Always With a Book

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blog Tour & Review: Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank (audio)


Title: Same Beach, Next Year
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Published: Audio - May 2017, Harper Audio / Paperback - April 2018, William Morrow Paperbacks
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - via Library / Paperback - Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Summary: 
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank returns to her magical Lowcountry of South Carolina in this bewitching story of marriage, love, family, and friendship that is infused with her warm and engaging earthy humor and generous heart.

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.


 
My thoughts: To me, Dorothea Benton Frank is just synonymous with summer and beach reads...she's one of those authors, along with Elin Hilderbrand and Nancy Thayer, that has her usual setting for her books and it works. This time, I was especially excited as I have been to the Isle of Palms and even stayed at Wild Dunes.

For some reason I missed this book when it first came out in hardcover last year. I don't know if it was that the description threw me off or I was just inundated with other books, but for whatever reason, I never ended up picking up this one. Now, a year later, I finally end up reading it - and I will say, at one point, I did think it was going to head down a road I really didn't want to follow. But, luckily it never did...and I really shouldn't have worried...as Dottie Frank is such a gifted writer, full of heart and compassion herself, that I should have known this story would be more than just a tale of cheating spouses.

I love the characters that Dottie Frank creates - there is just something about them that end up being memorable. They are so well-developed and relatable on so many levels that you just can't help but want to keep reading about them, even if you aren't so keen on the choices they are making. Deep down, you know they have the capacity for good and will eventually, hopefully, get there. And let's not forget the one-liners and wit she infuses into her characters - this by far is what makes these characters stand out. 

The family dynamics that Dottie creates are always so spot on. She really has a gift for delving into these relationships and not always making them so pretty and neat. She shows them like they might be in real life - messy and uncomfortable at times, yet also loving and fun at others. 

This book ended up being so much more than I expected it to be, which is a good thing. I always enjoy reading Dottie Franks books, but this one just had a little more substance to it than I thought it would. It's still a good beach read, for sure, but also gives a little food for thought on family and marriage. Dottie Frank has once again proven she's still got it!!!
 

Audio thoughts: I love listening to Dottie Frank's books on audio - they always come across really well, with the sass and vibrant characters. I've listened to quite a few, though this was the first time I've heard Bernadette Dunne narrate one of her books. While the narration was still good, and Bernadette did a decent job with the story, I have to say, I missed Robin Miles' narration...she really does a fantastic job narrating Dottie's books. I just felt that Berndatte's voice was a bit flat at times and not as vibrant for the characters as Robin typically is. Still, it was a good listening experience and certainly won't prevent me from listening to future books of Dottie's, whoever the narrator might be.




About the Author: New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

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 & #SameBeachNextYear).


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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham


Title: Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
Author: Heather Harpham
Published: August 2017, Henry Holt & Company
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: Publisher


Summary:
A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant - Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, "Get dressed, your baby is in trouble."

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled "like sliced apples and salted pretzels" but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie's condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham's writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions - new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it's a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.



My thoughts: I don't tend to read a ton of memoirs...but every once in a while, I pick one up because the topic speaks to me in some way. This one was Reece Witherspoon's Book Club selection for April and so I was seeing a lot of it around social media and decided to give it a go...and am so glad I did!

If you know anything about me, it may surprise you that I would pick up a memoir about a woman finding herself not only pregnant, but then dealing with an infant who is sick because of all the fertility issues I went through myself and then all the miscarriages. But, having made my peace with all that, there was something that called to me about this book - and I found that while there were some parts that were a bit hard to read, I did enjoy it...I did find the happiness in this book, much like Heather herself did in the end.

Sometimes, we need to go through the trials that life throws at us just to learn to appreciate all the little things, and that is a lesson I have learned and come to value everyday. So, as I was reading this, I could definitely empathize with Heather - life isn't always a bed of roses and sometimes what we think is going to be an easy journey is anything but, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth it. 

This book is written from the heart...it's honest, it's raw, it's emotional. And yet it's also got a touch of humor thrown in at times. I cried, I laughed, I got angry - I went through a roller-coaster of emotions right along with Heather as I was reading this book - the emotions this book evokes are that palpable.

I found myself completely wrapped up in this memoir. Once I started reading, I just couldn't put it down...it's that absorbing. The writing is genuine and engaging and you just can't help but want the best not only for Heather, but also for little Gracie. This is one memoir that I won't be forgetting about anytime soon.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: The Good Twin by Marti Green


Title: The Good Twin
Author: Marti Green
Published: May 2018, Thomas & Mercer
Format: ARC E-copy, 263 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publicist


Summary: 
In Marti Green’s twisting novel of psychological suspense, twin sisters become engaged in a dangerous deception…

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now having it all might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.


