Friday, July 22, 2016

#SRC2016 Book Review: Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer (audio)

Title: Untethered
Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Published: June 2016, Brilliance Audio / G.P. Putnam's Sons
Length: 9 hours 5 minutes / Hardcovers, 352 pages
Source: Publisher / BookSparks
When Char Hawthorn's husband dies unexpectedly, she is left questioning everything she once knew to be true: from the cozy small town life they built together to her relationship with her stepdaughter, who is suddenly not bound to Char in any real way. Untethered explores what bonds truly form a family and how, sometimes, love knows no bounds.

Char Hawthorn, college professor, wife and stepmother to a spirited fifteen-year-old daughter, loves her family and the joyful rhythms of work and parenting. But when her husband dies in a car accident, the “step” in Char’s title suddenly matters a great deal. In the eyes of the law, all rights to daughter Allie belong to Lindy, Allie’s self-absorbed biological mother, who wants the girl to move to her home in California.

While Allie begins to struggle in school and tensions mount between her and Char, Allie’s connection to young Morgan, a ten-year-old-girl she tutors, seems to keep her grounded. But then Morgan, who was adopted out of foster care, suddenly disappears, and Char is left to wonder about a possible future without Allie and what to do about Morgan, a child caught up in a terrible crack in the system.

My thoughts: This is my first Julie Lawson Timmer book and I can tell you it will definitely not be my last! This book is one of the BookSparks #SummerReadingChallenge selections and I think it was a great kept me engaged and glued to the story from start to finish and I haven't stopped thinking of the characters since!

This book is full of family drama, rich characters, and an emotional roller-coaster of ups and downs that will have you wondering what you would do if you ever find yourself in Char's position. The characters are real, flawed and both likeable and unlikeable, both the adults and kids alike!

There is so much going on and at times, especially in the beginning, the pace is a bit slow, but I think that is to set everything up, to introduce us to all the players and set the tone for what is to come. Then, hang on because the pace takes off and everything starts happening a bit faster. The secrets that start unraveling and the suspense that starts building...your heart will be pounding as you make your way through this book and you will find you just have to get to the end to see what the resolution is. 

This book was a great introduction to Julie Lawson Timmer's writing for me and I cannot wait to pick up her other book, Five Days Left. Have you read that one yet? Hopefully that will help ease the wait time until her next book comes out, right, because I am a new fan!!!

Audio thoughts: This was the second book I've listened to recently that Emily Sutton-Smith narrated and I really like her as a narrator! I think she does a great job with the voices and the emotions of the characters. I am definitely going to be checking out what else she has narrated and will be keeping an eye out for future books that she narrates!

Untethered  by Julie Lawson Timmer is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks.

Follow the #SRC2016, #BestSRCEver and #BestSummerEver hashtags on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Short & Sweet Review: Hide Away by Iris Johansen (audio)

Title: Hide Away
Author: Iris Johansen
Series: Eve Duncan, #20
Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers
Published: April 2016, Recorded Books
Length: 11 hours 6 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Iris Johansen's beloved forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is back and now the stakes are higher than ever. Dramatic changes are on the horizon for Eve and Joe Quinn and their relationship may never be the same. Faced with the task of protecting Cara Delaney, a young girl with ruthless enemies who want to see her dead, Eve takes her away to the remote Scottish Highlands where they join Jane MacGuire in search of a hidden treasure. But nowhere is far enough away to protect Cara from danger. With enemies closing in from all sides, Hide Away is a high-octane thriller that fans will not want to miss.
***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.

My thoughts: This is the second book in this year's Eve Duncan trilogy and I just love these books!!! This one was just as thrilling and suspenseful as I would have hoped and I loved that there were so many familiar faces involved, including Jane MacGuire, Caleb, MacDuff, and Jock. 

I'm really intrigued by Cara's character and cannot wait to see how everything plays out in the final book of this trilogy. The relationships that are forming between different characters keeps things interesting and while I have some guesses as to what may happen, I am still anxious to see what Iris has in store for us. Plus there is the new development happening with Eve and Joe - sure to have some changes in store for them!

