Always With a Book

Monday, April 22, 2019

Review: The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Mother-in-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Published: April 2019, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they'll never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something...

From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.

My thoughts: I have been absolutely loving Sally Hepworth's latest books and this one just might be my favorite one yet. I went in expecting one story and got a completely different one - in all the best ways! 

This story is one that is all about family dynamics and is filled with so many twists and turns that it will keep you on your toes. I loved that this story was one that is not your typical mother-in-law story...this isn't one where you think you have it all figured out. I had so many feelings about Diana and I loved that because I went into this book thinking I would feel one way about her, and while I did feel that way in the beginning, those feelings changed many times. 

This story is a multi-layered jigsaw puzzle and ever so slowly the layers are peeled back so that we are able to piece together what is going on and what has happened. But it is done with such a slight turn of hand that you don't quite see it happening until those last few chapters...that final AHA moment when you are just about left speechless. The story alternates between Lucy and Diana's point of view, and between the past and the present, and this all adds to the on-going suspense and tension in the book. You want to race through the chapters to see what really happened, but at the same time, you want to enjoy the ride because it really is such a good one.

The characters are well-developed which makes them so captivating and makes you that much more invested in this book. And the relationships and dynamics between the characters are just fascinating. There are issues and that just makes it so compelling. Not one of these characters is without flaws and so you cannot help but suspect them all!

I loved this book...and I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE. It is a wickedly fun read and I wish I could read it again for the first time. You have to add this to your reading list right won't be sorry!


Short & Sweet Review: Bullseye by James Patterson

Title: Bullseye
Author: James Patterson
Series: Michael Bennett, #9
Published: August 2016, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 339 pages
Source: Personal copy

Caught in the crossfire of a deadly standoff, Detective Michael Bennett must kill...or be killed.

Tensions between America and Russia are the highest they've been since the Cold War. As the countries' Presidents travel to the United Nations to iron out their differences, a fashionable husband and wife team of lethal assassins prowls the streets of Manhattan hunting their prey--a professor hiding a scandalous secret. Their next target: the extremely popular President of the United States of America.

Pulled away from his family and pressed into service, Detective Michael Bennett must trace the source of a threat that could rip the country apart--and what he finds may turn the Cold War red hot once again. With allegiances constantly in doubt and no one above suspicion, only Bennett can step into the line of fire to save the President before the deadly kill shot hits its mark.

***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: In my crazy attempt to catch up on all the unread James Patterson books I have sitting around my house, I've moved on to the Michael Bennett series - I series I adore as much for the action as for Michael Bennett and his huge family! And while this one does contain a subplot featuring Michael's son and a friend, I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed with this installment...but that does happen.

This latest installment primarily focuses on an attempted assassination of the President of the United States and Michael Bennett is called in to figure out who is behind it. The subplot involves the Bennett family opening up their home to a young teen who is temporarily displaced, however this brings Brian, who is friends with the young teen, into contact with a drug dealer. 

This is still one of my favorite series and I'm looking forward to picking up the next book. I do love the little romance between Michael Bennett and Mary Catherine and wish that was played up a bit more in this installment, but I get that he is crazy busy and it can't always be front and center. I don't, however, want it to be dragged out forever...either get them together or let it go!

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   

Friday, April 19, 2019

Review: Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson

Title: Silenced
Author: Kristina Ohlsson
Series:Fredrika Bergman & Alex Recht, #2
Published: December 2013, Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Personal copy

Fifteen years ago: A teenage girl is viciously assaulted as she picks flowers in a field one night in midsummer. The crime is never reported. Present day: A man with no identification on his person is killed in a hit-and-run. He is never reported missing. Across the city, a priest and his wife are found dead in an apparent suicide.

Fredrika Bergman is assigned to the case. What she and her colleagues discover is that a sinister evil, the roots of which date back decades, is the link behind these seemingly unrelated crimes. There's a reason why none of them were ever reported, and it has to do with a shocking and horrendous cover-up unlike anything Fredrika could have possibly imagined.

Skillfully crafted and highly suspenseful, "Silenced" is a gripping thriller in which the consequences of past tragedies continue to haunt the present, reaching further and deeper than anyone ever expected.

