Always With a Book

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

BookExpo: Day 1 (Tuesday) Sightseeing in NYC


The last week in May, I spent the week in NYC for BookExpo!!! It's the one week I splurge a whole week in the city...and I love every minute of it! This was my 6thyear attending BookExpo - I went in 2014, 2015, skipped 2016 when it moved to Chicago, attended in 2017, 2018 and now was back to attend in 2019.

I was once again rooming with my blogging friend Tamara from Traveling With T and was excited to see her in person and catch up. It seems that BookExpo is the only time we get to see each other in person, though we chat virtually all the time and occasionally on the phone.

I got to the city bright and early Tuesday morning - my husband takes the early train, so I went in with him and luckily when I got to the hotel at I was staying at, the room was ready, so I was able to check-in even though it was only 6:30am. I had time before Tamara arrived, so after unpacking and having breakfast at the hotel, I decided to do some sightseeing on my own.

I love NYC and love just wandering around. There are so many spots I haven't been to in years, and this time, I had a few places in mind I wanted to see - and the first place was Grand Central Terminal. After reading Fiona Davis's last book, THE MASTERPIECE, which is set in Grand Central Terminal, I knew I had to go there again. 






From there, I headed over to Bryant Park to sit and enjoy a caffeine break and sneak in a little reading. It had started to rain and luckily the tables had the umbrellas up. I was hoping it was just going to be a passing shower, but no such luck. So I decided to jump on the subway and head down to the Hudson Yards where I was able to just walk around the new mall until Tamara arrived at the hotel which was only a block from there.



Once she got settled, we headed back to the Hudson Yards Mall where we grabbed a bite to eat and then did a little window shopping. That mall is something else with all the high end shops in it! We then got tickets to explore the Vessel - which is an incredibly interesting sculpture that stands in front of the Hudson Yards Mall. We didn't walk all the way to the top, but we did walk up a few flights.

From there, we walked a bit of the High Line...I love walking this and try to do so each time I'm in the city!

...Stay tuned for a recap of Day 2!
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Short & Sweet Review: Chase by James Patterson


Title: Chase
Author: James Patterson
Series: Michael Patterson, #9.5
Published: August 2016, BookShots
Format: Paperback, 115 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
"This was no suicide," says Detective Michael Bennett.

A man plunges to his death from the roof of a Manhattan hotel. It looks like a suicide--except the victim has someone else's fingerprints and $10,000 in cash. Enter Detective Michael Bennett.



***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:  I love these little BookShots that James Patterson has added to his repertoire and I love that he has brought them into just about all his series. They provide a nice little break from the full-length novels. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but every once in a while, it's nice to just have a book that is all action and not bogged down with the details. And that is exactly what we have here...a book that gets straight into the action, doesn't take time to fill in any backstory, and focuses completely on the one case. That's it.

The case itself was quite a mystery for our beloved detective. It seemed to take him quite a while to figure out just what was going on, but then it wrapped up rather quickly. The one thing I did miss though in this short novella was all his interactions with his family...that's why I love this series so much. So as much as I like the brevity of these BookShots, I do love the full-length novels a bit better.




Books in this series:
     1.  Step on a Crack
     2.  Run For Your Life
     3.  Worst Case
     4.  Tick Tock
     5.  I, Michael Bennett
     6.  Gone
     7.  Burn
     8.  Alert
     9.  Bullseye
     9.5  Chase
     10.  Haunted
     10.5  Manhunt
     11.  Ambush  
     12.  Blindside - due out Feb 2020
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: This Is Home by Lisa Duffy (audio)


Title: This Is Home
Author: Lisa Duffy
Narrator: Renata Friedman, Emily Woo Zeller
Published: June 2019, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 8 hours 29 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary:
From the author of book club favorite The Salt House comes a deeply affecting novel about a teenage girl finding her voice and the military wife who moves in downstairs, united in their search for the true meaning of home.  

Sixteen-year-old Libby Winters lives in Paradise, a seaside town north of Boston that rarely lives up to its name. After the death of her mother, she lives with her father, Bent, in the middle apartment of their triple decker home—Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live on the top floor. A former soldier turned policeman, Bent often works nights, leaving Libby under her aunts’ care. Shuffling back and forth between apartments—and the wildly different natures of her family—has Libby wishing for nothing more than a home of her very own.