My thoughts: Marti Green is a new-to-me author, but I jumped at the opportunity to read this book as it sounded right up my alley - and I am so glad I did! I devoured this book and it kept me engaged from start to finish...and loved the surprises that came along!

I love a good twin story - I've always been fascinated with genetics and this one just grabbed me from the get-go. I have to say, I didn't see the twists coming, and for someone who is constantly reading psychological thrillers, that's a good thing! I love being surprised and while I can usually guess one or two pieces, this one really crept up on me. 

What I really enjoyed about this book are the characters - they really are the type that as much as you want to like them...you just might not. And I love that! I love when there are unlikeable, but somewhat redeemable characters if that makes sense? They aren't completely horrible, but they aren't the type that you want for your best friend either. They are, though, the type that you cannot turn away from - you need to keep reading on to see just what they are going to get up to next.

This book is filled with constant surprises and really keeps you engaged throughout. Just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was left speechless - a few times! The suspense builds at just the right pace and keeps you flipping those pages. This really is a good read and I devoured it in only a few sittings!

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter (audio)


Title: Every Single Secret
Author: Emily Carpenter
Narrator: Kate Orsini
Published: May 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 22 minutes
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Emotionally guarded Daphne Amos always believed she’d found a kindred spirit in her fiancĂ©, Heath. Both very private people, they’ve kept their pasts hidden from the world, and each other, until Heath’s escalating nightmares begin to put an undeniable strain on their relationship. Determined to give their impending marriage the best chance of succeeding, Heath insists that Daphne join him on a seven-day retreat with Dr. Matthew Cerny, a psychologist celebrated for getting to the root of repressed memories. Daphne reluctantly agrees—even though the past is the last place she wants to go.

The retreat’s isolated and forbidding location increases her unease, as do the doctor’s rules: they must relinquish their keys and phones, they’ll be monitored at all hours by hidden cameras, and they’re never to socialize with the other guests.

One sleepless night, Daphne decides to leave her room…and only then does she realize that the institute is not at all what it seems—and that whatever’s crying out from Heath’s past isn’t meant to be heard. It’s meant to be silenced.


 
My thoughts: I just love Emily Carpenter's books - I have since I first stumbled on her debut novel, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls as an Audible Daily Deal a few years back. She writes Southern Gothic mystery/suspense like no one else...and I find that I get so involved in her stories, I feel like I know the characters by the time I get to the conclusion.

One of the things I love about Emily's books is that she writes such a good scary, ghost story without involving ghosts - meaning they are creepy and chilling and have all the aspects you would expect in a typical ghost story, but there are no ghosts. I so appreciate this because I really am not such a fan of the whole paranormal genre, but I do a good, chilling, creepy story and I really think Emily Carpenter does that and does it well. This book got to me, it got under my skin with all that was going on - I mean, dead birds? Really! That freaked me out!!!

I loved the characters in this book and the secrets - both Daphne and Heath have such baggage and as we those secrets are ever so slowly uncovered, the book gets more and more delicious! This book kept me on the edge of my seat almost from the get-go, and I never could quite put my finger on where it would head...and I loved that! I also loved that we would head into the past to learn all about Daphne's past - oh those chapters were so good and juicy! Fraught with tension, as the whole book really is, but still. This book is just the right amount of dark and engaging, without being gory. It's disturbing without going over the top. 

I have loved every book Emily Carpenter has written so far - she is definitely on my must-read list and for good reason. I know I am going to get an atmospheric, addicting story that will keep me engaged from start to finish. I cannot wait for her next book!


Audio thoughts: Kate Orsini excels in this narration - she definitely brought her A-game when it came to narrating this story. Between the unique characterizations she gave each character to the pauses she put in while speaking - which I found so effective at times - I just loved listening to this story. 


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell


Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Published: April 2018, Atria Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 368 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Summary:
Ten years after her teenage daughter goes missing, a woman connects with a charming single father, but she is still haunted by her child’s disappearance in this “deeply emotional and incredibly clever” (Mail Online) thriller from the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of I Found You.

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a cafĂ©, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?



My thoughts: I just love Lisa Jewell's books and this one was no exception. I find that I become completely absorbed in them, not wanting to do anything but read to the detriment of anything else!

This book hooked me right from the start. And what I loved is that it is so much more than just a missing girl story. It is a layered story that it not only addicting but also quite compelling. It easily blends the psychological drama with a family drama, keeping you glued to the pages as everything starts to unravel, and the short chapters give that mentality of just one more chapter until you find yourself at the end of the book in no time at all.

I find with each Lisa Jewell book that I read that she really takes the time to develop all her characters, and she also really builds intricate relationships between the characters. We get the nuances that come with these relationships, making them all the more based in reality. It's this that makes these characters and the story itself all the more engaging.

