Category Archives: New England

New England Book Blogger Meet-Up @LoryECBR @charlotteslib

Thanks to the organizing efforts of Lory (She’d be great at herding cats!) of The Emerald City Book Review, we had tri-state representation at the New England Book Blogger Meet-Up last Sunday in Boston. Lory came down from New Hampshire and Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library drove up from Rhode Island, and I (like Lory) got to Boston by car and subway.

Reservoir Station
I hadn’t started out on the Green Line in a long time and had to be shown how to insert my Charlie ticket on the train!
Exterior of Carrie Nation
We met at Carrie Nation for brunch, right down the street from the Boston Atheneum, our next stop.
Stairs leading to opening blocked off by red velvet curtains
The Carrie Nation restaurant, modeled after a Prohibition-era speakeasy, has a Cocktail Club in the back.
IMG_4948
Asparagus & goat cheese omelette. Delicious!
Prohibition posters and a shoeshine stand
The hallway in the restaurant was full of photos and memorabilia.
The three of us at brunch
Yes, I was the annoying restaurant patron who asked our server to take a picture! L to R, me, Charlotte, and Lory. Not sure why I look like a giant compared to them in this shot!
photo of Lory and Charlotte at the table with books
Of course, we all brought books to exchange. I ended up going home with one more than I brought! #Konmarifail

After brunch, we walked up the block to the Boston Atheneum. The Art & Architecture tour we had hoped to take at 1:00 was filled up weeks in advance, so we just paid $5 each to take a look around the public spots (photography allowed) and the current art exhibit (no photos allowed in there.) I think I’ll do a separate post with my photos from the Atheneum, because I took so many, but here are a few, for now:

After the Atheneum visit, walked through the Granary Burying Ground nearby, where Paul Revere and several other famous Revolutionary figures are buried.

Next, we walked over to Caffè Nero, in case Katie of Bookish Illuminations had been able to meet us there, but no such luck! There were books there, too, though, and would be a nice place to have coffee sometime.

Bookshelves and comfy chairs
Inside Caffe Nero in Boston

Of course, no book blogger meet-up is complete without a visit to a bookstore! Commonwealth Books was the only store in the area open on Sunday. It was a great place to browse in, but not if you’ve got mobility issues, that’s for sure, due to the massive number of bookcases, packed in higgledy-piggledy!

After the visit to Commonwealth Books where (shh, don’t tell my husband) I bought two used books – Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White and The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksander Hemon.

My main contribution to the day was to lug an umbrella with me, thus guaranteeing that the sun would come out and stay out! I had hoped to get more Boston-area book bloggers to join us, including Audra of Unabridged Chick and Amanda of Opinions of a Wolf, but it didn’t work out to meet them in person this time. 🙁

Others who had hoped to come, but couldn’t make it, were:
Melissa of The Bookbinder’s Daughter,
Chris of Wildmoo Books, and
Brian of Babbling Books

We are hoping to have another New England Book Blogger Meet-Up at the Boston Book Festival on Saturday, October 15, and will share details when we have them, in case anyone wants to join us for that!

Thank you, Lory, for a fun day!

Green Line subway train pulling in
After saying our goodbyes, it was back on the Green Line for me, lugging my bags of books!

Read Lory’s New England Book Bloggers Meet-Up recap here!

Male Family Dysfunction in Maine (Even the Narrator is a Boy): The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly

cover imageThe publisher of The Miracle on Monhegan Island calls it “another rollicking, summertime family saga” from author Elizabeth Kelly, but I think “rollicking” is a slightly misleading description, unless you’d also call the stories of the dark dysfunctional family summers in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or Maine by Courtney Sullivan “rollicking.”

Although The Miracle on Monhegan Island overflows with humor and is narrated in its entirety by Ned, a purebred Shih Tzu who is wise beyond his years on the subjects of both human nature and dog breeds, the humor is mostly dark. The Monahan family is still recovering from events related to mental illness that broke up the family in the past.

