Always With a Book

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware


Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Published: May 2018, Gallery/Scout Press
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher


Summary:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel. 

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.



My thoughts: Ruth Ware is one of those authors that I put everything down to read - I've read each of her books so far, discovering her when she was signing copies of her debut book, In a Dark, Dark Wood at Book Expo back in 2015. Since then, I've been such a fan - and I'm so excited that she will once again be at Book Expo this year - I so hope to see her again, so I can gush about her books!!!

As much as I have enjoyed her previous books, I think this latest one might be my favorite one yet. I love it as much for the characters as for the atmosphere - this one definitely has a much more Gothic feel to it and it works so well. Even the tarot card angle added to the overall creepiness of this book - all these layers give this book such dimension and suspense to create a well-rounded, utterly dark, unsettling sense of foreboding that makes up this book. 

This book is not so much a fast-burning mystery as it is a more slow-burning one, which I also really liked. And I loved the diary entries interspersed throughout the chapters that added to the overall mystery. At first, you are trying to figure out who they are written by and then you are trying to figure out who they are referring to. The overall mystery of this book is made up of many layers, so while you might figure out one, it's unlikely you will figure out everything...and that's the fun in this book. It really will keep you on your toes as all the pieces are slowly unraveled. 

This was such a creepy, twisty read. It is intriguing and cleverly crafted so that you just don't want to put it down. This is definitely going down as a favorite!!!


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review: What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel (audio)



Title: What Lies Below
Author: Barbara Taylor Sissel
Narrator: Donna Postel
Published: May 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 11 hours, 12 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Everyone has nightmares. One woman is living hers…Gilly O’Connell’s nightmares aren’t just bad dreams; they’re glimpses of terrifying realities to come. Gilly has spent her entire life trying to suppress the foreboding visions. So when a dismissed premonition leads to her husband’s murder, she buries the guilt and pain of the unsolved crime in the only way she knows how—she runs from it.

Three years later, after overcoming a battle with addiction and starting over in a small Texas town, Gilly dares to believe the worst is over. That is, until another crime rips her heart open: the abduction of a three-year-old girl. Gilly knows more about it than anyone…

She’s dreaming again.

Gilly is convinced that if she tells the police she dreamed of the kidnapping before it happened, there’s no way they’ll believe her. But when she finally gets the courage to come forward with what she saw, people don’t see her as crazy—they see her as a suspect.

Now, in order to help a desperate single father save his child, Gilly must first clear her own name. But as the nightmares of the past catch up to her, Gilly’s only chance for salvation might be the dreams she’s spent so long trying to ignore.


 
My thoughts: This is only the second book I've read by Barbara Taylor Sissel but she is slowly becoming an author I can count on to deliver a story that pulls you in right from the start with compelling characters that you aren't quite sure you can trust. I love this and will definitely be reading more of her work soon!

I love when I become so engrossed in a book that I totally lose track of time - and yes, that even happens when listening to audio books! This book has such engaging characters and story lines that grab you and don't let up. It moves at break-neck speed so that you really don't want to put the book down, with twists coming here and there - some little and some quite jaw-dropping. And even though I did figure out who was behind Zoe's kidnapping about halfway through the book, I had no clue as to the why, which to me is the most important part. I don't think I ever would have gotten there, so in no way did my guessing ruin this book.



This is such a multi-layered story. Yes, it's about a kidnapping and about the aftereffects of a murder, but it's so much more than that. It's about asking ourselves what we might be capable of when are worlds are turned upside down. Do we really want to exact the revenge back on the guilty party or is it better for all involved to offer forgiveness?

This book is emotional, it's suspenseful, it's engrossing. And at the end of it all, it's a story full of hope.


Audio thoughts: This was a great book to listen to on audio - I found myself glued to my phone, not wanting to stop listening as this story was intense at times! Donna Postel is a new narrator to me, but I thought she did a great job narrating this story. She gave all the characters unique voices, even giving young Zoe an appropiate young child-like voice. Her pacing and intonations were spot on and she infused just the right amount of emotion and tension in her voice as needed. 


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Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd


Title: Dead Girl Running
Author: Christina Dodd
Series: Cape Charade, #1
Published: April 2018, HQN
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Harlequin Publicity Team


Summary:
I have three confessions to make:
1. I've got the scar of gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.
 

Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another.

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?



My thoughts: Christina Dodd is a new-to-me author. This book intrigued me and was part of a bookstagram campaign being held by the Harlequin Publicity Team. I'm always on the lookout for new authors and when I saw that not only did this book look good, but that it was the start of a new series, it just seemed like a homerun to me!

