Friday, April 24, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (audio)

Title: The Bookseller    
Author: Cynthia Swanson    
Narrator: Kathe Mazur  
Published:  March 2015, Blackstone Audio / Harper (print)
Length: 11 hours 32 minutes / 338 pages  
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Publisher 

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It's everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

My thoughts: I think we all wonder at times what our life would be like if we had taken an alternate path...that ever present "what if" question. What if I had done this instead of that? What if I had gone here instead of there? Cynthia Swanson's debut novel tackles this and a whole lot more and it's a book that once you begin, you will have a hard time putting down.

I loved the premise of this book. Aren't there times in this world that we all wish our dreams were reality? Those dreams that seem so real, so vivid? Every time Kitty goes to sleep, she finds herself in another world, and known not as Kitty, but as Katherine. But each story line gives us clues as to who she really is. And what a great character she is. I just loved her. I loved the way we find out all the different facets of her life and what makes her her. She is charming and you just want to know what's going on with her. Why is she having these dreams and how is this all going to end?

This is a book that will make you think about the choices you have made in your life. What if you had made different ones? What impact would that have made? I remember having the same thoughts after watching the movie Sliding Doors, one of my favorite movies. This book is similar with that parallel story line, but will have you questioning which one is really real and each time you think you have it figured out, something will happen to cause you to reconsider.

This is one of the best books I've read this year and I will definitely be hanging on it to. I'm fortunate, once again, to have both a print copy and the audio version. Having listened to it this first time around, I think that next time - and there will definitely be a next time - I will read the print version. But in the meantime, I'll be watching Sliding Doors again soon and keeping an eye out for what comes next from Cynthia Swanson!!!

Audio Thoughts: I loved listening to this book on audio. Kathe Mazur did a fantastic job with the narration. The voices were great and she just pulls you into the story, making you want to do nothing but listen all day, until you finish it. She was the perfect voice for both Kitty and Katherine, making you really connect with her. It was a great audio production.

About the author: Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the midcentury modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th MoonKalliopeSojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel.

Authors Links: 
Website |  Twitter 


To see who else is participating in Cynthia Swanson's The Bookseller tour, click here.

  The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson is one of the She Reads "Books of Spring" reading selection picks.

Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Spring" selections.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sunday Post #68 (4.19.15)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. I'm also going to link this up with Sheila's It's Monday post over at Book Journey. 

Spring is here and I am loving it!!! We had a glorious week, weather-wise, and the dogs and I definitely took advantage of it by taking some extra walks each day. Today, hubby and I are heading into the city to meet up with his parents to go see The New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall...I've never even seen the Christmas show, so I'm very excited to see this one, especially since Derek Hough from Dancing With the Stars is in it!!! Hubby is less than thrilled to be going, but is being a trooper none-the-less :)

Have a great week everyone!!!
Last week on the Blog:                            
* Review: The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
* Blog Tour & Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert  
* Review: Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips
* Review: The Burning by Jane Casey  
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in April 17

Books Read:                  
* A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (review book)        
* Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs (library audio book)  
* The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (review book/audio book)        
* Legacy: An Anthology (review e-book)
Currently Reading:            
* Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (mine)      
* The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos  (audio book)

Books Up Next:                         
* At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (review book)   
* Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey (review e-book) 
Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Legacy: An Anthology by various authors
* Review: Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
* Review: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs  
* Blog Tour & Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Book Haul:      
For Review:
* The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (courtesy of publisher)

* The Reckoning by Jane Casey (audio via Audible)
* The Last Girl by Jane Casey (audio via Audible)

* The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe (audio via Audible)
* The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos (audio via Audible)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#Fitbit Readers: Weekly Check-in April 17

It was such a nice week, weather-wise and the dogs and I definitely took advantage of that. We took more walks each day. They are loving that Spring is finally here!!!
Here's how my week went:  

Apr 11:  rest (4,678 steps)
Apr 12:  rest day (8,814 steps)
Apr 13:  5k on treadmill - 50 minutes (17,602 steps)
Apr 14:  1 hour indoor walking (16,152 steps)

Apr 15:  5k on treadmill - 50 minutes (18,134 steps)

Apr 16:  1 hour indoor walking (10,787 steps)
Apr 17:  1 hour yoga class (15,808 steps)
Audiobooks listened to this week - Finished  The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, narrated by Kathe Mazur. 

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

Review: The Burning by Jane Casey (audio)

Title: The Burning   
Author: Jane Casey  
Series: Maeve Kerrigan, #1   
Narrator: Sarah Coomes  
Published: May 2012, Brilliance Audio  
Length: 14 hours 53 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

A determined young police constable goes it alone against an enigmatic killer and her bosses in a series debut for fans of Sophie Hannah and Tana French
The Burning Man. It’s the name the media has given a brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas of London’s parks. And now there’s a fifth.

