Always With a Book

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Review: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza (audio)

Title: Cold Blood
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster, #5
Narrator: Jan Cramer
Published: September 2017, Bookouture
Length: 9 hours 34 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…
When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery
there’s more than one killer.

My thoughts: This is another series that I just love and find that gets stronger and better with each new installment. This is the 5th book in Robert Bryndza's Detective Erika Foster crime thriller series. These books are dark and twisted and oh so good!!!

Once again we have an action-packed tale that takes off right from the start and never really lets go until the very end. Unfortunately, things get a little personal this time around as Erika is brutally attacked during the investigation and sidelined for a bit...though, in true Erika fashion, not for long! This is why I love her so much - nothing really keeps her down for long! She is tough and persistent and despite all that happens to her in this book, she still makes this case her number one priority. I do wish, though, that at some point in this series, she gets a little bit of happiness thrown her way - just a little!

I also love that the characters that we meet in these books, the ones that are not necessarily part of the series from book to book, are so well-developed. And they are also not always so likeable. These characters have dimension and complexities to them, and make them more relatable, and you can get a feel for why they may or may not be in the predicament that they find themselves in.

This book is equal parts creepy and disturbing and I loved every bit of it. It's so easy to get completely caught up in these stories - both for the character development that occurs in each book and for the crime that the team is solving. At times, it is a bit graphic and gruesome, but it is equally intriguing and captivating and keeps me engaged throughout.

Audio thoughts: Once again, Jan Cramer shines in her narration of this series. She just gets these characters and the story lines. I truly believe that having the same narrator narrate this series really helps with the consistency in the voices and nuances of the characters that both Robert Bryndza has created for them and then Jan Cramer has made them to be. This book really comes alive with Jan Cramer's narration and I so hope she continues narrating the series for as long as Robert Bryndza continues writing it!

Books in this series: 

  1. The Girl in the Ice
  2. The Night Stalker
  3. Dark Water 
  4. Last Breath 
  5. Cold Blood 
  6. Deadly Secrets - due out April 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (audio)

Title: Local Girl Missing
Author: Claire Douglas
Narrator: Hannah Murray, Emilia Fox
Published: July 2017, Harper Audio / Harper Paperbacks
Length: 10 hours 24 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - ARC Paperback via Publisher

Someone knows where she is…

The old Victorian pier was a thing of beauty until it was allowed to decay. It was where the youth of Oldcliffe-on-Sea would go to hang out. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier disappeared eighteen years ago.

Francesca Howe, known as Frankie, was Sophie’s best friend, and even now she is haunted by the mystery of what happened to her. When Frankie gets a call from Sophie’s brother, Daniel, informing her that human remains have been found washed up nearby, she immediately wonders if it could be Sophie, and returns to her old hometown to try and find closure. Now an editor at a local newspaper, Daniel believes that Sophie was terrified of someone and that her death was the result of foul play rather than “death by misadventure,” as the police claim.

Daniel arranges a holiday rental for Frankie that overlooks the pier where Sophie disappeared. In the middle of winter and out of season, Frankie feels isolated and unnerved, especially when she is out on the pier late one night and catches a glimpse of a woman who looks like Sophie. Is the pier really haunted, as they joked all those years ago? Could she really be seeing her friend’s ghost? And what actually happened to her best friend all those years ago?

Harrowing, electrifying, and thoroughly compelling, Local Girl Missing showcases once again bestselling author Claire Douglas’ extraordinary storytelling talent.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Claire Douglas and it definitely won't be my last. This book was so twisty and haunting - just how I like my psychological thrillers to be. I found myself completely mesmerized by this story - I was immediately drawn in and felt that it never really let up until the very end, an ending I definitely did not see coming!

I loved how this story was told - it alternates between the past, surrounding the time leading up to when Sophie goes missing, and the present when human remains have turned up that quite possibly may belong to Sophie. It is a chilling tale that pieces together just what happened leading up to that frightful night and as we meet all the players involved, you are taken on quite a ride.

I found myself constantly trying to guess who was behind what happened to Sophie and questioning everyone we meet in this book. The characters are so richly drawn, yet their motivations are quite questionable and I loved this. I didn't know who was to be trusted and as pieces and clues are revealed, everything becomes more and more suspect. On top of this, the setting contributes so much to the story - it is atmospheric and creepy, adding another element to an already tense and chilling situation. 