I loved the way this book opens up - it just pulls you into the story and for me, the book never really let up. It was intense and the suspense builds at a steady pace throughout the book until the ending. I found myself glued to the pages, desperate to figure out just what was going on - thinking I had it figured out, only to be thwarted as something new would be discovered. This one really kept me on my toes!

I really liked getting to know Kellen - she is complicated and has quite the backstory. I mean - a missing year - hello!?!? I always find the amnesia storyline to be so cool and I really do hope that in the upcoming book(s) this gets explored more because I really want/need to know what happened here. Kellen is a survivor for sure, yet what I really appreciated about this book is that we don't get her full story all at once. It is ever so slowly given to us, and what we do find out about her is only part of the story - there is so much of her to uncover. There are many facets to Kellen and we have only scratched the surface.

We meet a lot of characters in this first book and while it was a bit confusing at first to keep everyone straight, I did like that way Kellen cataloged everyone in her brain - whenever I forgot who someone was, I would flip back to the data mine of their character to refresh my memory of who they were. This seemed to help until I could keep them straight. I'm not sure who is going to be continuing on in the next book as I don't know if the setting will remain constant, but I sure do hope Kellen continues to do this trick moving forward.

Besides the mystery, we are left with quite a cliffhanger, leaving me desperate for the next book in this series! As much as I love reading series, I really do hate waiting for that next book, especially when it ends like this one does...this is why sometimes it's better to wait to read series when all the books are out - then you can read them one right after another! What do you think? 


Books in this series:
  1. Dead Girl Running
  2. What Doesn't Kill Me - due out Feb 2019
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blog Tour & Review: Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank (audio)


Title: Same Beach, Next Year
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Published: Audio - May 2017, Harper Audio / Paperback - April 2018, William Morrow Paperbacks
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - via Library / Paperback - Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Summary: 
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank returns to her magical Lowcountry of South Carolina in this bewitching story of marriage, love, family, and friendship that is infused with her warm and engaging earthy humor and generous heart.

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.


 
My thoughts: To me, Dorothea Benton Frank is just synonymous with summer and beach reads...she's one of those authors, along with Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, that has her usual setting for her books and it works. This time, I was especially excited as I have been to the Isle of Palms and even stayed at Wild Dunes.

For some reason I missed this book when it first came out in hardcover last year. I don't know if it was that the description threw me off or I was just inundated with other books, but for whatever reason, I never ended up picking up this one. Now, a year later, I finally end up reading it - and I will say, at one point, I did think it was going to head down a road I really didn't want to follow. But, luckily it never did...and I really shouldn't have worried...as Dottie Frank is such a gifted writer, full of heart and compassion herself, that I should have known this story would be more than just a tale of cheating spouses.

I love the characters that Dottie Frank creates - there is just something about them that end up being memorable. They are so well-developed and relatable on so many levels that you just can't help but want to keep reading about them, even if you aren't so keen on the choices they are making. Deep down, you know they have the capacity for good and will eventually, hopefully, get there. And let's not forget the one-liners and wit she infuses into her characters - this by far is what makes these characters stand out. 

The family dynamics that Dottie creates are always so spot on. She really has a gift for delving into these relationships and not always making them so pretty and neat. She shows them like they might be in real life - messy and uncomfortable at times, yet also loving and fun at others. 

This book ended up being so much more than I expected it to be, which is a good thing. I always enjoy reading Dottie Franks books, but this one just had a little more substance to it than I thought it would. It's still a good beach read, for sure, but also gives a little food for thought on family and marriage. Dottie Frank has once again proven she's still got it!!!
 

Audio thoughts: I love listening to Dottie Frank's books on audio - they always come across really well, with the sass and vibrant characters. I've listened to quite a few, though this was the first time I've heard Bernadette Dunne narrate one of her books. While the narration was still good, and Bernadette did a decent job with the story, I have to say, I missed Robin Miles' narration...she really does a fantastic job narrating Dottie's books. I just felt that Berndatte's voice was a bit flat at times and not as vibrant for the characters as Robin typically is. Still, it was a good listening experience and certainly won't prevent me from listening to future books of Dottie's, whoever the narrator might be.




About the Author: New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   
|   Instagram

Purchase Links:   HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtags:  #TLCBookTours & #SameBeachNextYear).


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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham


Title: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
Author: Heather Harpham
Published: August 2017, Henry Holt & Company
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: Publisher


Summary:
A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant - Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, "Get dressed, your baby is in trouble."

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled "like sliced apples and salted pretzels" but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie's condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham's writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions - new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it's a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.



