Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Gone by James Patterson

Title: Gone   
Author: James Patterson    
Series: Michael Bennett, #6      
Published: September 2013, Little, Brown & Company  
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages   
Source: Personal copy  

A crime lord has declared war on America. Only Detective Michael Bennett knows why.

Manuel Perrine doesn't fear anyone or anything. A charismatic and ruthless leader, Perrine slaughters rivals as effortlessly as he wears his trademark white linen suit. Detective Michael Bennett once managed to put Perrine behind bars, the only official in the US ever to accomplish that. But now Perrine is out, and he has sworn to find and kill Bennett and everyone dear to him.

Detective Bennett, along with his ten adopted children, their nanny, and his grandfather, are hidden safely on a rural California farm, with guards courtesy of the FBI's witness protection program. Perrine begins to embark on an escalating series of assassinations across the country, killings whose brazenness and audacity bring into question the possibility of safety and law in the US. The FBI has no choice but to ask Detective Bennett to risk it all in Perrine's war on America.

With explosive action and fierce villainy that rivals James Bond movies at their best, GONE is the next astounding novel by James Patterson.

My thoughts: As some of you know, I'm a huge James Patterson fan, but due to the many reading commitments I've had lately, I haven't had a chance to read any of his recent books. He is one of the few authors whose books I buy in hardcover to add to my collection. Right now, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I have about 13 of his books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read - most of these released in the last two years. 

This book is last year's installment in the Michael Bennett series - a series that I absolutely love! I chose to get caught up in this series first because I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this year's installment of the series, Burn, which is due out in September, and I can't wait to read that one and share it with you. 

I thought this was a great follow-up to the previous book, I, Michael Bennett, which ended with quite the cliff hanger! It picks up about 8 months after that book ends and is an intense and fast-paced read. Typical of a James Patterson book, the short chapters add to the tension, with events happening one after the other, switching back and forth from one scene to the another at breakneck speed so that you can't help but keep reading until you find yourself at the end of the book after only meaning to read one or two more chapters.

Of all the books in this series, this one had me the most on edge. Not that I was frightened, but more for the fact that I really felt for Michael Bennett. His personal life was so wrapped up in this case - his family was constantly in danger. I loved the scenes with the children - their innocence perfectly balanced the psychopaths that their father was after.

I am glad I was finally able to read this book, especially before reading the new one. I'm pretty anal when it comes to reading series - I like to read them in order whenever I can. What about you...do you need to read them in order or can you jump around?


Books in this series:
  1. Step on a Crack
  2. Run For Your Life
  3. Worst Case
  4. Tick Tock
  5. I, Michael Bennett

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blog Tour & Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

Title: The Sweet Spot   
Author: Stephanie Evanovich     
Published: July 2014, William Morrow  
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages   
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours  

The amazing Stephanie Evanovich returns with The Sweet Spot, the sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from her New York Times bestseller Big Girl Panties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punch-line. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

My thoughts: Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to read Stephanie Evanovich's debut novel, Big Girl Panties when it was released in paperback and I really enjoyed it. I was quite happy to hear that the other main couple in the book, Amanda and Chase, would be getting their own book and have been eagerly awaiting the release of their story...and I wasn't disappointed.

This story is sort of a prequel to Big Girl Panties in that it gives us an established couple's journey to their happily-ever-after. If you've already read BGP, than you know all about Amanda and Chase and their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but don't be alarmed if you haven't read the other book - this book totally stands on its own.

I love the characters that Stephanie creates - their fun, sassy and completely flawed. Her female characters have spunk and Amanda certainly knows how to stand up for what she wants or doesn't want. She makes Chase go through a lot before she'll even go out on a first date with him, but he's determined and will wait her out because he wants his chance with her. Once they do get together, though, things aren't all roses...it's a bumpy ride, but aren't all things worth having worth the work it takes to get. There are quite a few sweet scenes that play out between Chase and Amanda, but my favorite, hands down, is the wedding - it just fits them to a tee and Stephanie infuses her classic wit even there!

This is a quick, fun read. It's got just the right amount of humor and wit, with plenty of one-line zingers, but is balanced with some sassy, steamy romance, too. I enjoyed reading about how Chase and Amanda came to be the great couple they were in Big Girl Panties and am curious to see what's next for Stephanie Evanovich. Fortunately, she's doing a book signing not too far from me tomorrow night, so I'm hoping to find out what, if anything, she's got in the works - I'll be sure to share all I learn in an upcoming post!



About the author: Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community theater projects. She attended New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts, performed with several improvisational troupes, and acted in a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she’s ever had: raising her two sons. 

Now a full-time writer, she’s also an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do.

Connect with Stephanie on Facebook or Twitter.


