Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

Title: Cocoa Beach
Author: Beatriz Williams
Published: June 2017, William Morrow
Format: ARC Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

The author of A Certain Age transports readers to sunny Florida in this lush and enthralling historical novel—an enchanting blend of love, suspense, betrayal, and redemption set among the rum runners and scoundrels of Prohibition-era Cocoa Beach

Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. Driving an ambulance for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she’d left behind.

Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon has never met.

Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers surrounding Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well.

My thoughts: As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Beatriz Williams' books - I've read just about all of them and usually go to see her when she's on book tour whenever I get the chance! There's just something about her books - they're the perfect blend of historical fiction, compelling characters and fantastic writing that bring me back time and time. I just can't get enough of this perfect combination!!!

This latest book is a continuation of her Jazz Age series that isn't really a series...if that makes sense. One thing I've come the learn about Beatriz Williams is that there are few characters she creates that she leaves untouched --meaning eventually she comes back and tells just about everyone's story. The main character in this book was the sister in last summer's book, A Certain Age...and is also loosely connected to her Prohibition series that is part of her winter series. Again - these are all series but not series. According to her, they are all stand-alone books that are loosely connected.

I really enjoyed this book - I loved the way the story moved back and forth between the two time periods, from Europe during WWI to the 1920s in Florida during the height of Prohibition. I could vividly picture the way life was for Virginia both during the war and then back in Florida after the war. And I loved the letters that Beatriz included from Simon to Virginia - a great way for us to get inside Simon's head. 

With so many characters running around in this book, particularly in the 1920s timeline, it's hard to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys at times. The twists and turns will keep you flipping the pages, especially the last half of the book, until you get til the end. And then we are left with quite the cliffhanger - but for what "series?" I admit - I had to reread the last few pages a few times to make sure I understood what I just read...and now I am desperate for that next book!!!

Beatriz Williams' books are definitely on my must-read list...I know I am in for a treat when I pick one up and I always end up looking forward to the next one as soon as I finish the current one - and luckily she writes quite a few each year. Do you have an author like that - that you must-read? 

 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in Jul 21

 
 
I found this new yoga app, Asana Rebel, that I downloaded and I've been doing some of their workouts here and there. I really like it - they are short, easy yoga flows and the instructions are easy to follow. I am just using the free version for now and there are enough flows to select from without having to upgrade to the membership version for now.
 
 
July Goals: 

  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend  - 5/5, 2/2
  • 30 minutes of active walking every day, M-F - 5/5 (thank goodness for having to walk the dogs everyday!)
  • Strength training (3/5 days) - Met
  • Eat mindfully/eat enough - Yes
        
Here's how last week went:    
Jul 15:  8,203 steps
Jul 16:  8,362 steps

Jul 17:  25,527 steps (10K+ -  10 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)   
Jul 18:  28,840 steps
(10K+ -  10 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)
Jul 19:  16,821 steps (5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)

Jul 20:  25
,045 steps
(10K+ -  10 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)
Jul 21:  17
,985 steps (5K+ -  5 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)

Total Steps: 130,783 steps


 
Audiobooks listened to last week (since I'm not much of a music fan, I listen to books while I walk):
  • Finished The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, narrated Dara Rosenberg
  • Started & Finished The Separatists by Lis Wiehl, narrated by Devon O'Day
  • Started & Finished The Captain's Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore, narrated by Coleen Marlo 
 

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.
 

 
Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:                             September:   
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  5                                5K  - 
         10K  -  7                                10K  -  6                               10K  - 
     February:                             June:                            October:

           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  10                               5K  - 
         10K  -  9                                10K  -  2                              10K  -   
     March:                                  July:                             November:
           5K  -  3                                  5K  -  10                                5K  - 
         10K  -  7                                10K  -  3                               10K  - 
     April:                                    August:                        December:
           5K  -  9                                  5K  -                                    5K  - 
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -                                  10K  -


Friday, July 21, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: American Family by Catherine Marshall-Smith




Title: American Family
Author: Catherine Marshall-Smith
Published: June 2017, She Writes Press
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
 
Richard and Michael, both three years sober, have just decided to celebrate their love by moving in together when Richard driven by the desire to do the right thing for his ten-year-old-daughter, Brady, whom he has never met impulsively calls his former father-in-law to connect with her. With that phone call, he jeopardizes the one good thing he has his relationship with Michael and also threatens the world of the fundamentalist Christian grandparents who love Brady and see her as payback from God for the alcohol-related death of her mother. Unable to reach an agreement, the two parties hire lawyers who have agendas far beyond the interests of the families and Brady is initially trusted into Richard and Michael s care. But when the judge learns that the young girl was present when a questionable act took place while in their custody, she returns Brady to her grandparents. Ultimately, it s not until further tragedy strikes that both families are finally motivated to actually act in the best interests of the child.