This book really kept me on my toes the entire time and the few twists and turns just added the right amount of suspense to heighten my enjoyment. I can't wait to read more from this talented author...she surely know how to spin a tale!

Audio thoughts: I thought this was a great book to listen to and while I was unfamiliar with Hannah Murray prior to listening to this audio book, I have listened to Emilia Fox before. I thought both narrators did a great job with the parts they portrayed in this audio book - their pacing and intonations were good and they infused just the right amount of tension and suspense into their voices as needed. I enjoyed listening to this audio book. 


Monday, February 19, 2018

#WRC2018 Book Spotlight: Things to Do When It's Raining by Marissa Stapley

Title: Things to Do When It's Raining
Author: Marissa Stapley
Published: February 2018, Graydon House
Format: Paperback, 384 pages

Two families, three generations and a lie that almost destroys them. Is their love strong enough to heal old wounds?

Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers' Inn, perched at the edge of the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae's grandparents, Lilly and George. Their childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love--a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe's unexpected departure. Mae grew up, got over her heartbreak and started a life for herself in New York City. After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay. Hoping to find solace within the Summers' Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline with their past unraveling around her. A lifetime of secrets stands in the way of this unconventional family's happiness. Will they be able to reclaim the past and come together, or will they remain separate islands?

From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a powerful story about guilt, forgiveness and the truth about families: that we can choose them, just as we choose to love.

What readers are saying: 

"I enjoyed THINGS TO DO WHEN IT'S RAINING enormously. A lovely book full of emotion and wisdom." - Marian Keyes, bestselling author of The Break "A charming tale with an enchanting setting, Stapley's latest (after Mating for Life, 2014) is an engaging read about keeping secrets, starting over, and loving the family you choose."-Booklist

"Fans of Nicholas Sparks will adore Things to Do When It's Raining... Marissa Stapley's writing is a gift." -Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale "Emotionally powerful and finely wrought."--Publishers Weekly

"THINGS TO DO WHEN IT'S RAINING has heart and soul and guts, and it has achingly beautiful prose and characters so dear and real I couldn't bear to say goodbye when I reached its final page. It's a book about friendship and secrets, grief and regret, the peculiar shape of families and the redemptive nature of love. And it is, quite frankly, one of the best books I have read in a very long time." -Jennifer Robson, internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France and After the War is Over

"Profound and intimate, raw and real-Things to Do When It's Raining is hard to put down. Loved the ending but hated to have it end!" -Nan Rossiter, New York Times bestselling author of Firefly Summer

"Regrets, secrets, and hidden longings swirl beneath the surface of this beautifully atmospheric story of love found, lost, and rediscovered. I couldn't stop reading."--Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of The Beach at Painter's Cove

"Written with compassion and insight, Things to Do When It's Raining is a truly captivating novel with exquisite prose and moments of bittersweet tenderness." -Nicola Moriarty, author of The Fifth Letter

"Marissa Stapley's THINGS TO DO WHEN IT'S RAINING packs a serious punch. It's a tightly-woven story that beautifully illustrates how tragedy and human weakness can cause heartbreaking ripples for years and generations to come." -K.A. Tucker, USA TODAY Bestselling Author of He Will Be My Ruin

"Things to Do When It's Raining is the complex and moving saga of a non-traditional family with deep bonds and even deeper secrets. Set against the idyllic background of a far-flung seaside town, the finely-drawn characters of this novel test the limits of friendship, love, and forgiveness. A story that lingers long after the final page is turned."  --Andrea Dunlop, author of Losing the Light

"A generous book about imperfect people, a novel about the family we choose, the mistakes we make, and how love, flawed and searching and messy, is the only path to forgiveness.  It's also a gorgeously written page-turner, and when I finished it, I flipped right back to page one to savor it just a little bit more." --Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe

"Marissa Stapley's THINGS TO DO WHEN IT'S RAINING is evocative, wise and infused with heart. A deeply moving story about family, love and loss, it shows how secrets can either haunt us or set us free, depending on who we trust them with. One of my favorite books this year!" – Karma Brown, bestselling author of Come Away With Me


Things to Do When It's Raining  by Marissa Stapley is one of  BookSparks "Winter Reads" reading selection picks.  

 Follow the #WRC2018 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other winter books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #WRC2018  and other fun links.