Maeve Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable, keen to make her mark on the murder task force. Her male colleagues believe Maeve’s empathy makes her weak, but the more she learns about the latest victim, Rebecca Haworth, from her grieving friends and family, the more determined Maeve becomes to bring her murderer to justice. But how do you catch a killer no one has seen when so much of the evidence has gone up in smoke?

Maeve’s frenetic hunt for a killer in Jane Casey’s gripping series debut will entrance even the most jaded suspense readers.

My thoughts: This is the first full-length novel in Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series and I can tell you, I'm hooked! I have been on a thriller/mystery/crime kick lately and a foreign author kick to boot and this series fits both of those criteria. Because I am once again coming to a series late to the game, I happened to read the digital short story that came out after this was written but is really a prequel to the series. 

I loved the way this story is told - alternating between the points of view of Maeve and Louise, the friend of one of the victims of The Burning Man. Not only did this give us insight into Maeve and how she goes about doing her job, but it allowed us to get to know this one victim a bit more. But, as Maeve starts investigating, she begins to realize that things are just a slight bit off here. Is Rebecca really a victim of The Burning Man or is this the work of a copy cat?

The characters in this book are well-developed and engaging. Maeve is fun, witty and ambitious. She's the only female in a male-dominated field and constantly putting up with grief for being Irish. But, she's determined to move up in the ranks and works hard. Louise also proved to be an interesting character and I admit I looked forward to the parts that she narrated. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was just something off about her. As the story progresses, each character sheds light on what really happened bit by bit, so that finally you get the full picture.

I'm looking forward to continuing with this series. I foresee Maeve becoming a favorite character of mine!!!

Audio Thoughts: Sarah Coomes is a new-to-me narrator and I thought she did a great job with this book. She was able to give each character their own unique voice and infuse just the right amount of empathy when needed. I'm quite excited to see that she narrates the whole series of Maeve Kerrigan books as I think I will be listening to them all! I love when the same narrator narrates the whole series - I like that continuity!!!

Books in this series:
      0.5  Left for Dead
      1.    The Burning
      2.    The Reckoning
      3.    The Last Girl
      4.    The Stranger You Know
      5.    The Kill

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips (audio)

Title: Perfect Fling   
Author: Carly Phillips   
Series: Serendipity's Finest, #2   
Narrator: David Barker  
Published: 2014, Recorded Books   
Length: 8.5 hours
Source: Publisher 

In the picturesque town of Serendipity, New York, three siblings have grown up in the shadow of their proud and respected police chief father. But what do love, fate, and fortune have in store for the next generation of Serendipity's finest?

Assistant D.A. Erin Marsden is Serendipity's quintessential good girl. The daughter of the former police chief, she's never made a misstep, content with her quiet, predictable life...or so she thinks. Until Cole Sanders shows up with heated interest in his eyes and shadows in his past.

After seven years of deep undercover work in New York, Cole returns to town to help his aging father and find his moral compass again. Not to get involved with wholesome Erin Marsden. Even as a rebellious teen, he knew a girl like Erin was off limits. But neither can resist their off-the-charts chemistry, and a one-night stand brings complications neither expected.

Then a case puts Erin in a killer's crosshairs, and Erin succumbs to Cole's take-charge attitude. As a bodyguard, he's the best. As a lover, he's even better. But there's more than Erin's safety at stake. And Cole must forgive the sins of his past and prove to himself--and to Erin--that he's capable of the love and the forever she so desperately needs.

My thoughts: This is the second book in Carly Phillip's Serendipity's Finest series. I read/listened to this series completely out of order, which is very unlike me. I started with the first, but then had the opportunity to listen to the third and then got the second. Luckily for me, reading it out of order didn't really spoil anything, especially since I didn't read them back-to-back. With these books, we basically know right off the bat, who's going to end up with who. It's the journey that the book is all about.

This installment is Erin and Cole's story. Always known as the good-girl, Erin throws caution to the wind one night and has a one-night stand with bad body Cole. Weeks later, after little contact with each other, she finds out that one night is going to come back to bite her in the butt! But, that's not the only complication - suddenly, it seems she's being stalked and gets shot at. Finding herself needing a full-time body guard, it's only natural that Cole fill that role.

I love the way these two characters come together. A random hook-up starts the ball rolling, but that's only the beginning of their journey. Erin and Cole are as different as night and day and it's this contradiction that works so well for them. She's got a heart of gold, but get on her bad side and watch out! He may be known for his bad boy reputation, but when it comes down to it, he's completely unsure of himself and believes he doesn't deserve anything good in his life. Can Erin break down his barriers and show him how good they are together?

There's a lot going on in this book to keep you completely engaged besides the romance, including figuring out who exactly is stalking Erin and why. There's even a good storyline that involves Cole and his father that ended up being quite touching at the end. Of course there are appearances by the rest of the Marsden clan and some of the other Serendipity folks that you might have met if you read Carly Phillips' Serendipity series. 

