Always With a Book

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: No Pain, No Gaines by Chip Gaines (audio)


Title: No Pain, No Gaines
Author: Chip Gaines
Narrator: Chip Gaines
Published: March 2021, Thomas Nelson
Length: 5 hours 43 minutes
Source: Publisher via TLC Booktours


No Pain, No Gaines is a by-the-bootstraps manual for building a network of people you can count on. Fair warning: Building it will be painful, but what you’ll gain is something strong, something reliable, and something that can change the world.

Spoiler alert number one: This is a book about networks

Spoiler alert number two: This is not a book about networking 

Not networking in the traditional sense, anyway. It’s not about how to leverage your interactions with everyone you meet in an all-out sprint to get ahead. It’s about how to find a group of real people who will stand beside you as you bust your butt, who believe that authentic human connection is more important than any other earthly thing, and who bet on each other instead of the status quo. People with beating hearts and passions who live and love and try and fail and try again. People who lift you up and give your life meaning. 

Written for anyone who believes that relationships are more than transactions, and who is looking to build a network of people they can count on, No Pain, No Gaines will coach you on how to

  • look outside yourself and your circle and foster connections with others
  • value what you bring to the table
  • resist the status quo
  • find the risks worth taking
  • engage and be awake to life, not asleep at the wheel
  • get comfortable with being uncomfortably kind
  • build a network you trust and then, trust the network you build

Chip Gaines has been building that kind of network his whole life, and he can tell you, it doesn’t come easy. The good stuff never does. It requires faith in people. It requires hope. And it requires a willingness to grow even when it hurts. In No Pain, No Gaines, through hard-won lessons and personal stories, Chip will coach you on how to build a network of your own that will make your life rich and your relationships run deep.

My thoughts:  As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I've heard about Chip and Joanna Gaines, have seen bits and pieces of their show the Fixer-Upper, have two of their cookbooks, but beyond that, I don't know much about them. This book came to me and I knew I had to read it.

I loved the simplicity of this book and just how applicable it is to everyone. It is filled with such thought-provoking, encouraging life lessons and I appreciated how he broke it down to bite-size pieces. This isn't a very long book by any means, but it is chock-full of information that I know I will be revisiting at some point.

My particular favorite take-aways were being as authentic as you possibly can and seeing people as a whole-human and not just as a specific role they may play in life. In order to build a network, you need connections, but it doesn't happen overnight. You need to put the work in, but being true to yourself and others and valuing what others have to offer as a whole person will help you all in the long run.

I really enjoyed all that this book had to offer. It was one of those books that I know will stick with me and one that I will be recommending to others as I see fit.

Audio thoughts: I loved that Chip narrated this book himself. His cadence and tone were so easy to listen to and it was as if he was just sitting down having a conversation with you. I also loved that there were a few sections that Joanna and his parents and sister narrated. It really showed that they believed in this book and the message that he was trying to convey here. I enjoyed listening to this book and I would definitely listen to his other books if he narrated them.


Review: Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner


Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB, #2
Published: January 2018, Dutton
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Source: Personal copy

Inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, an exhilarating thriller in which FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix faces off against a charming, merciless serial killer

In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI's serial crime unit discover the first victim's body in the woods. She's laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest's darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style--posed like Snow White awaiting her prince's kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology--that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy--dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin's profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people's trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.


My thoughts: This is the second book in Meg Gardiner's UNSUB series and as much as I loved the first book, I think I loved this one even more. I am so glad I am finally reading this series...better late than never, right?

Once again, this book is nonstop action right from the get-go and I found myself completely engaged from page one. I could not read this fast enough and I loved that we have two dynamic female leads here. I love Caitlin, but I loved Rainey just as much and I hope this isn't the last we see of her.

I loved that this is different from the previous book. It's not the same cut and paste formula and I so appreciate that. The only thing that is the same is that this case, like the last one, is inspired by a real-life serial killer, which I love. I may not be on top of all the serial killers, as I'm just getting into reading true crime, but these books sure are intense and they do a great job of making sure you keep all the lights on when you read them!