This series keeps getting better and better and is definitely one of my all-time favorites. I already have the next one, due out tomorrow on pre-order and cannot wait to start it!!!  

Audio thoughts:
Elisabeth Rodgers is a gem...she has really brought this series to life and I am so glad that she has stuck with it so long! So many times I have I started a series and there have been switches with narrators. She really does a great job with all the voices, staying consistent, even when a character isn't in a book for a while. She is definitely one of my favorite narrators and I hope she continues to narrate this series (as well as Iris Johansen's other series, as they all tend to have overlapping characters) for as long as they go on!

Books in this series:

     1.   The Face of Deception               12.   Eve
     2.   The Killing Game                       13.   Quinn
     3.   The Search                                   14.   Bonnie
     4.   Body of Lies                                 15.   Sleep No More                            
     4.5   Dead Aim                                   16.   Taking Eve
     5.   Blind Alley                                   17.   Hunting Eve
     6.   Countdown                                  18.   Silencing Eve
     7.   Stalemate                                     19.   Shadow Play
     8.   Quicksand                                    20.   Hide Away
     9.   Blood Game                                 21.   Night & Day - due out 7/19/16
    10.  Eight Days to Live
    11.  Chasing the Night                            

Sunday, July 17, 2016

#FitReaders: July 15

It was another hot week...and so hard to stay motivated. On top of that, my headaches are back - but this time, are due to tight muscles in my shoulders and neck. I have to set up an evaluation with a physical therapist and in the meantime, I have muscle relaxers and need to use heat/ice when it bothers me. So, I just need to use caution when working out so as to not injure it more.

Update on July goals:
  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend - 5/5  & 2/2
  • Strength-training exercises 3x a week - Had to put this on hold this week.
  • Yoga 2-3 times a week - at least 15 minutes - Done!
  • Eat mindfully - continue to drink a minimum of 64 oz of water, limit caffeine intake, up intake of fruits and veggies, up intake of protein at each meal, limit intake of sugar. - This week was ok...lunch tends to be where I struggle.
Here's how my week went:     
Jul  9:  8,449 steps (15 min yoga)
Jul 10:  9,558 steps
Jul 11:  15,023 steps
(30 min fitness walk)
Jul 12:  10,265 steps (30 min fitness walk)

Jul 13:  12,787 steps (30 min fitness walk, 15 min yoga)

Jul 14:  10
,522 steps (30 min fitness walk)
Jul 15: 
10,079 steps (30 min fitness walk)
Total Steps: 76,683 steps
Audiobooks listened to this week: 

  • Started & Finished Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen, narrated by Julia Whelan & Will Damron
  • Started & Finished The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Barbara, narrated by Anna Bentinck

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

Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:
           5K  -  3                                  5K  -  9
         10K  -  0                                10K  -  2
     February:                             June:

           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  5
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  5                  
     March:                                  July:
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  2
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  0
           5K  -  4
         10K  -  5

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

#SRC2016 Book Review: The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

Title: The Choices We Make
Author: Karma Brown
Published: July 2016, MIRA
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Source: BookSparks

Following her bestselling debut novel Come Away with Me, Karma Brown returns with an unforgettable story that explores the intricate dynamics between friends and mothers

Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate's skirt with a mirror. While they've been close as sisters ever since, Hannah can't help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created—complete with two perfect little girls.

She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah's heartbreak is overwhelming. But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it's Kate's turn to do the rescuing. Not only does she offer to be Hannah's surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.

Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood…until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart. Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of two mothers, one incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

My thoughts: Once again, Karma Brown has blown me away with her writing...and made me a blubbering mess! I absolutely loved her debut novel, Come Away With Me, so while I was anxious to read this new one, I had anxiety about whether it would hold up as well as the first...but I shouldn't have worried - it's another phenomenal piece of writing!

Every once in a while, I wonder if a writer has been spying on me - I felt like parts of this book were taken right out of my life! That's how accurate Karma Brown nailed the emotional aspects of Hannah's heartbreak as she went through all those rounds of fertility only to get all those negative pregnancy tests...oh how I know that feeling. I've been there...and all those emotions were so spot on.  But that's where the similarities with me and Hannah end - I decided to not pursue anything further, though we did discuss other options. 

