Always With a Book

Monday, January 25, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: Until We Are Lost by Leslie Archer

Title: Until We Are Lost
Author: Leslie Archer
Published: February 2021, Lake Union Publishing
Format: ARC Paperback, 418 pages
Source: Publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl at the Border comes a haunting thriller about one woman’s journey into the painful truths threatening to destroy her.

When Tara Peary’s twin sister Sophie goes missing, Tara dives into New York’s underbelly to find her. Sophie is the one person who’s ever truly understood her, and Tara knows her sister isn’t the only one who needs help.

Tara is also on the run emotionally from her complicated childhood. Her memories are threatening to overwhelm her emotions and derail the hunt for Sophie. A psychotherapist keeps her afloat, but when Tara begins dating her therapist’s young tech-millionaire neighbor, she risks losing the only lifelines she has left.

The more Tara uncovers about her sister’s disappearance and the dark side of the rich elite, the less certain of the truth she becomes. As Tara reaches the center of the mystery, spanning from her childhood home in Georgia to a Southern California beach, she has to decide whether the truth is a price she’s willing to pay.

My thoughts: This is the first time I've read anything by Leslie Archer but it definitely won't be the last. This book is exactly why I love reading psychological thrillers - they are twisty and crazy and keep me flipping the pages.

This is a dark, and at times disturbing, book - let me just say that now. It goes places that you won't expect and may not work for everyone but within the framework of the story, it works. It's also the kind of book that really needs to be read in big chunks of time so as not to lose the momentum of the story. I tried reading little bits here and there and was lost and ended up having to start over when I had time to really devote myself to the book. 

There are quite a few twists in this book and while you may think you know where it is heading once one or two are revealed, think again. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, desperately trying to work out just how all the pieces were going to come together. 

I love a good twin story - they just seem to grab me and this one is like none you have read before. I was completely captivated and even with the darker, disturbing parts, I still found it to be a thrilling read that is complex and full of suspense. I definitely recommend!


***I'll be hosting a #giveaway for a SIGNED copy of this book over on my Instagram page...head over to @k2reader to find the post. Open to US/Canada. 



Sunday, January 24, 2021

Review: Wild Swan: A Story of Florence Nightingale by Patti Callahan (audio)

Title: Wild Swan: A Story of Florence Nightingale
Author: Patti Callahan
Narrator: Cynthia Erivo
Published: December 2020, Audible Originals
Length: 1 hour 54 minutes
Source: Personal copy


In this captivating historical novella narrated by Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo, New York Times best-selling author Patti Callahan Henry celebrates the life of the mother of modern nursing and one of history's greatest heroines: Florence Nightingale.

Wild Swan introduces listeners to the Lady with the Lamp long before she became a legend. In this poignant story, a young woman has just discovered her divine purpose to become a nurse, and struggles to make that dream a reality. While traveling abroad with her close friend, Selina Bracebridge - another strong woman living an unconventional life - a rare opportunity arises for Florence to practice medicine. Intellectually gifted with an advanced education thanks to her father’s progressive political views, can the daughter of a prominent English family defy Victorian societal expectations to fulfill her destiny?

Over the course of a few short years, Florence remains brave and determined in the face of all obstacles, pursuing her passion against her family’s wishes. From her parent’s luxurious countryside estate in England to her travels abroad to the German medical institute where she first began her training and fell in love with her work, we follow Florence during these pivotal early years of her extraordinary life.


My thoughts:  I am loving these Audible Original Stories that I have found. While they all tend to be quite short, some novellas or even prequels to novels I have read, some, such as this one, tend to be more focused on giving a snapshot of someone's life. I honestly did not know much about Florence Nightingale before listening to this story and now I am left wanting to know more about her life - isn't that the best feeling? When you read something and it leaves you with a thirst for more knowledge?

I loved getting to see this snapshot into Florence Nightingale's life - how she came to become a nurse and the issues her family initially had with this decision. I loved how Patti Callahan brings to light that fact that it was not custom for women to want to do anything but marry and the fact that Florence wanted to write and become a nurse was basically unheard of, yet she stood her ground. 

This short story really is quite informative and I love that it came out around Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday. It also serves to remind us just how important our nurses have been during this pandemic.

Audio thoughts: This was a great audio and the narrator, Cynthia Ervio did such a fantastic job bringing the story to life. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she really made this story quite enjoyable to listen to. I hope to see her name on some other audiobooks soon!



Thursday, January 21, 2021

Review: The Jane Austen Diet by Jane Austen, Bryan Kozlowski

Title: The Jane Austen Diet
Author: Jane Austen, Bryan Kozlowski
Published: March 2019, Turner
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Source: Publisher

What can Jane Austen teach us about health? Prepare to have your bonnet blown... 

From the food secrets of Pride and Prejudice to the fitness strategies of Sense and Sensibility, there's a modern health code hidden in the world's most popular romances.