I also loved that we find out who the killer is pretty early on and from there, it's a non-stop race in trying to get one-step ahead of him before he spirals out of control. He's cunning and devious, but he knows his time is limited. It makes for some heart-pounding reading but we also don't really know the why and I needed to know that. 

This book was so addicting and kept me on the edge of me seat the entire time. And it all leads to an ending that sets up for the next book, which I'm hoping to read sooner rather than later. I love this series and if you love dark, gripping reads, I highly recommend reading it if you haven't already!

Books in this series:

  1. UNSUB
  2. Into the Black Nowhere
  3. The Dark Corners of the Night

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review: The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce


Title: The Lies You Told
Author: Harriet Tyce
Published: December 2020, Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

In the playground it's the law of the jungle But at the school gate, there are no rules at all... 

When Sadie Roper moves back to London, she's determined to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. First, she needs to get her daughter settled into a new school-one of the most exclusive in the city. Next, she's going to get back the high-flying criminal barrister career she sacrificed for marriage ten years earlier. But nothing goes quite as planned. The school is not very welcoming newcomers, her daughter hasn't made any friends yet and the other mothers are as fiercely competitive as their children. Sadie immediately finds herself on the outside as she navigates the fraught politics of the school gate. 

But the tide starts to turn as Sadie begins to work on a scandalous, high-profile case that's the perfect opportunity to prove herself again, even though a dangerous flirtation threatens to cloud her professional judgment. And when Julia, queen of the school moms, befriends Sadie, she draws her into the heart of the world from which she was previously excluded. Soon Sadie and her family start to thrive, but does this close new friendship prevent her from seeing the truth? Sadie may be keeping her friends close, but what she doesn't know is that her enemies are closer still... Dark, addictive and compelling, The Lies You Told is a compulsive psychological thriller from a master storyteller.

My thoughts:  This is the second book I've read by Harriet Tyce and I am definitely a fan. I loved her debut novel, Blood Orange, and this latest book is just as captivating and addicting.
This book really captured my attention from the get-go and never let up. I love books where there are unlikeable characters and there are quite a few here. I also love books where I think I know where things are heading and I definitely had things pegged wrong, but that's ok because it just keeps me more engaged and my brain working overtime as I try to work out just how the pieces will fall together. 
I loved that there were a few different threads happening in this book so it kept things moving along but it also made me want to read faster to get to the end to see how things in both would end up playing out. And I really did end up becoming equally invested in all threads.
The writing in this book is so smart and addicting...I just could not put this book down until I reached the end - and the last few chapters really had my heart pounding as we reached the final conclusion. If you have not picked this one up yet, I highly recommend is definitely a thrilling, binge-worthy read.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic (audio)


Title: Dark Horses
Author: Susan Mihalic
Narrator: Alex Allwine
Published: February 2021, Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: 10 hours 26 minutes
Source: Publisher

A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.

Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Room by Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.


My thoughts:  This debut novel is both heartbreaking and gripping and one that is not for the faint of heart. While I am not usually one to indicate trigger warnings in my review, I think this book absolutely warrants it and I am going to put it right here so that you can make an informed decision as to whether this book is for you.

* This book includes sensitive and serious topics involving abuse and rape among family members.

This coming of age story completely grabbed me from the start and never let up. I found myself gripped by all that was going on and unable to walk away from it. I listened to the audio version of this story and just had to keep listening, unable to put it down until I had completed the story. This book evoked such a wide range of emotions in me, as I followed Roan's journey as she learned to take back her life after all that she endured.

I loved just how complex and complicated the characters are in this story, and if you can stomach all the darkness that makes up this book, you will see what a strong, remarkable character Roan is. This story is haunting and chilling, yet it is one that is so powerful and thought-provoking at the same time. It easily draws you in and you find yourself unable to think of anything else while reading and even long after you finish, you will be thinking about this one.

This book is one I know I won't be forgetting. I definitely recommend it, but be warned, it's not an easy story to read.