What readers are saying: 

"A nuanced portrait of what it means to be a family, with a bit of melodrama but plenty of heart." ―Kirkus Reviews

"A poignant literary pageant of custody battles, alchoholism, religious restraint and family turmoil, this tremendously moving read will leave you in bouts of feels all summer long." ―Redbook

"An emotionally gripping read that explores the deepest of cracks in a dysfunctional family, this poignant book belongs in the hands of every parent this summer." ―Working Mother

"This emotionally gripping tale about a gay man who must battle his way to sobriety and convince his ex father-in-law he is worthy of a relationship with his 10-year-old daughter will leave every dad moved. If you want your gift to finally induce your dad to weep in your presence, this might be your chance." ―Popsugar

"When Richard confronts his daughter’s fundamentalist Christian grandparents for a second chance at fatherhood, the most emotionally harrowing and heavy family drama of 2017 unfolds. Be sure you pack tissues in the glove compartment." ―Brit+Co

"A heartbreaking and emotionally riveting reading experience that reminds readers that most every American family has its dysfunctional ghosts. This explosive novel will add drama to your summer from Page 1."  ―SheKnows 



******************************************************************************



American Family  by Catherine Marshall-Smith is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
  
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)
 
 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Bring Her Home by David Bell

Title: Bring Her Home
Author: David Bell
Published: July 2017, Berkley Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 464 pages 
Source: Netgalley via Publisher
 
In the breathtaking new thriller from David Bell, bestselling author of Since She Went Away and Somebody I Used to Know, the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father's worst nightmare....

Just a year and a half after the tragic death of his wife, Bill Price's fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer, and her best friend, Haley, disappear. Days later, the girls are found in a city park. Haley is dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition and clinging to life.

As Bill holds vigil over Summer's bandaged body, the only sound the unconscious girl can make is one cryptic and chilling word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. Or if the injured girl in the hospital bed is really his daughter at all.

When troubling new questions about Summer's life surface, Bill is not prepared for the aftershocks. He'll soon discover that both the living and the dead have secrets. And that searching for the truth will tear open old wounds that pierce straight to the heart of his family...

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read now by David Bell and the second book I've loved! He is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine - one I know I can rely on for a good mystery that will keep me engaged and hooked from start to finish with a unique story line and fresh, compelling characters. 

This latest book from David Bell was without a doubt one of the best books I've read in a while in that it was uniquely written from the father's point of view and only told from his point of view. There were no other view points. Don't get me wrong - we still meet a whole cast of characters - just all from Bill's point of view - and this is just brilliant. It just makes sense as you read it. You feel his pain as he learns that his daughter is missing and then all that comes after. It's palpable...it's painful...it's raw...it's heartbreaking. You feel his grief, you feel his anger,  you feel all his emotions as he deals with everything.

This book slowly pulls you in right from the start and doesn't let up until the very end. It's a roller coaster of a ride, believe me, as there are quite a few shocking twists that occur. And with the short chapters, you find yourself saying - oh just one more chapter, until you are at the end. 

For the most part, this story is told linearly - it moves forward with little of the story going back in time. That's a bit refreshing for me, for as much as I do like dual narratives, it's nice to read a story that is just told straight forward! 

I cannot wait to read more of David Bell's novels. I do have a few of his back list that I plan to read soon and of course, I will be anxiously awaiting his next novel...he is definitely on my auto-read list!!!


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Review: Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (audio)



Title: Eden
Author: Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg
Narrator: Marnye Young
Published: May 2017, Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg / She Writes Press
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes / 336 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Netgalley via Publisher

Becca Meister Fitzpatrick—wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community—is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition . . . until she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg. As she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor, Becca is inspired by her granddaughter’s boldness in the face of impending single-motherhood, and summons the courage to reveal a secret she was forced to bury long ago: the existence of a daughter she gave up fifty years ago. The question now is how her other daughter, Rachel—with whom Becca has always had a strained relationship—will react.

Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca’s family—her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden.”