To see who else is participating in Stephanie Evanovich's The Sweet Spot tour, click here



Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sunday Post #33 (7.27.14)

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've decided to try a new weekly meme - a place where I can do both a weekly wrap up and share what books I get all in one post, so I'm going to give The Sunday Post a try, and also link up with Sheila's It's Monday Post over at Book Journey

  
I did it!!! I walked my 2nd 1/2 marathon last night (walk started at 10:30pm) with my mom and my sister. We joined over 3,000 others in their bras to support Breast Cancer in Walk the Walks MoonWalk NYC...what an amazing event! Yes, it's physically demanding - you are walking either 13.1 or 26.2 miles, but you are raising awareness for Breast Cancer, raising money for vital breast cancer initiatives, and having a good time. Seeing how everyone decorated their bras was part of the fun, too! There were some big names there supporting the cause and walking with us - Brandi Chastain, women's soccer player, was there as was Amy Freeze, Channel 7's weather gal. I was lucky enough to get a photo with her - see bottom left picture. Total fangirl moment!!!




Have a great week everyone!!! 


*****************************************************************************************
Last week on the Blog:           
* Blog Tour & Review: The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle  
 
* Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
* Blog Tour & Guest Post: Barbara Kyle (with Giveaway!!!) 
 
* Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in Jul 25 
* Review: Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins

Books Read:      

* The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich (review book)    
 
Currently Reading:            
 
* Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (review book)             
* Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen/Roy Johansen (audio book)

Books Up Next:              
 
* The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (review book)    
* Butternut Summer by Mary McNear (review book)
  
Current Giveaways:              
* The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle...Ends 7/30/14
  
Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich
 
* Review: Gone by James Patterson  
* Review: The Perfect Score by Beth Albright
* Month in Review: July 2014
 
 
Book Haul:     
For Review:
* In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins (Netgalley)


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: Waiting On You by Kristan Higgins (audio)

Title: Waiting On You     
Author: Kristan Higgins   
Series: Blue Heron, #3   
Narrator: Amy Rubinate  
Published: March 2014, Blackstone Audio  
Length: 12 hours, 21 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

Does being nobody's fool mean that you're nobody's love?

Colleen O'Rourke is in love with love... just not when it comes to herself. Most nights, she can be found behind the bar at the Manningsport, New York, tavern she owns with her twin brother, doling out romantic advice to the lovelorn, mixing martinis and staying more or less happily single. See, ten years ago, Lucas Campbell, her first love, broke her heart... an experience Colleen doesn't want to have again, thanks. Since then, she's been happy with a fling here and there, some elite-level flirting and playing matchmaker to her friends.

But a family emergency has brought Lucas back to town, handsome as ever and still the only man who's ever been able to crack her defenses. Seems like maybe they've got some unfinished business waiting for them—but to find out, Colleen has to let her guard down, or risk losing a second chance with the only man she's ever loved.

My thoughts: I have really been enjoying Kristan Higgin's Blue Heron series and this latest installment, the 3rd in the series, was a great addition. I love the small-town setting, especially one set in my home state!

I just love the characters that Kristan Higgins creates. They are wonderfully developed and flawed. Colleen O'Rourke was introduced in an earlier book and I've been patiently waiting for her to find her happily-ever-after. Now she and Lucas potentially have a second chance but they are both struggling with decisions they made in the past. But can they let go of their insecurities and see how good they are for each other before it's too late?

There are also a great cast of secondary characters that round out the story. Some of these provide comic relief and others provide sweet, tender moments. There's Colleen's mother and her friends - otherwise known as the menopause ladies, who gather to watch the construction crew at their job sites and  Lucas's cousin Bryce and his relationship with Paulie, to name a few.

This is a series that I hope will continue for a long time.  The writing is witty and laugh-out-loud funny in some instances and at other times, you will be reaching for the tissues. I love books like that and this one clearly hits the mark.


Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to a book in this series, or a book by Kristan Higgins for that matter, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! I've listened to Amy Rubinate narrate books before and love listening to her - she really does a great job giving her characters unique voices and getting the feel of the story - whether romantic in nature or comical - whatever the story calls for.


Books in this series: 

  1. The Best Man
  2. The Perfect Match
  3. Waiting On You
  4. In Your Dreams - due out Sept 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Blog Walkers: Weekly Check-in July 25

 


Tomorrow is the big day, or rather, big night!!! I will be walking the Walk the Walk America's MoonWalkNYC benefiting Breast Cancer. I'm doing the 1/2 marathon as this is my first time participating in the event, but there is an option to do a full marathon (maybe next year I'll do that!). I'm doing the walk with my mom and one of my sister's. This year's theme is Broadway and we finally decided how we wanted to decorate our bras...Mom and I went out and got our supplies yesterday and will be working on them today and then when my sister, Meaghan gets to my house tomorrow morning, she'll do hers. Can you guess what show we picked for our theme?


 

I'll post more pictures next week, including the finished bras and some from the walk itself. Walking through NYC at night will be lots of fun and there will be some big names there as well. Brandi Chastain (Woman's soccer player) is the Official Celebrity Ambassador of the walk and I think Natalie Morales from NBC's Today show might be doing the walk - she decorated and shared her bra on Facebook and twitter which leads me to think she might be doing the walk...at least I hope so!!! If you happen to follow me on twitter (@alwayswithabook) I'll be tweeting some pictures during the walk, which kicks off at 10:00 PM EST Saturday night. I cannot wait!!!