My thoughts: This is the second book in Kristina Ohlsson's Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht series and I am really enjoying it. It's a good mix of police procedural and psychological thriller, keeping you on your toes as the police work to solve the case.

What I'm really coming to enjoy in this series is that it seems as much attention is paid to the case the team is solving as the characters themselves, including the detectives. They are well-flushed out and we get really into their back stories and what is going on with them in their personal lives. I feel that this is an integral part of this's not just about the cases this team works on, but also about the team and their stories. I really like this aspect - I feel that I am really coming to know these characters inside and out, rather than just having a superficial understanding of who they are.

The case itself was quite interesting. What at first appears to be a murder-suicide keeps the team busy as the clues are few and far between. There are plenty of twists and turns in this case, keeping you wondering just who is telling the truth. As the detectives get further and further into the case, they untangle quite the web of secrets, making it more and more complicated!

I really love crime fiction and Scandinavian crime fiction is definitely a favorite of mine. Kristina Ohlsson is slowly becoming a top author for me and I cannot wait to continue on with the series, especially as it ends with some major developments in the main characters' lives and I cannot wait to see where Kristina takes all this!

Books in this series:  
  1. Unwanted
  2. Silenced
  3. The Disappeared
  4. Hostage
  5. The Chosen   

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review: Under the Table by Stephanie Evanovich

Title: Under the Table
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Published: April 2019, William Morrow
Format: ARC Paperback, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

The New York Times bestselling author of Big Girl Panties puts a modern twist on My Fair Lady in this funny, romantic confection in which a canny young woman makes over her awkward millionaire client . . . with some hot, sexy, and surprising results.
Suffocating in a dead-end marriage, Midwesterner Zoey Sullivan fled to New York and moved in with her little sister Ruth, a carefree, vivacious beauty with a string of eligible bachelors at her beck and call. Giving herself three months in the city to clear her head and find a direction, Zoey dodges calls from her ex Derek, and distracts herself by cooking and catering a few private dinners and parties. Pursuing her passion for cooking was never an option when she was with Derek, and now Zoey relishes her independence.

When Zoey’s meets reclusive millionaire Tristan Malloy, she’s blown away by his kitchen—a marble and stainless steel temple worthy of the culinary gods—and charmed by his impeccable gentlemanly manners. But despite his firm body, handsome looks, and piles of cash, Tristan—a computer programmer—is shy and more than a little socially awkward. Zoey is sure that Tristan has all the right raw ingredients—and she’s the right person to spice them up turn him into a delectable dish.

But Zoey’s unprepared for just how well her makeover works. Tristan turns out to be even sexier once he’s gained a little confidence and the right wardrobe. Beneath the gorgeous package, Tristan is a great guy who deserves a woman who really appreciates him. Slowly but surely, Zoey realizes she may have found her perfect match—but does Tristan even know how her feelings have changed? Is that warm look in his eyes gratitude for the new and exciting world she’s ushered him into, or something more? And what will happen when Zoey’s ex comes to town, looking to win her back?

My thoughts: I'm a fan of Stephanie Evanovich's books...they are fun and breezy reads and the perfect palate cleansers for the usual dark, heavy thrillers I tend to gravitate towards. While I fully admit to never having seen, or read, My Fair Lady (is it based on a book - I don't even know?), I completely enjoyed this book, filled with Stephanie's trademark humor and steamy romance thrown in.

Right off the bat, I loved Zoey. I found her to be charming and a relatively likeable character. There were a few times I wanted to scream at her to stand up for herself and have a bit more of a back bone, but for the most part, I liked her character.  And Tristan...omg, I loved him and his goofy golf outfits. Only Stephanie Evanovich can make golfing sexy!!!

There are some really funny, laugh-out-loud moments throughout this book and then there are some real heart-tugging moments and that's what I love about these stories. And peppered inbetween, there are the sassy, steamy moments that just seem appropriate and happen at just the right time. 