I am a big fan of author Elizabeth Kelly, although you might not know it from my blog. I was so impressed with her two previous novels – Apologize, Apologize! and The Last Summer of the Camperdowns –  that I was afraid my reviews wouldn’t do them justice. But after reading an advance copy of The Miracle on Monhegan Island, which is coming out on May 10th and is written in the same understanding, unsentimental tone – a blend of light and dark, heavy on the dark– as her earlier books, I want to make sure my blog readers don’t miss hearing from me any longer about author Elizabeth Kelly (not to be confused with Canadian romance author Elizabeth Kelly, or Catholic inspirational author Elizabeth Kelly.)

Monhegan Island is a real island in Maine with cliffs overlooking the ocean, miles of walking trails, unspoiled natural vistas, and no cars.

photo of Monhegan Island
Photo from Monhegan.com http://monhegan.com

Before Spark, the prodigal adult son, returns after an absence of many years to the family home, he steals a dog as a gift for his young teenaged son Hally on impulse from the backseat of a car, thus changing Ned’s life completely, as Spark’s return to Monhegan Island also changes the life of his son Hally, who has lived alone with his artist uncle and stern preacher grandfather since the death of his mother when he was little. Pastor Ragnar is either a crackpot or inspired by God, but his faithful following grows exponentially when Hally reports seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary, igniting a firestorm of media attention and obsessed visitors to the isolated island.

Ned muses frequently on how different and more meaningful his life turned out to be from the petted and pampered life he had believed was his lot; his witty observations of the behavior of the members of the human family he now belongs to and the other humans (and dogs) on the island are equally keen and thoughtful.

You don’t have to be either a dog person or a God person to appreciate the dark humor of this story of the fine line between religious fervor and psychosis and the strength of blood lines and family ties. Add this one to your summer reading list, if you don’t mind a few loose ends and unanswered questions to ponder over after you close the book!

The Miracle on Monhegan Island
Kelly, Elizabeth (@ElizabethKelly8)
Norton, May 10, 2016
9781631491795 (hard.)
$25.95

Disclosure: I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

 

3 Mini New England Mystery Reviews: The Big Dig, Rogue Island, & Steamed

Three of the many older mysteries that I read this year for book clubs and for a genre study. These are all set in New England.

The Big Dig by Linda Barnescover image (Macmillan, 2002)
Carlotta Carlyle used to be police and is now a private investigator. A tall redhead, she has to disguise her striking looks to go undercover, as she does here, when she’s hired by another former cop, Eddie, to investigate possible criminal activity such as fraud, theft, or graft, on one of the many Big Dig construction sites in Boston in the year 2000. Posing as a new secretary and nosing around, she soon notices signs of a much more serious crime, especially after the dead body of a complaining construction worker is found on the site. The Boston setting, the gritty violence discussed matter-of-factly, and the first-person narration make this a good readalike for anyone who likes the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker. (Like Spenser, Carlotta can be something of a smartass and follows her own rules.) The Big Dig is 9th in the series, but can be read on its own.

coverRogue Island by Bruce DeSilva (Forge, 2010)
With a blurb from Dennis Lehane and its Providence, Rhode Island setting, this hard-boiled, noir-ish mystery has a headstart on being popular in the Boston area. Judging from the check-outs in our library system, this series featuring an old-fashioned, investigative journalist, Liam Mulligan, seems to be taking off.
Throughout a frigid New England winter, buildings in the neighborhood Mulligan grew up in are being burned down and the politically appointed arson squad doesn’t seem to be doing much to find out who’s doing it. This story of politicians and crooks (often one and the same, according to Mulligan) is populated with colorful characters and told in Mulligan’s voice. I enjoyed the audiobook edition, narrated by Jeff Woodman, and the book was popular with our library mystery book club.
First in Mulligan series that’s now up to three, Rogue Island won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

cover image

Steamed by Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant (Berkley, 2006)
Discovering a murder victim on a first date can be very upsetting. Chloe Carter, a 20-something foodie living in Brighton, finds this out as she tries to make her cheating ex jealous with a guy she found on an online dating site who turns out to be a jerk. All isn’t lost as the chef at the restaurant is extremely hot. However, he also happens to be the prime suspect.
Steamed is half chick lit, half culinary cozy. Humor and recipes –along with a murder – make it a cozy, but the first-person voice, a sprinkling of spicy language, and the romantic comedy will appeal to chick lit readers. (First in Gourmet Girl series)