Tag 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.
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!

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)

Musing on Good and Bad Reviews of The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw


Reviews of the boarding school novel The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw range widely from “wonderful” to “worst book I’ve ever read”. (Disclosure: I reviewed this book for Library Journal, and plopped myself down closer to the “wonderful” side.) The widely varied reviews that I noticed on the Barnes & Noble page for The Half Brother, for example, made me look up other reviews, too, before writing this blog post, since I had already written my official review. (To avoid being influenced ahead of time, I avoid reading publicity materials or other reviews until I’ve written mine.) I was amazed by the huge plot spoilers in even the professional reviews, so watch out, if you read reviews before reading this book!

The story in The Half Brother is narrated in the first-person by Charlie Garrett, who graduates from Harvard University with no firm plan for the future except for not wanting to return to his mother’s home in the South. He lucks into a teaching job in the English department of a (fictitious) shabby-genteel prep school in central Massachusetts, and ends up staying on. Charlie admires his charismatic younger half brother, whose outsized personality is in sharp contrast with Charlie’s own solitary nature – which mirrors their mother’s, to his annoyance.

Author Holly LeCraw is a transplanted Southerner, herself, who stayed on in Massachusetts after college. This is her second novel, and I cringe thinking of her reading some of the reviews. One blog post (major spoiler in first sentence, so you can google it if you want to, I’m not going to link to it) is actually titled “Holly LeCraw’s The Half Brother Is Flat and Unimaginative”.

Ouch. That’s a reviewer who didn’t get that the author was creating a narrative voice, not writing a straightforward narrative.

Here’s the end of my Library Journal review of The Half Brother:

[It] is written in the analytic, but un-self-pitying voice of Charlie, with an air of Greek tragedy or Southern Gothic that should appeal to readers who liked The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermot. VERDICT: Fans of boarding school novels will snap up this story of lost loves, family secrets, and life at a New England prep school from behind the teacher’s desk.

That last sentence is the one that the author highlights on her Web site, but the librarian-quote that she features far more prominently on her home page is this rave from reader’s advisory goddess Nancy Pearl:

“I want people to read this novel. This is a wonderful, wonderful novel.” – Nancy Pearl, Seattle NPR

By contrast, the Publishers Weekly review starts off with this:

“In LeCraw’s wildly melodramatic sophomore novel (after The Swimming Pool)…”

Ouch again.

This is a book that would benefit by coming out in paperback for book clubs, but no paperback edition seems to be in the works yet, based on my not seeing any opportunity to order it in advance anywhere. I’ve seen some blog reviews around, so I’ll post links to some, but I recommend picking this book up for yourself instead, and seeing what you think before reviews make it impossible for the story to unfold before you as the author intended it to.

Read an excerpt on the publisher’s page here.

The Half Brother
LeCraw, Holly
Knopf, 2/17/15
288 pp.

Other opinions on The Half Brother:
As the Crowe Flies and Reads
Books on the Nightstand
Books on the Table

Sarah’s Bookshelves