This is an incredibly fast read - once you start, it's hard to put down. You find yourself completely invested in Hannah and Kate's lives, wanting to know what is going on and what's going to happen next. And the mix of emotions as I read this book...I was laughing and then crying, sometimes even doing both. Karma has such a way of writing that she evokes a mix of joy and heartbreak and it feels real, not stilted or fake. That's the best part of this book - everything that happened in this book I could easily have seen happening in real life. But word of advice - have those tissues handy as you will most definitely need them!

This book will make you can it not? It will have you putting yourself in almost all four of the main characters' positions - Hannah and Kate's as well as their husbands. There are so many different issues that come up in this book, some light and easy, and some quite heavy that leave you a bit unsettled, yet through it all, this book shines. This book is definitely one that is going to be talked about for a long time because of all the emotions it evokes - good, bad and in-between. 

This is the type of book that I won't be forgetting anytime soon - not only because it has such a personal tie to my own life, but also because of the memorable characters - Kate and Hannah are so vividly drawn and really come to life in the book. While I raced through the pages to see how it would all come together, I also didn't want it to end - I just wanted to savor every last word and enjoy my time with these characters, especially as I know it will be another whole year before we get a new book by this author!!! Karma Brown has quickly become a favorite author of mine and I cannot wait to see what comes next for her!

The Choices We Make  by Karma Brown is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks.

Follow the #SRC2016, #BestSRCEver and #BestSummerEver hashtags on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books!


Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: The Newsmakers by Lis Weihl (audio)

Title: The Newsmakers
Author: Lis Weihl
Series: Newmakers, #1
Narrator: Devon O'Day
Published: January 2016, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Length: 9 hours 32 minutes
Source: Publisher

What if it turns out that the newsmakers are actually making the news happen?

Television reporter Erica Sparks has just landed her dream job at Global News Network. Beautiful, talented, and ambitious, Erica grew up dirt poor, worked her way through Yale, and is carrying a terrible secret. She moves to Manhattan to join GNN, leaving Jenny, her adored 7-year-old daughter, in the custody of her ex-husband. Erica’s producer at the network, Greg Underwood, is handsome and compelling. Scarred by her divorce, Erica is wary of romance, but there’s no denying the mutual attraction.

On one of her first assignments, Erica witnesses a horrific Staten Island ferry crash. Then she lands a coveted interview with presumptive presidential nominee Kay Barrish. During the interview Barrish collapses. Erica valiantly tries to save her with CPR. The footage rivets the world—GNN’s ratings soar and Erica is now a household name.

But she’s troubled. What a strange coincidence that both events should happen on her watch. It’s almost as if they were engineered. Is that possible?

Erica’s relentless pursuit of the truth puts her life and that of her daughter in danger. Her investigation leads her into the heart of darkness—where the future of our democracy is at stake.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Lis Weihl and I really enjoyed it...and I'm so excited to find out that it's the beginning of a series! I love when I stumble onto a new author and then it turns out that she has not only written a book I liked, but has an up and coming new series to look forward to - that's what I call a double win!!!

I just loved Erica Sparks...there was something so real about her. She is such a flawed character - she's trying to put her life back on track after making some disastrous choices and it seems trouble is still following her around. With a second chance, she has a new job and is determined to put things right. But when she happens to be on the scene of what end of being major news stories not once but a few times, she begins to question if these are coincidences or planned events? 
This was a great mystery that really pulled me in. Between all the characters - some really shady and some true, so that it was hard to know who to trust and who not to - and the fast pace of the story, it was hard to put it down. And then there were all the twists that just added to the suspense...this one really kept me on my toes as I wasn't sure where it was going.  

I can't wait to see what comes next for Erica and this series.
Audio thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Devin O'Day narrate a book and I thought she did a good job. Her pacing was good and so were her characterizations, giving each character their own unique voice. I hope she continues to narrate this series, as I will most likely continue listening to it!

Books in this series:
  1. The Newsmakers
  2. The Candidate - due out Oct 2016 

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