 

Here's how my week went:  

Jul 19:  rest
Jul 20:  rest
Jul 21:  30 minutes
Jul 22:  30 minutes

Jul 23:  30 minutes
Jul 24:  30 minutes

Jul 25:  rest 
 
How did your week go?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Barbara Kyle (and Giveaway, too!!!)



Please join me in welcoming Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen's Exile to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Barbara guest blogs about one special email from a reader.

Enjoy and be sure to enter the giveaway below!



THE ACORN AND THE PINE CONE
by Barbara Kyle
  

I welcome every letter and email I get from readers, but there's one that I particularly cherish. Here’s the story.

Some years ago I was in England researching The Queen’s Lady, the first book in my Thornleigh Saga, and spent a day exploring Hever Castle in Kent. This was the home of the Boleyn family, and Henry VIII came here to court Anne. That tempestuous affair, as we know, changed the course of England’s history, and is pivotal to my book’s plot. 

As I strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination, I picked up an acorn. I squirreled it away in my pocket and brought it home to Canada, and it sat on my desk beside my computer, a potent reminder of its birthplace as I wrote The Queen’s Lady.

The acorn was still on my desk when I wrote my next book, The King's Daughter. It had become a touchstone that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it.

Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.

A few months later, as I was preparing for the publication of book #3 in the Thornleigh Saga,  The Queen’s Captive, I got a cheery email from a fan telling me he was on his way to England for an “Anne Boleyn Tour,” during which he’d be staying at Hever Castle. There would be dinners in the Great Hall where Henry and Anne ate, plus lectures, plays, and demonstrations – “A once in a lifetime experience,” he said. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. His name is Colonel Elmer K. Follis and he lives in Tennessee.

Some time later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from Colonel Follis. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost but couldn’t find one.  I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone. He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. “It’s from the area where Henry courted Anne, according to the castle staff,” wrote the Colonel. 

I was so touched. The pine cone has had pride of place on my desk beside my computer as I've written three more Thornleigh Saga books. The Queen's Exiles is the latest.

Thank you, Colonel Follis, for what you gave me. A once in a lifetime experience.

###

Thank you Barbara Kyle for sharing this wonderful guest post with us!!!




GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (US/Canada only)  

Thanks to the Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I have one paperback copy of The Queen's Exiles to give away to my readers.
 

To enter…
  • Leave a comment below & be sure to include your email address.
  • Tweet, share on Facebook, or blog for 2 extra entries.
  • You MUST include email address or entry will be invalid.
  • I will contact winner at the conclusion of the giveaway & they will have 2 days to respond or I will pick a new winner.
This giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only and ends July 30th.


Good luck!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Title: Little Mercies   
Author: Heather Gudenkauf     
Published: June 2014, Harlequin MIRA  
Format: ARC Paperback, 320 pages   
Source: Publisher  

In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences...

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

My thoughts: This is the first full-length novel I've read by Heather Gudenkauf and I was captivated from the first page. I had read the prequel to this book, Little Lies, that introduces us to the main character, Ellen, and I just knew from that little teaser that I was going to be in for a treat. Little did I know how much I would love this book.

Taken from the headlines, Heather Gudenkauf has crafted a tale so emotionally charged, it's hard not to come away from this book not being affected in some way. Told from the alternating perspectives of Ellen, the social worker and mother of three and Jenny, the young girl who suddenly finds herself on her own, the story moves at quite a fast pace, pulling you in so fast that you don't want to put the book down until you realize you've reached the end.

Ellen struggles with balancing her roles as mother of three and full-time social worker. She finds herself in a situation that we can only hope never to find ourselves in and must deal with the consequences as such. This is a unique place for her to be and she soon comes to have a greater understanding for some of her clients. As this is all going on, Jenny, a ten-year old who suddenly finds herself on her own, comes into her life. As Ellen is fighting for her own life, she is pulled into Jenny's world. Will Jenny let Ellen help her? Will helping Jenny hurt Ellen's case?

As I mentioned, this book is emotionally charged. Even though I don't have children myself, I was deeply touched by the mother-daughter relationships that play out in this book. But the book also makes you think...think that dreaded what if? What if that was me? Maybe not the same circumstances but could something just as far-reaching happen to me?  Do I get so busy and bogged down that I could make one small mistake that could lead to life-altering consequences? These are the thoughts that have been on my mind since finishing this book. Are we at times too distracted for our own good?

If this is any indication of what Heather Gudenkauf's other books are like, then she has a new fan!!! I definitely plan on going back and reading her previous books. I love when authors take ideas straight from the headlines - and really make you think and clearly Heather has done that with this book.

I went into this book not knowing what was going to happen and so, I have purposely been a bit vague in my review. Even as I've chatted about the book with friends, I've been very careful in what I say so as not to give too much away. Do you agree? Disagree?
 
 

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