As much as I started to suspect some parts of where the book was headed, I still found myself completely hooked until the very end. I wanted to know the why as much as the final resolution and I still hadn't worked everything out. It's a suspenseful book, slowly building that suspense over time as clues are dropped here and there. With strong characters, raw emotion, and a good story line, I found myself hard-pressed to put this book down. 

This book packs quite an emotional punch. It's a relatively fast-paced, yet highly addictive read with a great ending. I think it would be a perfect summer read!

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman


Title: Wicked River
Author: Jenny Milchman
Published: May 2018, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 464 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary:
Six million acres of Adirondack forest separate Natalie and Doug Larson from civilization. For the newlyweds, an isolated, back country honeymoon seems ideal: a chance to start their lives together with an adventure, on their own.  But just as Natalie and Doug begin to explore the dark interiors of their own hearts, as well as the depths of their love for each other, it becomes clear that they are not alone in the woods.  

Because six million acres makes it easy for the wicked to hide. And even easier for someone to go missing for good. 

As they struggle with the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches them, wielding the forest like a weapon. And once they are near his domain, he will do everything in his power to make sure they never walk out again.


My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Jenny Milchman's books and so of course, I jump at any chance to read what she writes. I find she can craft one heck of a dark, twisty thriller and this latest one certainly delivers on all accounts - and let me just say, I definitely won't be heading out to the wilderness or on any camping trips any time soon!

One of the things I love about Jenny's books is just how fast she can get your adrenaline pumping. I for one am not really of the outdoorsy, adventure kind of vacation people, and you certainly would never find me taking a honeymoon where I have to do any kind of physical labor - other than lifting a drink to my lips and picking up my next read :) - so right away, I was a bit on edge when Natalie and Doug went off on their honeymoon in the woods.

This book is jam-packed with action. Once Doug and Natalie start off on their adventure, it seems that one mishap after another befalls them, and ever so slowly we start to see how this affects them both individually as well as a couple. We also learn about Kurt, a psychopath who now lives in the woods after his group deserted him. As Doug and Natalie edged closer and closer to Kurt's camp, I found the tension amping up, not knowing what might happen next. And then there's Mia, Natalie's teenage niece, who becomes quite important in realizing that Natalie and Doug are in danger. The chapters that focused on Kurt and Mia added to an already tense book and really got my heart thumping.

This book had me flipping pages at a break-neck speed. Like I already mentioned, I may not be the out-doorsy, adventurous type of person myself, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a book where the characters partake in these activities. All along, I felt as if I were right there with these characters...and there was some anxiety-ridden, paranoia going on while reading this - but all in good fun, let me tell you! This is why I love reading Jenny Milchman's books - she does dark, wicked good suspense in the outdoors and I love it!!!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Review: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (audio)


Title: I Liked My Life
Author: Abby Fabiaschi
Narrator: Susan Bennett, Dan Bittner, Therese Plummer
Published: Audio - January 2017, Macmillan Audio / Print - May 2018, St. Martin's Griffin
Length: 9 hours, 47 minutes / 288 pages
Source: Audio via library / Print - Paperback via GetRed PR

Summary: 
Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?



My thoughts: This is one of those books that while I wanted to read it, I was a bit apprehensive about it at the same time. I'm not really a big fan of the whole ghost story, to be honest...and so I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into the story with one of the characters being telling their parts from beyond. But, I needn't have worried - I found myself completely engaged with from the start.

This book is so much more than what it might first appear to be - and I so appreciate books like that. I love books that have little life lessons and really delve into familial relationships. This one caught me by surprise. It was the perfect balance of emotional, heaviness with lighthearted, funny moments - I really felt that I went through quite the ringer of emotions here and quite enjoyed the ride. 

The characters that we meet along the way, the three main narrators, as well the other characters we meet through them, all felt genuine and real. They were relatable and not without their faults. It was so easy to grow attached to them. And I loved that Brady and Eve use Maddy's journal as a way to work through their grief. Not only did it give them some answers, but it was as if it helped solidify their relationship, too.

This book is such a powerful read - it's heartfelt, thought-provoking and hopeful. I really enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. And to think it's a debut novel - I cannot wait to see what comes next from this talented author!!!


Audio thoughts: There are times when a book calls for a cast of narrators and there are times when it can be done just as efficiently with one narrator. This time, having a cast of narrators made the most sense and it really worked well. Having a different narrator for each of the three main narrators of the book really helped to make this book come alive and I think each of the three narrators did a fantastic job. The pacing and tone each of the narrators used was good and each infused just the right amount of emotion into their voice as needed. This was a great book to listen to on audio.

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