Always With a Book

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

Today, I'm so happy to be a tour stop on the blog tour for the The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton. Thank you Graydon House for inviting me to participate.

Title: The Last Wife
Author: Karen Hamilton
Published: July 2020, Graydon House
Format: ARC E-copy, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

My thoughts: Karen Hamilton is a new-to-me author. But after reading this book, I am definitely going to reading more of her books. There was such an engaging style to this book and I was hooked right from the start.

This is one of those unique books where I found myself not necessarily liking any of the characters but at the same time, I found myself completely obsessed with the story line. It's very weird, but as soon as I started this one, I knew something wasn't not as it seems with Marie and I needed to know what it was. And the deeper I got into the story, the crazier things get. Nothing in this book is what it appears to be and I absolutely love books like that...they just get under my skin because I have this burning need to find out what the heck is really going on. 

I loved that ever so slowly the suspense builds in this book and at the same time, layers are peeled back to reveal secrets and quite the web of deceit amongst this group of friends. All the characters have something to hide and it gives you the sense that you don't really know who is trustworthy and who is not. 

These are the types of books that I love to read...they are completely binge-worthy and it almost doesn't even matter if you like the characters or not. You just want to get to the bottom of things. Obsession can make us quite jealous and here it turns out that things aren't always better on the other side.

This would make a great summer read - it's a quick, addicting one that once you start, you really don't want to put down. And if all of Karen Hamilton's books are like this, I definitely will be reading more of her and soon!

About the author: Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. She is also the author of the international bestseller The Perfect Girlfriend.

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

Buy Links: 



Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review: Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra

Title: Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island
Author: Regina Calcaterra
Published: August 2013, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Personal copy

Regina’s Calcaterra memoir, Etched in Sand, is an inspiring and triumphant coming-of-age story of tenacity and hope.

Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

A true-life rags-to-riches story, Etched in Sand chronicles Regina’s rising above her past, while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all.

Beautifully written, with heartbreaking honesty, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American Dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.

My thoughts: This book was the first book my IRL book club read and while it's probably not a book I would have picked up on my own, I am glad I read it. It's a tough, heartbreaking read, but one that manages to inspire hope.

This book is practically set in my backyard - I grew up in Long Island, so it was incredibly devastating to read about what Regina and her siblings had to deal with on a regular basis during the childhood. I grew up in a middle class family around the same time that Regina did and it's so hard to imagine myself having the same street smarts that she did, yet I'm sure if my circumstances were as desperate as hers, I'd learn real fast.

I'm not a mother, but I cannot fathom having that many kids - Cookie had five with five different men - and then ultimately not really care what happened to these kids. She would leave them for long stretches of time - get them set up in the next house/apartment, take whatever money they had - money that should have been used for food for HER KIDS - and then take off for long stretches of time. I just don't understand this. And then she would get mad when social services got involved or the cops came calling around. Do you blame them?

This book put me through the wringer. I felt so many emotions. The only silver lining is that Regina ends up becoming a success story. She perseveres despite all that she went through in her childhood. That is where the hope comes in.

This book is hands down a great book for book clubs. We had some really good discussions and it lends itself quite nicely to conversations about many topics. This book is intense, but it was amazing to see that with all the bad that happened, good ultimately won out. And luckily, our next book club pick is a much lighter read!


Friday, July 10, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Title: Blacktop Wasteland
Author: S.A. Cosby
Published: July 2020, Flatiron Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 304 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher


Beauregard "Bug" Montage: husband, father, honest car mechanic. But he was once known - from North Carolina to the beaches of Florida - as the best getaway driver on the East Coast. Just like his father, who disappeared many years ago.

After a series of financial calamities (worsened by the racial prejudices of the small town he lives in) Bug reluctantly takes part in a daring diamond heist to solve his money troubles - and to go straight once and for all. However, when it goes horrifically wrong, he's sucked into a grimy underworld which threatens everything, and everyone, he holds dear . . .