Audio thoughts: This audio was simply captivating. Not an easy story to narrate, I think Alex Allwine did a fantastic job narrating it. Her pacing and intonation were spot on and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed. She really did bring this book to life. 


Review: Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson


Title: Our Darkest Night
Author: Jennifer Robson
Published: January 2021, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

To survive the Holocaust, a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer’s wife in this unforgettable novel from USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—a story of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice, inspired by true events, that vividly evokes the most perilous days of World War II.

It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.

Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.

But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge. 

As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . .


My thoughts:  It's no secret that I am a fan of Jennifer Robson's historical fiction novels. I've read a few of her own books and a few of the ones she's written with others as part of anthologies. I just love the way she writes so as soon as I saw this book coming out, I knew I had to read it and I was not disappointed.

For as many books I've read on World War II, I love that each one brings a different perspective and that is exactly what we have here. This time, our setting is in Italy, which for me is new and I loved that. I also loved that characters that Jennifer created for us. Nina and Nico just come alive on the pages and I could not help but fall in love with them as we learn their story. 

This is the type of book that is as much thought-provoking as it is heartbreaking and emotional. I kept thinking what I would have done if I were to have found myself in either of these character's shoes. Could I have pretended to marry someone for the sake of saving myself? Could I risk my life and those I love for the sake of someone else?

This story captivated me from the beginning and had a hold on me the entire way through. These two characters showed such strength and bravery in the face of uncertain times and it was so hard not to be affected by their stories. I loved that this story is inspired by the author's husband's family. It just has such a deeper meaning to it and I love that she was willing to share it with us. This is definitely a story I won't be forgetting anytime soon and one that I highly recommend.


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis


Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the blog tour for Summertime Guests by Wendy Francis. Thank you Graydon House for inviting me to participate.



Title: Summertime Guests
Author: Wendy Francis
Published: April 2021, Graydon House
Format: ARC E-copy, 320 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

The Seafarer is the place to see and be seen in the summer…

With its rich history and famous guests, the glamorous Boston hotel is no stranger to drama. But the bustle at the iconic property reaches new heights one weekend in mid-June when someone falls tragically to her death, the event rippling through the lives of four very different people.

Bride-to-be Riley is at the hotel to plan her wedding. She would have preferred a smaller, more intimate celebration, but her bossy mother-in-law has taken charge and her fiancĂ© hasn’t seemed to notice. Jean-Paul, the hotel’s manager, is struggling to keep his marriage and new family afloat, but now he must devote all his energy to this latest scandal at work. Claire, recently widowed, comes to town to connect with a long-lost love, but has too much changed in the last thirty years? And then there’s Jason, whose romantic getaway with his girlfriend has not exactly gone the way he'd hoped and instead has him facing questions he can't bring himself to answer.

Over three sun-drenched days, as the truth about the woman who died—and the secret she was hiding—is uncovered, these four strangers become linked in the most unexpected of ways. Together, they just might find the strength they need to turn their own lives around.


My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Wendy Francis and once again, I found myself not only completely captivated by the story, but totally in love with the cover. I don't know about you, but I am definitely ready for the summery, beachy-type reads and this one is certainly giving off those vibes!

This book grabbed me right from the go and I loved how quick a read it was. I ended up finishing it in two sittings and the drama and mystery really kept me completely engaged. Since traveling has been out this past year, it was so fun to live vicariously through these characters, staying at such a luxurious hotel with all the many amenities at your fingertips! 

Not knowing who falls to their death, I loved how the book moves back and forth from the event to a few days leading up to it, so we can learn about the four main characters and how their lives were intertwined. They had no connections until they all set foot into the hotel and I loved that I had my detective hat on the entire time trying to figure out who had died and how. But I also loved all the drama that ensues with the characters in the meantime. I would almost classify this as part mystery, part character-study as we really learn more about these characters and what is going on with them, which it turns out is more than we see at first glance.

This is such an engaging, quick read, filled with surprising depth, that would be perfect to take with you to the beach or while sitting on your deck outside. It's entertaining, it's got a little mystery to it and that cover certainly gives off all the summer vibes!

