Always With a Book

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Published: August 2004, Barnes & Noble (first published April 1877)
Format: Hardcover, Barnes & Noble Classics Series, 803 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
Married to a powerful government minister, Anna Karenina is a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky. Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation.

Set against this tragic affair is the story of Konstantin Levin, a melancholy landowner whom Tolstoy based largely on himself. While Anna looks for happiness through love, Levin embarks on his own search for spiritual fulfillment through marriage, family, and hard work. Surrounding these two central plot threads are dozens of characters whom Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together, creating a breathtaking tapestry of nineteenth-century Russian society.

From its famous opening sentence—"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”—to its stunningly tragic conclusion, this enduring tale of marriage and adultery plumbs the very depths of the human soul.



My thoughts:  There are so many classics that I remember reading in high school and college that I have wanted to reread again as an adult and there are some that I have never read - and Anna Karenina is one that falls into the latter category. I don't know why I never read it, but it's always a book I've wanted to read, so much so that I've had it sitting on my shelf for years. 

I was thrilled when I saw Whitney over at the @UnreadShelf hosting a BuddyRead for Anna Karenina during the months of November and December of last year. I knew that this was definitely a way that would entice me to read this book - breaking it down into smaller chunks and having little discussions throughout the reading of the book...and it was just the motivation I needed!

I ended up enjoying this book a lot. It's not an easy read by any means, and once I got into a groove, I really enjoyed the story. It's a book about family relationships and while this book was written back in the late 1800s, it's characters are so life-like and dealing with issues that are really not necessarily restricted to their time. The writing is so vivid and life-like, and having it written in the third-person allows you to really get to know each and every one of the characters in the very best way. 

This book is definitely one that will sit on my shelf and who knows, maybe I will read it again, or maybe one day I will listen to it - I hear that the narration by Maggie Gyllenhaal is fabulous. But I do know that now that I have read the book, I will most definitely be watching the movie...and I think I want to watch the version with Keira Knightly...is that the best version to watch?


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Friday, January 18, 2019

Review: The Last Lie by Alex Lake


Title: The Last Lie
Author: Alex Lake
Published: December 2018, HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
THE TWISTY NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF AFTER ANNA, KILLING KATE AND COPYCAT

Everyone lies…but some lies are deadly.

  
For Claire Daniels, life is good. She has everything she’s ever wanted – a career she loves, friends she can rely on and a husband who dotes on her. All she needs is to start a family of her own and things will be even better than good.

They’ll be perfect.

For Alfie, it couldn’t be more different. His life with Claire is built on a lie. A lot of lies. And she can never find out.

Because Alfie has plans for her. Plans which must never come to light. But lies have a way of taking on a life of their own, and when his do, the consequences threaten to destroy everything.

For him and Claire.


My thoughts: Alex Lake has become one of my must-read authors...I have read all the books this author has written and will continue to do so as I have not been disappointed as of yet. I find that these books are addicting, thrilling and keep me on the edge of my seat, and this latest one was no exception!

I love a good husband-wife drama and boy oh boy did this one deliver! You get totally consumed into this marriage and realize that this definitely isn't a marriage that is healthy...oh no! It is one that is built on lies and the lies just keep building on top of each other.

Where I think this book shines is that it alternates from both Claire and Alfie's perspective, so you really get into the heads of both characters. At first, he comes across as such a manipulator and I really didn't much care for him, but then something happens and things turn upside down...and while I didn't do an about face with him, my dislike for him lessened a bit. This really became the ultimate cat and mouse game and it was hard to tell who was calling the shots at times.

This book is filled with twists and turns that will make your head spin. The characters will get under your skin, and you will be privy to the inside of a marriage that from all outward appearances looks like a normal, loving, happy one, but as we all know, appearances can be deceiving and what goes on behind closed doors is anyone's guess. 

The short chapters will have you flying through this book as you try desperately to piece together what is really going on. I thought I had it all worked out, only to realize I wasn't even close. Well played, Alex Lake, well played! This is why I drop everything to read this author's books when they come out...I know I am in for an addicting, binge-worthy read every time!


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Short & Sweet Review: 14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson


Title: 14th Deadly Sin
Author: James Patterson
Series: Women's Murder Club, #14
Published: May 2015, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 349 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
Detective Lindsay Boxer and her three best friends are back and recovering from the events that pushed them all to the edge.
After her near-death experience, Yuki is seeing her life from a new perspective and is considering a change in her law career. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Cindy has healed from her gunshot wound and has published a book on the infamous serial killers she helped to bring down. Lindsay is just happy that the gang are all still in one piece.
But a new terror is sweeping the streets of San Francisco. A gang dressed as cops are ransacking the city, and leaving a string of dead bodies in their wake. Lindsay is on the case to track them down and needs to discover whether these killers could actually be police officers. Maybe even cops she already knows...

***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:  Another good installment in the Women's Murder Club series. This one picks up a bit after the previous one ends and while it has a lot going on, it is a bit tamer than some of the other books until the ending...that ending is quite the cliffhanger!