My thoughts: This is Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg's debut novel and I found myself totally invested in this family saga from start to finish. And the way the author skillfully used the house, Eden, as an anchor, was just brilliant. Oh how I would love to live at Eden - or at least visit it for a while!

The book moves back and forth in time, introducing us to a cast of characters, a group of women who are equally strong and complex. They all have their issues and it was interesting how the author used the issues of the day to help tell her story. This book spans so many decades that there are so many issues relevant to each of the pertinent time periods. Hiding diagnoses of epilepsy, sending single pregnant young girls away, keeping diagnoses of depression hidden - these were all dealt with very differently than they are today and JMB kept true to the standards of the time period she was writing in.

The book pulls you in to this multigenerational family saga, weaving back and forth with a thread that connects the two. Just as we start to find out something in the present, the story moves back to the past. There are definitely secrets here - almost everyone is hiding something - and ever so slowly these secrets come to light. This just goes to show that all families - no matter the status or the wealth - has secrets!

This book will make you think and feel. It's emotional and as you read about what these women go through...it will make you think what choices you would make were you in that position. You will also find yourself thinking about these characters when you are not reading this book - I haven't stopped thinking about them since I finished the book...these are memorable characters! The relationships that JMB has created between them are authentic and relatable. 

I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see what comes next from Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg!


Audio thoughts:
This is the first time I've listened to Marnye Young and I thought she did a great job! There were so many characters and Marnye was able to give each one their own unique voice and personality. Her inflections and pacing were great and I will definitely be looking to see what else she has narrated.




Eden  by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
  
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)


Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B.A. Paris
Published: July 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My thoughts: Last year, one of my most favorite and anticipated reads was B.A. Paris's debut novel, Behind Closed Doors. So of course I was ecstatic when I got an early copy of her second book, The Breakdown, and even had the opportunity to meet her in person during BookExpo this year at a luncheon for bloggers. 

This is another psychological thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It just gets under your skin. But, I think it really is one of those books where the less you know about it going into it, the better. So, forgive me for being a bit vague in my review - I definitely don't want to give anything away for anyone and ruin their reading experience!

The pacing of this book is fast...it will have you flipping the pages as you try to figure out what is going on. There are a lot of factors at play here - anticipation of what you think might be going on, mistrust of just about everyone you meet, and the coming apart of our protagonist. It's exhausting - not only for her, but for you as you try to put the pieces together. You feel as if you are on a rollercoaster with all that is going on.

This book is so good - it's addictive and while you might put some of the pieces together, it's still worth the read. I loved it from start to finish and I cannot wait to see what comes next from B.A. Paris...she is definitely an author on my must-read list now!!!


Review: Last Breath by Robert Bryndza (audio)

Title: Last Breath
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster, #4
Narrator: Jan Cramer
Published: April 2017, Bookouture
Length: 9 hours 5 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Last Breath will have you on the edge of your seat, racing to the final dramatic page.

My thoughts: This is the 4th book in Robert Bryndza's Detective Erika Foster series and I absolutely love this series...it's dark and twisted and each book keeps me on my toes the entire time! Each book leaves me breathless and desperately wanting to get my hands on the next one.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the character development we get throughout, which is why I think it is so important to read this series in order! You really get to know not only Erika, but her team as well. I think Robert really shines in this area - he has gone to great lengths to build up these characters and continues to do so with each book. 

In this latest book, Erika who has been removed from the Murder Investigation Team, manages to finagle things so that she is Senior Investigating Officer on the latest murder case and is able to hand-pick her team...and obviously picks Moss, Peterson, Crane and McGorry - the usual gang! I love this - this is such an Erika move!!! 

Early on in the book, we find out who the killer is, so most of the book is actually spent watching Erika and her crazy tactics in trying to catch said killer. She is sometimes upstoppable - willing to go to any means necessary at times for results. By knowing who the killer is, we the reader are able to get inside his head - which is quite frightening.

This book is nonstop full of action and will leave you breathless so many times, especially the last quarter of the book! There are quite a few twists and turns and the tension is high throughout. It's one of my favorite series and now I am counting the days til the next book comes out...


Audio thoughts: Jan Cramer is just brilliant with this narration - she does such a great job with these voices, making these characters come alive. I love listening to her and love listening to this series! Please, please, please continue to narrate this series for as long as it goes on - to me, you are Erika Foster and the rest of the gang!!!



Books in this series: 

  1. The Girl in the Ice
  2. The Night Stalker
  3. Dark Water 
  4. Last Breath 
  5. ???


 

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