I loved Zoey and Tristan's journey...yes, I knew going in that they would ultimately end up together. If you read enough romcom books, you know the ending, but to me it's always about the journey and this is one heck of a good one. There are some interesting forks in the road to their happily ever after, including Phyllis the truck driver who just might be one of my favorite characters ever! 

This is the type of book that you can totally fly through in an afternoon at the beach or savor over the course of a few nights...either way it's enjoyable and it will take your mind off whatever it is that is troubling you. And isn't that why we read? If you haven't read Stephanie Evanovich yet, I definitely recommend you do and why not start with this one?


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Book Spotlight: The Department of Sensitive Crimes by

Today, Alexander McCall Smith's latest book, The Department of Sensitive Crimes, is being published. This is the first book in his newest series, Detective Varg, and is considered ScandiBlanc What may you ask is ScandiBlanc? It's 'a wholly original genre of fiction marked by unusual cases. These are the crimes and criminals that you won't find in the newspaper or on the ten o'clock news...unless it's a particularly slow news day.' I'm currently reading this book and will share my review soon. Can you believe this is my first Alexander McCall Smith book?

Title: The Department of Sensitive Crimes
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Series: Detective Varg, #1
Published: April 2019, Pantheon Books
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages

In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmo, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.

These are their stories.

The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman's imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn't exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf 'the Wolf" Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who's in love with Varg's car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can't or won't bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.

What readers are saying: 

“McCall Smith . . . extends his gift for comic situations and insightful commentary to a projected series set in Sweden . . . Detective Varg promises to be a complex series character, and the department itself looks certain to deliver more oddball yet poignant cases.”—Booklist
“The celebrated Scottish storyteller has turned his pen to Scandi-crime, setting his latest series with Detective Ulf ‘The Wolf’ Varg heading up a department of singular characters in the Swedish city of Malmo. It’s as if Fox Mulder, Lisbeth Salander’s maiden aunt, and Kurt Wallander collaborated on a new unit, and it’s great fun.”—Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post (10 Books to Read in April)

“The author of more than 80 books has not lost his literary touch, but his latest account of the doings at Sweden’s Department of Sensitive Crimes hits a new high of hilarity.” —Muriel Dobbin, The Washington Times 

“With astonishing heart and mind, Alexander McCall Smith launches a bold and original new series. With The Department of Sensitive Crimes, he invents a new and compassionate genre: Scandi Blanc. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but in the end I did both. I'm already looking forward to the next one.”Alan Bradley, best-selling author of the Flavia de Luce series
“Appealing . . . The interpersonal relationships McCall Smith so sensitively portrays and the ethical issues he raises matter far more than the sleuthing. Fans of gentle mysteries will look forward to the sequel.”Publishers Weekly

About the Author:  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels and of a number of other series and stand-alone books. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have been best sellers throughout the world. 
He lives in Scotland.

Authors Links: 
Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook 

The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith 
Pantheon Books
 April 16, 2019
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1524748210 
  eBook ISBN: B07FSCX3FM

Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Buried Deep by T.R. Ragan (audio)

Title: Buried Deep
Author: T.R. Ragan
Series: Jessie Cole, #4
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published: April 2019, Brilliance Audio
Length: 7 hours 54 minutes
Source: Publisher

Two missing persons. One apparent suicide. Three cases pushing PI Jessie Cole and crime reporter Ben Morrison closer to the edge.
Lacey Geiger could be a very rich woman. If Jessie Cole can find her. The beneficiary of a sizable estate, Lacey vanished years ago after escaping an abusive childhood and is veiled now behind a new identity. Jessie has two weeks to find her. It’s enough time to discover that Lacey is hiding from so much more than anyone realized. But she isn’t the only one with secrets. And Jessie’s not the only one searching for the truth.

A concerned daughter has asked for help finding her mother—a woman said to have been murdered thirty years ago. And Jessie’s colleague Ben, an amnesiac still struggling with the bloody memories of a shattered life, is nearer to piecing together a very dark picture. Especially when someone he detests is found dead, hanging from a tree by a riverbank.

Now as the mysteries, puzzles, and lies of three investigations are unearthed, Jessie and Ben will risk everything to bring all that is hidden into the light.