From a stunning new voice in fiction, BLACKTOP WASTELAND is a dazzling, operatic crime novel that holds up a cracked mirror to the American dream. The perfect page-turning read for fans of acclaimed writers such as Don Winslow, Attica Locke, Bill Beverley and Thomas Mullen.

My thoughts: I read a lot of crime fiction but never have I read a book that kept me as engaged as this one did. And not only did it have action, but it had heart. This is a book that should be on everyone's reading list - it for sure will be one that I will be talking about for a long time!

Right from the start, I was pulled into this book and I never felt that intensity let up. This book kept me engaged and completely invested in all the characters we meet, but most especially Beauregard "Bug" Montage. Here is a man trying to do the right thing, to stay true to his family and keep his past and those demons from getting out, but times are tough and when opportunity comes knocking it's hard to say no. Can you ever keep your past from your future? Is it possible to completely change who you really are? This is something Bug thought he had done, but once a getaway driver, always a getaway driver. The problem is, will be risk be worth the cost?

This book is dark, gritty and full of action. At times, it is a pure adrenaline run, and at other times, you feel the suspense and tension dripping off the pages as you are not sure what is going to happen next. It's as much a thrilling read as it is an emotionally charged one. You find yourself rooting for Bug to figure things out without doing too much irreparable damage to himself or his family. 

The characters leap off the pages in this book. They might not all be likeable, but they will be memorable. My favorite is Bug. His loyalty to his family is so evident and his internal struggle with what to do is palpable. I loved that he was such a take-charge guy. His desperation was causing him to make choices between who he was and who he wants to be and he finds that that line between the two is not as clear as he wants it to be.

This book is one that will stay with me for a long time. It's got so much to unpack and one that I think would make a fantastic book club pick. While it might not be a read for everyone, it certainly is one for those who can handle dark, gritty tough reads or who want to challenge themselves. I highly recommend picking up this won't regret it!


Review: Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz

Title: Jo & Laurie
Author: Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz
Published: June 2020, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Reads
Format: ARC E-copy, 384 pages
Source: Netgalley via @mbc_books

Bestselling authors Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz bring us a romantic retelling of Little Women starring Jo March and her best friend, the boy next door, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence.

1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration—museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!

But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo's desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart's desire or lose the love of her life forever?

My thoughts: This book is inspired by Little Women. I admit, I've never actually read the book, but have seen the movies countless times. Do I plan on reading the book - of course. I own a copy and have it sitting on my shelf but it's just one of those books I just haven't gotten around to yet.

I enjoyed this book. I found it to be charming and very in the spirit of the Little Women I had grown up with from the movies I watched. Maybe if I had read the book I would have felt differently, but I felt the authors weren't trying to rewrite the entire story but rather just give us a what if look at one portion of the whole. 

This is actually the second book I've read recently that takes a different look at Little Women, the other being Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra, which is a modern retelling of the story. It's fun having all these different retellings/re-imaginings of this wonderful classic and all it's saying to me is that I really need to read this classic and the sooner the better!


Thursday, July 09, 2020

Review: How to Save a Life by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke (audio)

Title: How to Save a Life
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Narrator: Timothy Andres Pabon
Published: July 2020, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 9 hours 12 minutes / 303 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - ARC Paperback via Kathleen Carter Communications

The bestselling authors of The Good Widow deliver a modern, suspenseful twist on Groundhog Day that asks the question: How far are you willing to go to save the life of someone you love? 

Dom is having a very bad day—one he literally can’t escape.

When Dom bumps into Mia, his ex-fiancĂ©e whom he hasn’t seen in almost a decade, he believes they’ve been given a second chance and asks her out. When Mia dies tragically on their date, Dom makes a desperate wish: to be given the chance to save her life. And when he wakes the next morning to the shock that she’s alive, he thinks his wish may have been granted. But day after day, no matter what he changes about their time together, she still meets a terrible fate.