About the author: Wendy Francis is a former book editor and the author of the novels The Summer Sail, The Summer of Good Intentions, Three Good Things, and Best Behavior. Her essays have appeared in Good Housekeeping, The Washington Post, Yahoo Parenting, The Huffington Post, and WBUR's Cognoscenti. A proud stepmom of two grown-up children, she lives outside Boston with her husband and eleven-year-old son.

Authors Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Instagram |   Facebook  |   Goodreads 


Buy Links: 


Barnes & Noble






Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Most Anticipated Releases of the Month: April 2021


Back again with my five most anticipated releases coming out this month. That's not to say that I'm not excited about all the books that are being released this month - and there are so many books coming out this month! - but these are just the ones that really stand out in my mind for some reason - either because I have loved the author's previous books or it's a debut novel and sounds amazing. As I've done before, I've already read the book, I will link my review. And if I plan to listen to the book, I will indicate the audio publisher.

So here without further ado are the five books I am most excited about that will be published in April:



Pub Date: April 1st, Lake Union Publishing
A female American spy in Nazi-occupied France finds purpose behind enemy lines in a novel of unparalleled danger, love, and daring by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Beantown Girls.

Anna Cavanaugh is a restless young widow and brilliant French teacher at a private school in Washington, DC. Everything changes when she’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by family friend and legendary WWI hero Major General William Donovan.

Donovan has faith in her—and in all his “glorious amateurs” who are becoming Anna’s fast friends: Maggie, Anna’s down-to-earth mentor; Irene, who’s struggling to find support from her husband for her clandestine life; and Julia, a cheerful OSS liaison. But the more Anna learns about the organization’s secret missions, the more she longs to be stationed abroad. Then comes the opportunity: go undercover as a spy in the French Resistance to help steal critical intelligence that could ultimately turn the tide of the war.

Dispatched behind enemy lines and in constant danger, Anna is filled with adrenaline, passion, and fear. She’s driven to make a difference—for her country and for herself. Whatever the risk, she’s willing to take it to help liberate France from the shadows of occupation and to free herself from the shadows of her former life.
MOTHER MAY I by Joshilyn Jackson
Pub Date: April 6th,  William Morrow 
Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth
Pub Date: April 13th, St Martin's Press, Macmillan Audio 
From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.
Pub Date: April 20th, Berkley Books
New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a story of friendship past and present, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

A captivating story of friendship, love and betrayal – and finding hope in the darkness of war.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck – she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever.

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie, healing from past trauma and careful to close herself off to others, finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, Precious’ enigmatic surrogate nephew. As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’ haunting past – and the secrets she swore she’d never reveal …
UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Pub Date: April 20th, Gallery Books
Two childhood friends discover that love—and family—can be found in unconventional ways in this timely, moving novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “beautifully Southern, evocative Peachtree Bluff series” (Kristin Harmel, internationally bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife).

Recently separated Amelia Buxton, a dedicated journalist, never expected that uncovering the biggest story of her career would become deeply personal. But when she discovers that a cluster of embryos belonging to her childhood friend Parker and his late wife Greer have been deemed “abandoned,” she’s put in the unenviable position of telling Parker—and dredging up old wounds in the process.

Parker has been unable to move forward since the loss of his beloved wife three years ago. He has all but forgotten about the frozen embryos, but once Amelia reveals her discovery, he knows that if he ever wants to get a part of Greer back, he’ll need to accept his fate as a single father and find a surrogate.

Each dealing with their own private griefs, Parker and Amelia slowly begin to find solace in one another as they navigate an uncertain future against the backdrop of the pristine waters of their childhood home, Cape Carolina. The journey of self-discovery leads them to an unforgettable and life-changing lesson: Family—the one you’re born into and the one you choose—is always closer than you think.

From “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Under the Southern Sky is a fresh and unforgettable exploration of love, friendship, and the unbreakable ties that bind.

Do any of these sound good? Let me know!  

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