Join Bryan Kozlowski as he unlocks this "health and happiness" manifesto straight from Jane Austen's pen, revealing why her prescriptions for achieving total body "bloom" still matter in the 21st century. Whether that's learning how to eat like Lizzy Bennet, exercise like Emma Woodhouse, or think like Elinor Dashwood, explore how Austen's timeless body beliefs are more relevant, refreshing, and scientifically sensible now than ever before. After all, it's a truth universally acknowledged -- Jane Austen's heroines don't get fat.

My thoughts:  This book has been sitting on my shelf for way too long and I thought that January was the perfect time to finally get to it. After-all, isn't January the time we all start the year with those pesky resolutions about healthy eating and fitness? 

I loved this book. I admit I was originally drawn to it because of Jane Austen's name. Who knew that Jane Austen herself was so forward-thinking in health and the overall well-being of our bodies, and yet that is exactly what you will find if you take the time to read this book. Not only does Bryan Kozlowski take the time to dig into her life and her books, but he does so with a breath of fresh air and wit. This book was downright funny at times. 

This book is chock full of little tidbits that Jane employs for living a life of enjoyment not one based on any one specific type of diet. Jane was a proponent of healthy living and that included the whole body - skin, size, appetite, energy and spirits (mood). And if you've read any of her novels, this was the yardstick by which she measured their health. And let's not forget that in all Austen novels there is movement of some kind - dancing, walking horseback riding, etc. My favorite is always the "taking a turn" about the room. These characters did not sit idly for too long.

I loved this book and know it will have a treasured spot on my bookshelf. I'm not a fan of "diets" but rather eating in moderation and moving with purpose every day. There is no one plan for all but I think at the end of the day, you have to find what works for you and this book, is just one way of looking at a healthy lifestyle from someone well ahead of her time.



Review: The Lady Upstairs by Halley Sutton

Title: The Lady Upstairs
Author: Halley Sutton
Published: November 2020, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Author

A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men...then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo's job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles--handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she's making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it's also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting--bringing down a rising political star. It's her biggest con yet--and she will do it behind the Lady's back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

My thoughts: I love a good revenge story and while this is definitely a dark read, it's also really fun! And kudos to whoever designed this cover...I'm obsessed with the colors!

This is a fast-paced, quick read that kept my attention throughout. I loved the strong, female characters and how they were on a mission to take down some of the most powerful yet corrupt men in Hollywood. Jo in particular is such a flawed, relatable character and I loved getting her backstory, learning how she ended up working for the 'Lady Upstairs' to begin with. 

There are some major twists in this book and while I did end up figuring out a few of them, I still found myself glued to pages, frantically flipping them to see how it would all turn out. I needed to see how all the pieces came together and boy where there still some surprises to come!

This dark, suspenseful little read is filled with quick wit and is Halley Sutton's debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be quite eager to see what comes next from her. 


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Review: The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson & J.D. Barker (audio)

Title: The Coast-to-Coast Murders
Author: James Patterson & J.D. Barker
Narrator: Jason Culp, Tristan Morris, Renata Friedman
Published: September 2020, Hachette Audio / Little, Brown & Company
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes / 560 pages
Source: Audio via Library / Print - personal copy


A detective and FBI agent join forces on what seems like an open-and-shut case -- but a new rash of killings sends them on a pulse-pounding race against time in this intense thriller. 
Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past. Both adopted, and now grown -- Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology -- they trust each other before anyone else. They've had to. Their parents are public intellectuals, an Ivy League clinical psychologist and a renowned psychiatrist, and they brought up their adopted children in a rarefied, experimental environment. It sheltered them from the world's harsh realities, but it also forced secrets upon them, secrets they keep at all costs.
In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Dobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended --but then there's another killing just like the one they've been investigating. And another. And not just in Los Angeles -- the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators' attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss -- if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?
From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer -- one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.

My thoughts:  If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know I am a big James Patterson fan. But this is the first time I've read anything by J.D. Barker, an author I have been wanting to read for some time, so I was excited when I saw this duo paired up...and boy did this book live up to my expectations and then some!

This book is one thrilling, crazy ride so be prepared to not do anything once you start reading it. It completely kept me enthralled and engaged from start to finish and with all the twists and turns, I did not know where it was heading. I thought a few times I had things worked out only to be completely thrown off course with the latest twist. This book has one shock after another and really keeps you guessing all the way through!

I don't typically reread these kinds of books but this one is so twisted and crazy that I really think I might need to. There is so much packed into this book and at the length it is, that's saying something. I loved the way it was told, moving forward, but then going back in time to give us the history of these siblings. There is so much there that gives us the clues if only you are paying attention. 

I think this is one of the better of the books I've read of all the James Patterson pairings and I hope he writes with J.D. Barker again. And now I will certainly be adding all of J.D. Barker's books to my list...hopefully I will find the time to read them!

