank you for my e-copy!) and it stands alone as a title as well. I love anything to do with WWII and this has a bit of a mystery tied in.

I had the opportunity to have a few questions answered by Mr. London:

BBNB: How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you?

Characters are wonderful devices.  You can create them, then drop them into nearly any period or event and they will act as such characters would act at any time in history, whether it is ancient Greece, Tudor England, baby boomers in the 1980s, or Trump America.

BBNB: Is there a message/theme in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I hope that the notion comes through that finding out who we are is something each of us must find out for himself or herself; while we may or may not know who our parents are, we almost never know who they were.

BBNB: What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?

When drawing complex characters with richly detailed individual lives, it takes a great deal of focus to keep their individual story lines arranged so that they become a part of the real story.  There are clues buried in most of the characters’ roles that readers often breeze through as minor details of daily life, then realize some time downstream that they are important pieces of the story.

BBNB: What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?

Don’t learn to write a book. Learn to write a sentence. Then learn to write a paragraph.

BBNB: How do your spouse/significant other/friends/family feel about your writing career?

She encourages it and realizes just how hard it is to build.

 

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Jack Woodville London is a writer, historian and “Author of the Year” (Military Writers Society of America) who studied the craft of fiction at the Academy of Fiction, St. Céré, France and Oxford University.  His novels are praised for their meticulous historical research and ability to capture the language, attitudes, and moral culture of their setting in prose described by reviewers as ‘beautiful, but not pretentious.’ Jack lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Alice, and Junebug the writing cat.

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The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

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I am so very excited that Kate Morton, an author whom I adore, has a new novel coming out in October. I had the opportunity to read it via Net Galley and I really enjoyed it!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is wonderful historical fiction, and it follows the story of Birdie, a spirit who tells her own story within the story of a house and all the intertwining lives that play a role there over time. This story stretches from 1862 to present day, but eventually you come to see how all the lives are actually impacting each other through time and place, through love, murder, loss, and mystery. Though the story can sometimes be a bit confusing as the narrator changes, and the story does not move chronologically, I loved making the connections and guessing what would come next. It’s a bit of a sad story, but interesting, and with a cast of characters that is as memorable as it is unique.

Fans of Morton will love this treat, and new readers of her should not miss it!

Thank you for my review copy!

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And because you can find anything on the Internet, here’s a You Tube video of Kate Morton herself discussing the novel:
https://youtu.be/AzefRB67TYQ
I watched this and just wished that I could shout out to her that I love her writing and I even have bangs, too!! We could be kindred spirits if she came to visit Boston!! 🙂
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Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

 

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Description

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the story behind the picture is worth a thousand more…

Philadelphia, 1931. A young, ambitious reporter named Ellis Reed photographs a pair of young siblings on the front porch of a farmhouse next to a sign: “2 children for sale.”

With the help of newspaper secretary Lily Palmer, Ellis writes an article to accompany the photo. Capturing the hardships of American families during the Great Depression, the feature story generates national attention and Ellis’s career skyrockets.

But the photograph also leads to consequences more devastating than ever imagined—and it will take jeopardizing everything Ellis and Lily value to unravel the mystery and set things right.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photo that stunned readers throughout the country, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of ambition, redemption, love, and family.

 

I love Kristina McMorris’ writing, and was thrilled to receive this galley through Net Galley. I actually thought of the picture that this novel is based on as I’ve seen it, too, so I had the picture perfect (no pun intended) image in mind while reading. This is such a sad but moving story, reminding us that sometimes desperate people do desperate things. The main characters, Ellis and Lily, want to right the wrong that was done and put themselves on the line to do it.

I love a book that has self-forgiveness and redemption as a theme, and that ran throughout, culminating in a satisfying ending.

I follow Ms. McMorris on Facebook and she seems like a lovely and positive person. This is the second novel of hers that I’ve read – and it won’t be the last! Thank you for my e-copy!

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HFVBTour for Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton with Giveaway!

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I’m thrilled today to take part with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours to promote Janet Benton’s amazing novel: Lilli de Jong (which I originally received from Net Galley)

LILLI DE JONG BY JANET BENTON

Paperback Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Anchor Books
Paperback; 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

Philadelphia, 1883. Twenty-three-year-old Lilli de Jong is pregnant and alone—abandoned by her lover and banished from her Quaker home. She gives birth at a charity for wronged women, planning to give up the baby. But the power of their bond sets her on a completely unexpected path. Unwed mothers in 1883 face staggering prejudice, yet Lilli refuses to give up her baby girl. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep the two of them alive.

Lilli confides this story to her diary as it unfolds, taking readers from a charity for unwed mothers to a wealthy family’s home and onto the streets of a burgeoning American city. Her story offers a rare and harrowing view into a time when a mother’s milk is crucial for infant survival. Written with startling intimacy and compassion, this accomplished novel is both a rich historical depiction and a testament to the saving force of a woman’s love.

Awards

NPR Best Books of 2017
Library Journal Best Historical Fiction 2017
Bustle The 17 Best Debut Novels by Woman in 2017
An Amazon Best Book of May 2017
Semifinalist in historical fiction, Goodreads Choice Awards, 2017
Finalist, David J. Langum Prize in Historical Fiction, 2017

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“A heartrending debut…Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.”—Publishers Weekly

“Powerful, authentic… A heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“I loved this novel. It’s deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous.”—Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute…A gripping read.”—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Piece of the World

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow

“A captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.”—The Millions

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr… Stunning!”—Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“A stunning ode to motherhood.” —Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“A new feminist classic…Benton’s writing is shrewd and beautiful.”—Philly Voice

“Eloquent and powerful.”—HuffPost Books

“This is both a super lush historical novel and an amazing feminist manifesto…Buy it for everyone.”—Book Riot

“You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate—even revolutionary—depiction of the emotional and sensory experiences of motherhood.”—UMass Magazine

“A brilliantly quiet novel with a spine of steel.”—Read It Forward

“[What a] monumental accomplishment the novel achieves. . . . Benton holds a mirror up to the past and in doing so, illustrates how far we have come as well as how far we have yet to go.”—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

JANET BENTON’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has cowritten and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For decades she has taught writing at universities and privately and has helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit www.janetbentonauthor.com for more information. You can also find Janet on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 13
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, August 15
Review at Cup of Sensibility

Friday, August 17
Feature at The Lit Bitch

Monday, August 20
Feature at Clarissa Reads it All

Thursday, August 23
Feature at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, August 28
Review at Dressed to Read

Friday, August 31
Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 3
Review at Oh, October

Friday, September 7
Review at The Book Mind

Tuesday, September 11
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, September 12
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, September 13
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of Lilli de Jong to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/competitions/ZGnpb-lilli-de-jong-paperback

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The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal

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Then next Maggie Hope story is here! I love this series, which is WWII mystery series centering on a young and daring spy, Maggie Hope. I used to think of them as cozies, but they really aren’t. They are more of a historical mystery. I learn so much about women’s roles in WWII while reading them!

This one reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Everyone is dying, one by one, and Maggie must find the killer.

Here’s the description from Net Galley – thanks for my review e-copy! Happy Pub Day!

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