I liked that Joe, Lindsay's husband, had an active role in this book - Lindsay charged him with looking into the murders that kept happening on Claire's birthday...were they somehow connected? Meanwhile, Lindsay is busy with figuring out who is responsible for the robberies that keep happening - are they really dealing with corrupt cops? And Yuki has switched jobs and puts her in opposition to her husband. But unfortunately, Cindy and Claire had very minor roles this time around...so much for the "Women's Murder Club!"

As for the cliff-hanger...while it definitely spiked my curiosity and has me quite eager to read the next book...I do not think it was necessary. I'm not a fan and while I am reading these books way after their publication date, had I been reading them as they were published I would have been pissed - having to wait a whole year is just not cool! Your devoted fans are going to pick up the book, so don't do that to them.



Books in this series:

    
1.   1st to Die                                    13.   Unlucky 13
     2.   2nd Chance                               14.   14th Deadly Sin
     3.   3rd Degree                                15.    15th Affair
     4.   4th of July                                 15.5   The Trial
     5.   The 5th Horseman                   16.    16th Seduction
     6.   The 6th Target                          16.5   The Medical Examiner
     7.   7th Heaven                                 17.    The 17th Suspect   
     8.   The 8th Confession                  18.   The 18th Abduction - due out April 2019
     9.   The 9th Judgment
    10.  10th Anniversary
    11.   11th Hour
    12.   12th of Never     



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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Schoolgirl Missing by Sue Fortin


Title: Schoolgirl Missing
Author: Sue Fortin
Published: January 2019, HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?
 
When fourteen-year-old Poppy vanishes on a family boating trip, suspicion soon turns close to home – to the two people who should do everything to keep her safe, her parents, Kit and Neve.

Neve has a secret. Kit is lying.

Everyone is watching.


Who do you believe?



My thoughts: Sue Fortin has become a favorite author of mine after reading a few of her previous books. She has a way a delving into the dark side of family matters, turning things upside down until you aren't sure which way is up. And she creates such deliciously devious characters that you just cannot walk away from.

I loved everything about this book...it is one that just pulls you in and keeps you guessing right up until the very end. Who was behind the kidnapping of young Poppy and why? This question is what drives the story, but behind it is really the foundation of Neve and Kit's marriage. There are secrets upon secrets here and once they start coming to light - watch out! 

This is the type of book that has so many twists and turns that just keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are the type that get under your skin and while they might not be completely likeable, you just can't turn away from them. I needed to know who was behind Poppy's disappearance and I needed to know why, and each time I thought I had it figured out, something else would pop up to change my mind. This book had me guessing all the way until the very end. It's a binge-worthy, addicting read and completely enjoyable...I definitely recommend it!


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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson


Title: The Gown
Author: Jennifer Robson
Published: December 2018, William Morrow
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Summary: 
The Gown is marvelous and moving, a vivid portrait of female self-reliance in a world racked by the cost of war.”–Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.



My thoughts: As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to read it and knowing that it was by Jennifer Robson, I knew it was going to be a book I would enjoy...and I was right on both accounts! Little did I know it would not quite be the book I at first expected it to be.

I am a huge fan of all things royal - I absolutely love The Crown and Victoria and have watched all the shows on PBS and other minor channels about Queen Elizabeth and her reign, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. And I loved that while part of the book focuses on the making of Queen Elizabeth's gown, the real story here is on the friendships that were fostered and how these women found their place in such trying times. 

The book is so rich in detail that it feels as if you are taken back in time to the 1940s when Ann and Miriam first meet. What I loved is that you really feel the effects that the war has had on their lives. Rationing is still in effect and while there is little in the way of entertainment, London is abuzz with excitement over the engagement of Princess Elizabeth and all eyes are on the dress shop where Ann and Miriam are working on what has been deemed "the gown." I loved that while the royals make cameo appearances, it never really focuses on them, but rather the dressmakers working tirelessly to get this gown ready for the big day, sworn to keeping all details a secret.

The present day story is no less intriguing. Heather, very close with her Nan, is determined to unlock the secrets of her history when presented with a box of her belongings. I felt a close kinship with Heather, having had such a close relationship with my grandmother, and I could appreciate her needing to find those answers. Why did her Nan keep such a big part of herself closed off?

This book really kept me engaged right from the start, and while I loved both parts, I will say I was a bit more enamored with the past than the present, but still really enjoyed the whole book overall. Jennifer Robson really  has a gift for storytelling and I found myself transported back in time. This is such a heartwarming tale of friendship, of hard work and survival and it is so detailed and heavily researched. I have only read a few books by Jennifer Robson, but I think this might be her best book yet and I definitely recommend picking this one up!




About the Author: Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.

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 & #thegown).


 
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir


Title: The Legacy
Author: Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Series: Children's House, #1
Published: January 2019, Minotaur Books (1st Published 2014 in Iceland)
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
The first in a stunning new series from the author of The Silence of the Sea, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.
The Legacy is the first installment in a fantastic new series featuring the psychologist Freyja and the police officer Huldar.