My thoughts: I don't tend to read a ton of memoirs...but every once in a while, I pick one up because the topic speaks to me in some way. This one was Reece Witherspoon's Book Club selection for April and so I was seeing a lot of it around social media and decided to give it a go...and am so glad I did!

If you know anything about me, it may surprise you that I would pick up a memoir about a woman finding herself not only pregnant, but then dealing with an infant who is sick because of all the fertility issues I went through myself and then all the miscarriages. But, having made my peace with all that, there was something that called to me about this book - and I found that while there were some parts that were a bit hard to read, I did enjoy it...I did find the happiness in this book, much like Heather herself did in the end.

Sometimes, we need to go through the trials that life throws at us just to learn to appreciate all the little things, and that is a lesson I have learned and come to value everyday. So, as I was reading this, I could definitely empathize with Heather - life isn't always a bed of roses and sometimes what we think is going to be an easy journey is anything but, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it. 

This book is written from the heart...it's honest, it's raw, it's emotional. And yet it's also got a touch of humor thrown in at times. I cried, I laughed, I got angry - I went through a roller-coaster of emotions right along with Heather as I was reading this book - the emotions this book evokes are that palpable.

I found myself completely wrapped up in this memoir. Once I started reading, I just couldn't put it down...it's that absorbing. The writing is genuine and engaging and you just can't help but want the best not only for Heather, but also for little Gracie. This is one memoir that I won't be forgetting about anytime soon.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: The Good Twin by Marti Green


Title: The Good Twin
Author: Marti Green
Published: May 2018, Thomas & Mercer
Format: ARC E-copy, 263 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publicist


Summary: 
In Marti Green’s twisting novel of psychological suspense, twin sisters become engaged in a dangerous deception…

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now having it all might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.


My thoughts: Marti Green is a new-to-me author, but I jumped at the opportunity to read this book as it sounded right up my alley - and I am so glad I did! I devoured this book and it kept me engaged from start to finish...and loved the surprises that came along!

I love a good twin story - I've always been fascinated with genetics and this one just grabbed me from the get-go. I have to say, I didn't see the twists coming, and for someone who is constantly reading psychological thrillers, that's a good thing! I love being surprised and while I can usually guess one or two pieces, this one really crept up on me. 

What I really enjoyed about this book are the characters - they really are the type that as much as you want to like them...you just might not. And I love that! I love when there are unlikeable, but somewhat redeemable characters if that makes sense? They aren't completely horrible, but they aren't the type that you want for your best friend either. They are, though, the type that you cannot turn away from - you need to keep reading on to see just what they are going to get up to next.

This book is filled with constant surprises and really keeps you engaged throughout. Just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was left speechless - a few times! The suspense builds at just the right pace and keeps you flipping those pages. This really is a good read and I devoured it in only a few sittings!

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter (audio)


Title: Every Single Secret
Author: Emily Carpenter
Narrator: Kate Orsini
Published: May 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 22 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancĂ©, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.


 
My thoughts: I just love Emily Carpenter's books - I have since I first stumbled on her debut novel, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls as an Audible Daily Deal a few years back. She writes Southern Gothic mystery/suspense like no one else...and I find that I get so involved in her stories, I feel like I know the characters by the time I get to the conclusion.

One of the things I love about Emily's books is that she writes such a good scary, ghost story without involving ghosts - meaning they are creepy and chilling and have all the aspects you would expect in a typical ghost story, but there are no ghosts. I so appreciate this because I really am not such a fan of the whole paranormal genre, but I do a good, chilling, creepy story and I really think Emily Carpenter does that and does it well. This book got to me, it got under my skin with all that was going on - I mean, dead birds? Really! That freaked me out!!!

I loved the characters in this book and the secrets - both Daphne and Heath have such baggage and as we those secrets are ever so slowly uncovered, the book gets more and more delicious! This book kept me on the edge of my seat almost from the get-go, and I never could quite put my finger on where it would head...and I loved that! I also loved that we would head into the past to learn all about Daphne's past - oh those chapters were so good and juicy! Fraught with tension, as the whole book really is, but still. This book is just the right amount of dark and engaging, without being gory. It's disturbing without going over the top. 

I have loved every book Emily Carpenter has written so far - she is definitely on my must-read list and for good reason. I know I am going to get an atmospheric, addicting story that will keep me engaged from start to finish. I cannot wait for her next book!


Audio thoughts: Kate Orsini excels in this narration - she definitely brought her A-game when it came to narrating this story. Between the unique characterizations she gave each character to the pauses she put in while speaking - which I found so effective at times - I just loved listening to this story. 


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