Quinn Ellis is at a crossroads. When her husband John, who has served two tours in Iraq, goes missing back at home, suffering from PTSD he refuses to address, Quinn finds herself living in the first-floor apartment of the Winters house. Bent had served as her husband’s former platoon leader, a man John refers to as his brother, and despite Bent’s efforts to make her feel welcome, Quinn has yet to unpack a single box.

For Libby, the new tenant downstairs is an unwelcome guest, another body filling up her already crowded house. But soon enough, an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, when Libby and Quinn stretch and redefine their definition of family and home.

With gorgeous prose and a cast of characters that feel wholly real and lovably flawed, This Is Home is a nuanced and moving novel of finding where we belong.


 
My thoughts:  A few years ago, I read, and loved, Lisa Duffy's debut novel, The Salt House. I knew then that she would be an author who I would continue to read and so it was a no-brainer that I picked this one up. And as with her previous book, this latest one is just as powerful, emotional and hopeful.

I loved the way this story was told, alternating between Libby and Quinn's point of views. I think these two characters were the perfect voices to tell this story, and while we do meet a whole cast of other characters, it is these two that really are trying to figure out just what their "home" is right now. Lisa Duffy certainly has a knack for creating these characters that have a way of worming their way into your heart, and you just can't help becoming their biggest cheerleader. As for the other characters, they provide a well-rounded cast, some that you love, some you like and some you just want to shake some sense into, but they were all so relatable and the relationships amongst them all felt real.

This book touches upon a lot of heavy topics - PTSD, addiction, loss and grief - to name a few. Yes, there are definitely some tough parts to read, as well as some sad parts, but there is also just as much laughter and humor thrown in the mix. You will come to care about these characters as you read this book, and you will find yourself wanting to do something if you know of anyone going through anything like this...it almost can't be helped. 

This is the kind of book that stays with you long after you have finished it and I know that I will be recommending it to everyone I know. If you haven't read anything by Lisa Duffy yet, you need to fix that...she is definitely an author not to be missed!


Audio thoughts: I listened to this book and loved every minute of it. I thought both narrators did a fantastic job. The pacing was just right and they each infused just the right amount of emotion into their voice as needed. This really did get quite heavy at times, yet I felt both narrators handled it quite well.  
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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Review: Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand (audio)


Title: Summer of '69
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Narrator: Erin Bennett
Published: June 2019, Hachette Audio / Little, Brown & Company
Length: 13 hours 34 minutes / 432 pages
Source: Audio - via Hachette Audio via Libro.fm   / Print - via Little Brown & Company

Summary:
Follow New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand back in time and join a Nantucket family as they experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a 1960s summer.
   
Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century! It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket: but this year Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, a nursing student, is caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests, a passion which takes her to Martha's Vineyard with her best friend, Mary Jo Kopechne. Only son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother who is hiding some secrets of her own. As the summer heats up, Teddy Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, a man flies to the moon, and Jessie experiences some sinking and flying herself, as she grows into her own body and mind.

In her first "historical novel," rich with the details of an era that shaped both a country and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again proves her title as queen of the summer novel.


 
My thoughts: To me, there is nothing that indicates the start of the summer season better than having a new Elin Hilderbrand book in hand!!! Once again I was able to see her at this year's Book Expo where she was signing copies of her latest book and handing out a beer - I have not missed this signing once in all the years I've been attending Book Expo and I adore getting to see Elin as much as I enjoy that beer at the end of a long day!

I have been reading Elin's books for a long time, and I loved that this year, she did something different. This year, she wrote her first "historical novel" and let me just tell you - I loved it!!! I loved that she still stayed true to her roots, having the book set on her beloved Nantucket, but she took a time in history and made it come alive. Her characters, as always, are so richly drawn, and this time, she uses the events that happened that summer - Vietnam, the landing on the moon and the Chappaquiddick incident. 

The Levin Family is made up of memorable, endearing family members. They are all struggling this summer and I loved that we heard from each of them. This was such a tumultuous time in history, especially for women's rights and I loved that Elin used that in her book. Each of the Levin women struggled with something and took a stand for what they believed in. It couldn't have been easy for them to stand up for themselves, standing up against societal norms, but they did it and I applauded them all the way!