The only person who might have the answers to a baffling murder case is the victim's seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she's not talking.

Newly-promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja for her expertise with traumatized young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn't best pleased. But she's determined to keep little Margret safe.

It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues, but can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?




My thoughts: While this is the first book I've read by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and the first book in her newest series, Children's House, she is by no means a new author to me. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years back when she came over to the states for an event and while I did purchase one of her books from her other series, I just haven't had the chance to read it yet. But after devouring this one, I definitely am going to be moving that other series up in priority...after I read the next book in this new series!

I cannot believe how consumed I was with this book, especially given how dark and disturbing it is, but the writing just pulled me in right from the beginning. The book comes in at just under 500 pages, yet I flew through the pages, finding that I needed to know how all these threads that Yrsa had given us were not only connected but were going to play out in the end.

The book starts in 1987 with three young children having to be separated after an unspeakable event happens to their mother. Not being able to find a family to take all three children in, they go off to three different families. Fast forward to 2015, and a set of gruesome murders start to occur. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart. While there is no blood and gore, the way these murders are carried out - they are gruesome, shocking, and disturbing nonetheless and will be hard to forget once you read about them, so be forewarned. 

Fortunately, there was a witness to the first murder. The daughter of the murdered victim was hiding under the bed and has seen the murderer. She is brought to the Children's House for the necessary counseling and care. It's up to Freyja, the pyschologist in charge of the Children's House and Huldar, the lead detective on the case, to convince the young girl to open up about what she heard and saw that frightful night. 

This was such a great start to this series. I'm not sure if both Freyja and Huldar are going to be part of the series moving forward or just Freyja, but I loved the dynamics between the two of them. There was definitely tension between them due to a previous meeting and I would so love to see how this affects them moving forward. They were able to put this prior meeting aside for the sake of this case, but there are definitely unresolved issues there that I would love to see hashed out.

As far as the case goes, this was a chilling, haunting case that had me on the edge of my seat the further I got into the book. As much as I tried to figure out who was behind everything, I got nowhere and was completely gobsmacked at the reveal! I know that there is literally next to no crime in Iceland on the whole, so knowing this, I could appreciate the rationale behind the murderer's rage and wanting revenge when we finally get it - not that that is an excuse! 

This is such a layered, complex story and all the twists and turns it took really added to the building suspense that takes you on quite a ride. And the entire time, I was wondering how the prologue would tie in - and it's not til the end that it is revealed. This is such a binge-worthy, addicting read and I can't recommend it enough. I am quite eager to start the next book in this series, The Reckoning, which comes out next month, and hope that this series has a nice long run - I love long series! 


Books in this series:
  1. The Legacy
  2. The Reckoning - due out February 2019




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Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: The Guy Who Died Twice by Lisa Gardner


Title: The Guy Who Died Twice
Author: Lisa Gardner
Series: Detective D.D. Warren, #9.5
Published: January 2019, Dutton
Format: ARC E-copy, 72 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary: 
Sergeant Detective D. D. Warren confronts the strangest case of her career in this exclusive eBook short story by the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

D. D. Warren was pretty sure she'd seen it all. Then a man walks into police headquarters, attempting desperately to convince the squad that he's dead. Explaining to him that he's very much alive, they finally send him on his way . . . and then hours later, he turns up actually dead. And it's on D. D. Warren to figure out how and why the dead man died . . . twice.

Plus: an early look at Gardner's next riveting thriller, Never Tell.




My thoughts: I am a huge fan of Lisa Gardner's Detective D.D. Warren series and so of course I am going to read any and all books she writes that are part of this...including the short stories. And what a fun, crazy short story this one turned out to be! 

I loved the way this one was structured - at night where she was decompressing after her crazy day, going over the case with her husband and then taking us back to the day itself, hour by hour. So we get to be there as D.D. is gathering facts and we get to hear her commentary after the fact as she rehashes the situation with her husband, but it's done side-by-side. It really was quite a clever way to structure the story, and allows you as the reader to try to put the clues together before the final reveal.

I'll tell you, this one definitely had me scratching my head as I wondered what really happened and I loved the sense of the closed room - or in this case, a closed house - feel we get from this book. And the author's note at the end is quite fascinating. Even though this really is quite a short story, coming in at under 100 pages, I found myself completely engaged and enjoyed every bit of it. This was the perfect little teaser for the upcoming new novel in this series - Never Tell, which comes out next month!


Books in this series: 
     1.  Alone                              
     2.  Hide                             
     3.  The Neighbor               
     4.  Live to Tell                               
     5.  Love You More
     5.5  The 7th Month
     6.  Catch Me
     7. Fear Nothing
     7.5  3 Truths & a Lie
     8.  Find Her
     9.  Look for Me   

     9.5  The Guy Who Died Twice
     10.  Never Tell - due out Feb 19

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