Review: Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky (audio)

Title: Tips for Living
Author: Renee Shafransky
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Published: February 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 53 minutes
Source: Publisher

On the day Nora discovered that her husband, Hugh, had gotten another woman pregnant, she made a vow: I will come back to life no matter how long it takes…

It’s taken Nora three years. With the help of her best friend, she fled New York City for a small resort town, snagged a job as the advice columnist for the local paper, and is cautiously letting a new man into her life. But when Hugh and his perfect new family move into a house nearby, Nora backslides. Coping with jealousy, humiliation, and resentment again is as hard as she feared. It’s harder still when Hugh and his wife are shot to death in their home.

If only Nora could account for the night of the murders. Unfortunately, her memories have gone as dark as her fantasies of revenge. But Nora’s not the only one with a reason to kill—and as prime suspect in the crime, she’d better be able to prove it.

My thoughts: This is a debut novel for author Renee Shafransky and it caught me by surprise! I think the title leads you to think one thing, but don't let that throw you - this is a story full of mystery and intrigue, murder and a fun little romance that kept me hooked from start to finish.

I think what I enjoyed most is that the character of Nora is one that we can all relate to on some level. To me, that is a sign that no matter what she is up against, I know I am going to be rooting for her and wanting to follow her through her travails. Nora has been betrayed by her now ex-husband - not only did he have an affair, but he managed to get his mistress pregnant, something Nora and Hugh were struggling with. Now here's where the humor of the book comes in...Hugh actually wanted Nora to take part in raising the baby! As if!!!  I could so appreciate Nora's anger and just had to laugh at the stupidity of Hugh's ridiculous suggestion.

Can you tell just how this book will draw you in? And that's just the beginning. The characters, though there are many, are quirky and intriguing, and though not all are as richly drawn and complex as Nora is made out to be, they will keep you engaged and captivated by this story, especially once the murder happens. Just who did it? And why?

I enjoyed this book, with all the twists and turns it took, and loved the small-town life that we got to glimpse along the way. I hope this is just the start of good things to come for Renee Shafransky as this debut novel certainly shows she has what it takes to create a fun, intriguing mystery that entertains as much as it mesmerizes you.

Audio thoughts: I adore Susan Bennett's narrations so I was pretty happy when I saw she was narrating this debut novel. Not knowing anything about the author, I definitely took a chance with it, at least knowing I had a seasoned pro telling the story. And she did such a good job with the voices, giving each character their own unique voice. Her tone and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of inflection and tension into her voice as needed. 


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: Daughters of the Bride by Susan Mallery (audio)

Title: Daughters of the Bride
Author: Susan Mallery
Narrator: Tanya Eby
Published: July 2016, Harlequin Audio / HQN Books
Length: 12 hours 10 minutes / 416 pages
Source: Audio - Borrowed via Library / Print - Hardcover via Publisher

With Joy, Love and a Little Trepidation, Courtney, Sienna and Rachel Invite You to the Most Emotional Wedding of the Year… Their Mother's  


~ The Misfit ~

As the awkward one, Courtney Watson may not be as together as her sisters, but she excels at one thing—keeping secrets, including her white-hot affair with a sexy music producer. Planning Mom's wedding exposes her startling hidden life, changing her family's view of her—and how she views herself—forever.


~ The Free Spirit ~

When Sienna's boyfriend proposes—in front of her mom and sisters, for crying out loud—he takes her by surprise. She already has two broken engagements under her belt. Should she say "I do" even if she's not sure she does?


~ The Cynic ~

Rachel thought love would last forever…right up until her divorce. As Mom's wedding day draws near and her ex begs for a second chance, she's forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about why her marriage failed, and decide if she'll let pride stand in the way of her own happily-ever-after.

My thoughts: When I pick up a book by Susan Mallery - whether it a book from one of her series or a stand-alone book - I know I am in for some good, fun reading. And that's just what I got with this book.

This story is all about family and how all families are certainly not cookie cutter molds. The family dynamics and the relationships between the sisters are so relatable that this just pulled me into the story even more. I think having two sisters, and four brothers, any time I read a story about sibling relationships I find myself drawn to them. I felt the emotions and tensions between the mother and daughters to be real and drawn in reality. 

This story is a roller-coaster of emotions. It will make you laugh-out-loud at times, but it has it's poignant moments as well. And there are some cringe-worthy moments, too. That's the beauty of this story - it will take you over as you delve into the dynamics of these sisters' relationships as they help their mother plan her wedding. It was fun getting to know them and seeing them come into themselves as they finally shed the past and overcame some of the insecurities that had been tripping them up. 