This was such an engaging read, filled with family secrets and a simpler life (no social media, cell phones, etc) that is still somehow just as complicated. I felt that I was equally invested everyone's story and I actually loved the ending - no spoilers here, but I think it was just right. Perhaps there will be a sequel to this book, but even if there isn't, I think it ended on just the right note.


Audio thoughts: Once again, Erin Bennett has nailed an Elin Hilderbrand book. She really gets the nuances of Elin's characters and her writing so that the narration and storytelling just comes naturally. Erin gives each character their own unique voices and personality and her intonation and pacing is spot on. I enjoy listening to Elin's books on audio and Erin Bennett did a good job bringing this story to life!

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Blog Tour & Review: The Summer Country by Lauren Willig (audio)


Title: The Summer Country
Author: Lauren Willig
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Published: June 2019, Harper Audio / William Morrow
Length:  16 hours 21 minutes / 480 pages
Source:  Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - Hardcover via TLC Book Tours

Summary: 
The New York Times bestselling historical novelist delivers her biggest, boldest, and most ambitious novel yet—a sweeping, dramatic Victorian epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

1854. From Bristol to Barbados. . . .

Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous merchant clan—merely a vicar’s daughter, and a reform-minded vicar’s daughter, at that. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin, Adam, one day. But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheiritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados—a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.

When Emily accompanies her cousin and his new wife to Barbados, she finds Peverills a burnt-out shell, reduced to ruins in 1816, when a rising of enslaved people sent the island up in flames. Rumors swirl around the derelict plantation; people whisper of ghosts.

Why would her practical-minded grandfather leave her a property in ruins? Why are the neighboring plantation owners, the Davenants, so eager to acquire Peverills—so eager that they invite Emily and her cousins to stay with them indefinitely? Emily finds herself bewitched by the beauty of the island even as she’s drawn into the personalities and politics of forty years before: a tangled history of clandestine love, heartbreaking betrayal, and a bold bid for freedom.

When family secrets begin to unravel and the harsh truth of history becomes more and more plain, Emily must challenge everything she thought she knew about her family, their legacy . . . and herself.



My thoughts: I adore family sagas and I love Lauren Willig's writing, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to read and review her latest book. This one is set on Barbados and I admit I know nothing of this island's history, so I felt I learned a bit about the history while reading this beautiful story.

Told in dual narrative form, alternating between 1854 and 1812, it follows the story of two sets of characters. I found myself equally invested in both timelines and was desperate to know how these stories would eventually intersect - because we all know that at some point they eventually would. 

I loved the hint of mystery and secrets that drives part of this story. Emily has inherited a plantation in 1854 after her grandfather has died. But the plantation has been burned to the ground years ago and as she digs around about the place she finds more questions than answers. The biggest question being why he even left the place to her. 

Told through flashbacks, we get the history of what happened and I loved that it was done this way. Yes, it's a bit confusing at first, as you try to get all the characters straight in your mind, but once you figure out who is who and get into the rhythm of the story, it all flows quite nicely. 

This book is rich with the history of Barbados from the slavery to the cholera epidemic, and the richly drawn characters and beautifully written words only enhance it all the more. I absolutely enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction - this is definitely one not to be missed!
 
 

Audio thoughts: I did a combination of listening and reading with this book and I just loved listening to Nicola Barber tell the parts that I listened to. She did an amazing job with the characters and the accents. There were times that I would simply re-listen to parts that I had read, just so I could listen to her read it to me - that's how much I enjoyed this. 


*** I'll be posting a giveaway for this book on my Instagram page later today!




About the Author: Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several novels. She lives in New York City with her family.

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 & #thesummercountry).


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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake


Title: The Guest Book
Author: Sarah Blake
Published: May 2019, Flatiron Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 496 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
An unforgettable love story, a novel about past mistakes and betrayals that ripple throughout generations, The Guest Book examines not just a privileged American family, but a privileged America. It is a literary triumph.

The Guest Book follows three generations of a powerful American family, a family that “used to run the world”.

And when the novel begins in 1935, they still do. Kitty and Ogden Milton appear to have everything—perfect children, good looks, a love everyone envies. But after a tragedy befalls them, Ogden tries to bring Kitty back to life by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house, come to define and burnish the Milton family, year after year after year. And it is there that Kitty issues a refusal that will haunt her till the day she dies.