Audio thoughts: I decided to go the audio route with this book and what a thrilling experience that was. All the narrators were new to me but I thought they all did a fantastic job. This one really kept me glued to the story and the length didn't even bother me as I was totally focused on what was going on. This was definitely a case where I found myself walking just a little longer because I didn't want to stop listening and get back to real life!


Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner (audio)

Title: Before She Disappeared
Author: Lisa Gardner
Narrator: Hillary Huber
Published: January 2020, Brilliance Audio / Dutton
Length: 12 hours 7 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - Dutton Books

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will--searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own--and she soon learns she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

My thoughts: It's no secret that I am a HUGE Lisa Gardner fan. I've read all her Detective D.D. Warren books and many of the books in her other series. When I saw that the author was writing her first stand-alone novel in 20 years, I knew I had to read it, and I loved it!

One thing about Lisa Gardner's books is that while they can be a bit dark, they are incredibly addicting. I was completely captivated by this story and because I listened to it, I found myself walking just a little bit longer or doing just a little bit more cleaning because I did not want to stop listening. 

I also love that we are once again given an incredibly strong main character. Frankie Elkin is not without her own problems, but she is a force to be reckoned with - and I love characters like this. Yes, she is deeply flawed but that's what makes her so interesting. I couldn't wait to get into her backstory as much as I wanted to see what she was going to do about the missing girl. This was an instance where I was as invested in the main character as much as the plot she was involved in, if that makes any sense.

This is such a multilayered story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Frankie is such a fantastic new character and I loved the way she takes her anger about her past and channels that into solving the missing person cases she takes on, cases that have gone cold and everyone else has given up on. I loved her determination and grit, and her never-give-up attitude. And let's not forget all the interesting and intriguing characters we meet that Frankie either needs on her side for the case or meets at the bar where she works to make some money while staying in the area.

This book kept me guessing all the way through and I had no idea where it was headed. The suspense builds quite nicely and the ending took me by surprise. While this is marked as a stand-alone now, the way it ends leaves the possibly that Lisa Gardner could come back and revisit Frankie Elkin one day and nothing would make me happier! I would definitely love to see this turn into a series!

Audio thoughts: This was a stellar audio book. Hillary Huber brought her A-game to narrate this one and I absolutely loved it! Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as necessary. There was even the right humor inflected into her voice when needed, particularly anytime Piper the cat was involved! I'm quite familiar with Hillary Huber and know when I see her name listed as the narrator, I'm in good hands!


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake

Title: Under a Gilded Moon
Author: Joy Jordan-Lake
Narrator: Kathleen Gati
Published: December 2020, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 12 hours 58 minutes / 414 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy / Print - Hardcover via GetRed PR


From the bestselling author of A Tangled Mercy comes an enthralling novel of secrets, a tumultuous war of ideas, and murder as classes collide in the shadow of Biltmore House.

Biltmore House, a palatial mansion being built by the Vanderbilts, American “royalty,” is in its final stages of construction in North Carolina. The country’s grandest example of privilege, it symbolizes the aspirations of its owner and the dreams of a girl, just as driven, who lives in its shadow.
Kerry MacGregor’s future is derailed when, after two years in college in New York City, family obligations call her home to the beautiful Appalachians. She is determined to distance herself from the opulence she sees rising in the Blue Ridge Mountains, however close its reach. Her family’s land is among the last pieces required to complete the Biltmore Estate. But something more powerful than an ambitious Vanderbilt heir could change Kerry’s fate as, one by one, more outsiders descend on the changing landscape—a fugitive from Sicily, a reporter chasing a groundbreaking story, a debutante tainted by scandal, and a conservationist prepared to put anyone at risk to stoke the resentment of the locals.
As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.

My thoughts: Historical fiction and mysteries are two genres I love, so when I find books that combine the two, I absolutely need to read them and this latest book by Joy Jordan-Lake, an author who I have never read before, was presented to me, I knew I had to give it a chance and I'm so glad I did...I really enjoyed it. Plus...I happened to be a little fascinated by the Vanderbilts, so total win-win!

This book had such an amazing sense of place and really distinguishes between the haves and the have nots. It was so easy to be swept up into the place and time of this book and the writing was so descriptive that I could really picture the building of  the house on this estate - a place that I really do hope to visit at some point.  Add in a murder mystery and I was completely captivated. I found myself glued to the book and even when I had to put it down, I was thinking about everything - the characters, the setting, the lush descriptions that we were given.

I love that this book is based on real people. Reading historical fiction always intrigues me because I learn something new or learn more about something I am interested in. I have read a few books already about the Vanderbilts and have been wanting to read more and this one definitely checked that box. 

I definitely suggest picking this one's such a well-written story that will keep you engaged all the way through. 

Audio thoughts: When I saw that Kathleen Gati was the narrator for this book, I knew I had to listen to it. She is one of my favorite audiobook narrators and she did such a great job bringing this book to life.

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