The characters, as is usual in all Susan Mallerys' books, are well-developed and complex. They are relatable and easy to cheer on. You might not always like a character in the beginning, but by the end they just might end up surprising you. Don't you just love characters like that? 

Audio thoughts: I am a big fan of Tanya Eby and so I was so excited to see she was narrating this book. She does such a great job with the voices, even for the men's voices, giving everyone a distinct and unique voice so that you never have to wonder who is speaking. Her tone and pacing are spot on and she infuses just the right amount of emotion into her voice as necessary. This was a great book to listen to on audio.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Title: The Tuscan Child
Author: Rhys Bowen
Published: February 2018, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher via Little Bird Publicity

From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…
In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Rhys Bowen and once again I found myself completely captivated and totally immersed in her writing. Last year, I read and absolutely loved, In Farleigh Field, so when I was given the opportunity to read and review Rhys's latest stand-alone book, I jumped at the opportunity.

This story is set in both WWII Italy and the 1970s, and I was equally drawn to both story-lines. There are times when you read a dual-narrative that one story-line is stronger or more appealing than the other, but I did not find that to be the case here. This historical fiction tale has a bit of a mystery to both timelines and the characters and story just come alive on the pages. 

I never once felt that any part of this book fact, I devoured this book in two days. I just couldn't get enough of these characters. There was a complexity to them that made them intriguing without being overly done. And the setting - oh my! I've never been to Italy, but I felt like I could see it through the writing. And while I may not be the best cook around, it is something I am certainly taking a more active interest in, so all the descriptions of the Italian food and how they were preparing them was just music to my ears. I fully admit I was drooling at some parts and had developed quite an appetite! 

This book has a little bit of everything - it's got richly developed, complex characters, long-buried secrets, a bit of romance, and includes a murder mystery, with some twists and turns that are sure to shock you. It certainly didn't end up going where I thought it would and I appreciate that. It's a beautifully written story that will engage you and captivate you. This is just good reading and at the end of the day, isn't that what we look forward to?


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan (audio)

Title: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
Author: Jenny Colgan
Narrator: Beverly A. Crick
Published: Audio - January 2018, Tantor Audio / Print - February 2014, Sourcebooks Landmark
Length: 10 hours 49 minutes / 384 pages
Source: Audio - Borrowed via Library / Print - ARC E-copy via Netgalley

Inside Paris's premiere chocolate shop, sometimes dreams really can come true.
It's true that Anna Trent is a supervisor in a chocolate factory...but that doesn't necessarily mean she knows how to make chocolate. And when a fateful accident gives her the opportunity to work at Paris's elite chocolatier Le Chapeau Chocolat, Anna expects to be outed as a fraud. After all, there is a world of difference between chalky, mass-produced English chocolate and the gourmet confections Anna's new boss creates. But with a bit of luck and a lot of patience, Anna might learn that the sweetest things in life are always worth working for.

Hopeful, laugh-out-loud funny, and irresistibly addictive, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is a novel worth savoring.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Jenny Colgan and it certainly won't be the last. I fully admit I was drawn to this book because of the title alone - Chocolate and Paris - completely sold...and luckily, the story was charming and had just enough substance to keep me entertained.

I adored the characters in this book. They were charming and quirky and kept the story from becoming too predictable. I loved how Anna and her high school French teacher, Claire, are thrown together in quite an unusual circumstance and strike up a unique friendship. I think that is what they both needed at the time and it gives Anna just the push and some direction in her life that she needed at just the right time.

Having the story move back and forth in time from the present to the past was a bit confusing at first, but then when I finally figured it all out - the past is Claire's story of when she used to live in Paris as a young girl - it all made sense. I did like how it all comes together at the end - and as I mentioned above, this story does have substance. It has some feels to it, and it has chocolate. It had me craving chocolate while I was reading it like there was no tomorrow! 

I definitely enjoyed this book and will certainly be looking into Jenny Colgan's other books, especially if she combines food and a fun story like this one. If you've read her other books, do you have a favorite one to recommend?

Audio thoughts: This was the first time I've listened to this narrator and I thought she did a good job. I had no problems with her differentiating the voices and thought her pacing and tones were spot on. This was a fun book to listen to and if I do pick up another book by Jenny Colgan, I would definitely consider listening to one.

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