In 1959 a young Jewish man, Len Levy, will get a job in Ogden’s bank and earn the admiration of Ogden and one of his daughters, but the scorn of everyone else. Len’s best friend Reg Pauling has always been the only black man in the room—at Harvard, at work, and finally at the Miltons’ island in Maine.

An island that, at the dawn of the 21st century, this last generation doesn’t have the money to keep. When Kitty’s granddaughter hears that she and her cousins might be forced to sell it, and when her husband brings back disturbing evidence about her grandfather’s past, she realizes she is on the verge of finally understanding the silences that seemed to hover just below the surface of her family all her life.

An ambitious novel that weaves the American past with its present, The Guest Book looks at the racism and power that has been systemically embedded in the US for generations. Brimming with gorgeous writing and bitterly accurate social criticism, it is a literary tour de force.



My thoughts:  It's no secret that I am a huge fan of multi-generational sagas and so of course I was ecstatic when I won this book from a giveaway over on Instagram...and then to find out that it was selected as a Barnes and Noble's book club selection was just the icing on the cake! To me, that meant it would be chock full of discussion points and boy was I right...this book just begs to be discussed.

I loved this book and while it is a big book, coming in at just about 500 pages, once you start it, you slowly find yourself immersed in the world of this family. Yes, even I had to make myself a family tree to keep the characters straight because there are the same names used over and over again and it does get a bit confusing, but once you get everyone straight, and get into the rhythm of the story, it all starts to come together. This book spans three generations, and so we move with the family as they navigate the decades between the 1930s and the present. There's a lot of drama that goes on in this family during this time, and some of that drama is never discussed after it happens which is a big bone of contention.

The story examines class and status and the consequences of these. It tells the story of one family, The Miltons, and those around them, as they experience tragedies, wealth and the choices they make that have long, unspoken consequences for themselves and others. It shows how families of prominence did not speak of their failings or tragedies - everything went unsaid and the face of the family was perfection...thus the family secrets that were kept from generation to generation. 

I loved how the book alternates between the past and the present and as such we are thrown little bits and pieces of the family's history throughout the story. This little pieces then slowly form the big picture. I found myself completely enthralled and baffled by the characters all at once. Each character is very complex and well written to show that no one is entirely good or bad.  You will definitely have opinions on all these characters, for sure. 

I really enjoyed this book. It's incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully written. It's the type of book you want to take your time reading, rather than race through as there is much to take in, but in the end it is well-worth all the time you give it.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review: The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda


Title: The Favorite Daughter
Author: Kaira Rouda
Published: May 2019, Graydon House
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Publisher via Wunderkind PR

Summary: 
From the author of the page-turning domestic suspense Best Day Ever, comes another gripping novel of psychological suspense set in an upscale Southern California community, for fans of B.A. Paris and Shari Lapena.

The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect lie.

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…



My thoughts: I have been a fan of Kaira Rouda for quite a while now and am absolutely loving the new direction she is taking with her books. No one writes crazy characters like Kaira does!

First there was Paul in her last book, Best Day Ever and now we have Jane in The Favorite Daughter. There is just something so unique that Kaira is able to give us by allowing us to get into these sociopaths that she has created as her main characters - characters that you will definitely not be forgetting anytime soon! Jane is a classic unreliable character that is also a narcissist. She's the type of character that you are going to love to hate...she will absolutely grate on your last nerve. 

I love that this entire book is told from Jane's point of view. She thinks the world is out to get her, that her family is against her and yet, she is so wonderful! It's sad and funny at the same time and absolutely bonkers how she justifies her actions. I also like that many times she is talking directly to the readers...this give the book such a personal touch, but at the same time, it also makes you question Jane - is she really crazy and delusional or is she playing us? There were a few times I actually felt a bit sorry for her. I'm telling you, this book, and Jane in particular, will get under your skin!

This is an addictive, binge-worthy read that, while not filled with a ton of action, will keep you glued to the pages as you try to figure out just what is going on. There were some twists that surprised me and some that I did figure out, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this book - I was totally there for the cray-cray of Jane all the way! And I definitely did not see that ending coming for sure!

I cannot wait to see what kind of delusional character Kaira Rouda cooks up next for us...she certainly has a knack for writing these entertaining reads that I just cannot get enough of. If you haven't read these, I certainly recommend picking them up - especially if you like having a little crazy in your life -these will certainly do the trick! 


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