My thoughts: This is the 4th book in T.R. Ragan's Jessie Cole series and I am such a huge fan of this series. I love the characters and I love the cases that Jessie gets involved in and this latest installment is no exception!

One of my favorites aspects of this series has been the astounding character development and to that, I have to give my usual plug for reading series in order. In this case, it just really makes the most sense as you will really get a better understanding of what drives some of the main characters and where they are coming from if you start with them from the very beginning and follow along with them in the series. That's not to say you cannot read each of these books any way you please. I just think you will have a richer reading experience following the order the author wrote them in.

That being said, this book might be my favorite one yet. I think we really see the characters in their best light. I've come to really love Zee, Jessie's assistant. In this installment, she is working her first case and it's great. She's come such a long way, and while she does have quite a way to still go, I love her...and her voices and tarot card readings. 

There are three main threads we follow throughout this book and this really keeps the book moving forward. There's the case Zee is working on, there's the case Jessie takes on - a missing girl who is due to inherit quite a bit, and there's Ben's story, which gets caught up in Colin's case. The question that continues to linger with Ben is is he a murderer or not. The book moves back and forth between all three and keeps the suspense moving as you wonder just where things might head. 

I'm not sure if this is the last book in the series or kind of had that wrap-up, final feeling to it, yet I could also see another book coming down the line. It's hard to tell. I hope there is more, but I would be satisfied with that ending...and will certainly be reading more T.R. Ragan in the future, for sure!!!

Audio thoughts: I was stoked to see that Kate Rudd was the narrator of this book. She has been narrating this entire series and it's like reconnecting with old friends. She is so consistent with the voices that I had no trouble getting back into the swing of things with this book and remembering just who everyone was...and that's why I love listening to series on audiobooks when the narrator is the same. Kate infuses just the right amount of tension and suspense or humor into her voice as needed and her pacing and tone is spot on. I enjoyed listening to this entire series on audio and Kate Rudd made is that much more enjoyable!

Books in this series:   
  1. Her Last Day
  2. Deadly Recall 
  3. Deranged
  4. Buried Deep

Friday, April 12, 2019

Review: Trophy Life by Lea Geller (audio) -- with link to Giveaway!!!

Title: Trophy Life
Author: Lea Geller
Narrator: Amy Landon
Published: April 2019, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 46 minutes
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - Paperback via GetRed PR

A refreshingly honest, laugh-out-loud novel about losing the life you always wanted…and finding the life you were meant to have.
 For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

Authentic and sharply witty, Trophy Life is proof that granny panties and mom coats might not be the answer to everything; they’re simply comfortable (if slightly unattractive) reminders of what happens when one life ends…and real life begins.

My thoughts:  I love books when the main character is forced to find themselves again and this is exactly what we have here in Lea Geller's debut novel. I also love when a debut novel is a fresh breath of air and again, I feel that that is what this book is.

Agnes Parsons is the kind of character that you will have mixed feelings for throughout this book. On the one hand, you will love her for her spunk and realness and will find yourself laughing out loud as she navigates her new life after she finds herself having to uproot from the high life of California and basically slum-it in the Bronx. But, on the other hand, I got annoyed that it took her so long to figure out what a scum her husband really was...I mean come on, really? How could you be so naive?

Watching Agnes learn to rely only on herself is where this story shines. And watching her interactions with the boys in the school won my heart over...I loved that she came to care so much for these boys, going to bat for them time and again. These scenes were by far my favorite part and where I could really relate to her the most. 

This is definitely a story about finding oneself and realizing you are more than you thought you were. It is filled with humorous moments and had some depth to it. I will certainly be looking to see what comes next from this author.

Audio thoughts: I enjoyed listening to this book on audio and Amy Landon did a great job with the voices. She brought all the characters to life, giving each one their own unique personality. She even made Agnes's husband sound slimy, which was perfect for me, as that was how I thought of him! Amy's tone and pacing were spot on for this book and made the listening experience quite enjoyable.

***I have a giveaway for this book over on my Instagram page...look for this post! Giveaway is open to US only and ends April 15th.

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