Audio Thoughts: Once again, David Barker does a great job with the audio of this. I had listened to him narrate Perfect Together and ended up enjoying it, so I when I saw he was doing this one, I knew I was in a for another treat! He does a great job with the voices, even the female ones. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out to see what else he narrates.

Books in this series:

1.  Perfect Fit
   2.  Perfect Fling
   2.5  Perfect Stranger
   3.  Perfect Together

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (audio)

Title: Last Night at the Blue Angel   
Author: Rebecca Rotert    
Narrator: Andrus Nichols, Caitlin Davies  
Published: July 2014 Harper Audio / April 2015 William Morrow Paperbacks  
Length: 9 hours 42 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Publisher 

Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago, a city in transformation and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam but it is also home to some of the country's most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.

As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother's desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia's best friend, surrogate father and protector but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.

Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it's a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.

My thoughts: I actually received a copy of this book last Spring at BEA, but never got around to reading it, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to be part of the book tour for the paperback release of it. I decided to listen to the audio version of it and am so glad I did - I really enjoyed the book and the audio production was fantastic!

This is an emotionally charged book set in Chicago during the 1960s, a setting and era that I don't read too much about. Right from the start, the characters pulled me in and I found myself totally involved in their story, wanting things to go right for them when it seemed as if anything but that would happen. 

I loved how the book was told from the alternating perspectives of young Sophia and her ambitious mother, Naomi. Poor Sophia just wanted her mother's love and attention and all Naomi wanted was fame and stardom. Sophia has seen things no ten-year-old should see and is wise beyond her years. Lucky for her, she has other adults to give her the love she so desperately wants - Jim, Rita, and Sister Idalia. Naomi, on the other hand, has a past that makes you sympathize with her, while at the same time makes you want to throttle her for always putting her daughter second to her career. She definitely is not always a likeable character, but I did find myself routing for her to find love and success.

I also loved how as the story progresses you get more and more of the story. You find out why Naomi left her hometown and who Rita and Sister Idalia are, how they came to be the only family that Naomi and Sophia have. These other characters really round out the story and provide a support system for both Sophia and Naomi. They may be offbeat and eccentric, but these other characters really do create a family that is all any of them have. 

This is an emotionally charged read. It's a story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page and I know for sure I will be revisiting this in the future. I'm fortunate to have both a print copy and the audio version and I can't wait to dig in again. My only regret about this book is that I waited so long to read it!

Audio Thoughts: This was a great audio production - the two narrators were both new to me and I thought they did a fantastic job!!! Caitlin Davies did great justice to young Sophia - adding that sense of young innocence to her voice. And Andrus Nichols was the perfect choice for Naomi - she oozed the  self-absorbedness (if that's a word) that you would expect from Naomi and seemed to have the voice that you would expect a night club singer to have. They both did great voices for the other characters when they were telling their sections of the story. I will definitely be looking to see what else they have narrated.

About the author: Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Authors Links:     
Website |  Twitter

To see who else is participating in Rebecca Rotert's Last Night at the Blue Angel tour, click here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene (audio)

Title: The Headmaster's Wife     
Author: Thomas Christopher Greene   
Narrator: Stephen Hoye, Kevin T. Collins, Tavia Gilbert   
Published: February 2014, Audible Studios
Length: 6 hours, 12 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible  

Inspired by a personal loss, Greene explores the way that tragedy and time assail one man’s memories of his life and loves.

Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont’s elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges.

Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster’s Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.

My thoughts: Right from the very beginning, I found myself completely engaged in this book. I desperately wanted to know what would lead a well-respected man to such a low point in his life. Like a jigsaw puzzle that slowly comes together, we are given the pieces bit by bit so that we finally have a clear picture of what is going on. 

This story is one that stays with you long after you finish it. It's multi-layered and emotional and while you think you have it figured out during the first part as Arthur tells his story, things take a turn and you are left stunned! Then Elizabeth, Arthur's wife, narrates the second part of the story and tells her version of events...which are not exactly the same. Is it a case of viewing them from a different lense or is it more than that?

These characters are ones that just call out to you. You celebrate their joys and successes. You feel for them in all their pain and sorrow. You see them at their best and at their worst, both in love and grief. I liked Arthur and then I didn't, and then I did. Same with Elizabeth. 

This is a short book, but it packs a pretty powerful punch and I know it's a book that I just may revisit in the future. I listened to it this first time and perhaps next time, I'll read the print version. It moves fast and keeps you engaged the entire time, but once you come to the end, don't be surprised if the story stays with you long after.

Audio Thoughts: Most of the audio books I listen to happen to be narrated by single narrators, so I find it a treat when I pick up a book that has a cast of narrators. This book happens to be narrated by all new-to-me narrators and I enjoyed all three voices. Each did a great job with the characters they did and I'll definitely be checking out what else they narrate.  If you listen to audio books, do you prefer single narrators or a cast of narrators?


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