Dom frantically searches for answers to save his beloved Mia and rekindle their former love. But the further he digs, the more obsessed he becomes, making him realize that slowing down time may be the only way to see things clearly. As he’s forced to confront the truth about himself and those he’s closest to, Dom vows that he’ll watch Mia die a thousand times if it means he can save her once.

My thoughts:  I adore Liz and Lisa's books...I've been a fan for quite some time and have even met the writing duo a few times in person. So of course, I was quite thrilled to get their latest book. But, I have to say, I was a little skeptical when I saw that it had a Groundhog Day theme...I'll be honest - that's not exactly my favorite movie BUT rest assured, I ended up enjoying the book despite it's similarities.

This book is more in style with the authors earlier books, but still with just a little hint of suspense that they have recently been writing. It's a refreshingly beautiful love story that reminds us that we don't always see what is in front of us as we are busy rushing around to get to the next thing. 

This writing duo has such a way of creating characters that you cannot help but completely fall in love with. As we relive day after day with Dom, it's hard not to become attached to him and want things to work out. I thought I had worked out how this book was going to end, but I was absolutely not prepared for the ending. 

This whole book is such a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed the entire journey. It's emotional, it's thought-provoking and it's inspiring. I highly recommend picking this one up - you won't be disappointed!

Audio thoughts: I listened to this book and thought Timothy Andres Pabon did a fantastic job with the narration. He really brought this book to life and gave each character their own unique voice. Being that the whole story is narrated from Dom's point of view, it made sense to have a male narrator and Timothy Andres Pabon was a great choice. His pacing and intonation were spot on and he really infused just the right amount of emotion and tension in his voice when needed. 


Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Review: The Golden Cage by Camilla Lackberg

Title: The Golden Cage
Author: Camilla Lackberg
Published: July 2020, Knopf Publishing Group
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

An exhilarating new novel from a global superstar--a sexy, over-the-top psychological thriller that tells the story of the scorned wife of a billionaire and her delicious plot to get her revenge and bring him to his knees.

Faye has loved Jack since they were students at business school. Jack, the perpetual golden boy, grew up wealthy, unlike Faye, who has worked hard to bury a dark past. When Jack needs help launching a new company, Faye leaves school to support him, waitressing by day and working as his strategist by night. With the business soaring, Faye and Jack have a baby, and Faye finds herself at home, caring for their daughter, wealthier than she ever imagined, but more and more removed from the excitement of the business world. And none of the perks of wealth make up for the fact that Jack has begun to treat her coldly, undermining her intelligence and forgetting all she sacrificed for his success. When Faye discovers that he's having an affair, the polished facade of their life cracks wide open. Faye is alone, emotionally shattered, and financially devastated--but hell hath no fury like a woman with a violent past bent on vengeance. Jack is about to get exactly what he deserves--and so much more. In this splashy, electrifying story of sex, betrayal, and secrets, a woman's revenge is a brutal but beautiful thing.

My thoughts: I've been a fan of Camilla Lackberg for years, having fallen in love with her Fjallbacka series, which is a police procedural series. While I haven't read all ten books yet, I was ecstatic to see that she had a new stand-alone coming out and thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to read it.

I loved this book! Right from the start it pulled me in and never let up. I'm always a fan of a good revenge story and this one put all other ones I've read to shame. This is one sexy, smart, over-the-top revenge story that maybe you've seen before, but never to this extent. And while I was trying to work out just what was happening, I finally just gave in to the enjoyment of the book and took it as it's that good and I just lost myself in it. This book is incredibly readable and bingeable - once you start reading it, you are not going to want to put it down, so don't start it thinking you are only going to read a few chapters.

I had such a love/hate relationship with the characters we meet. I admit I was a little ambivalent about Faye at first, but she really grew on me as I got to know her and I loved that the story flashes back in time throughout the book to her childhood, so you really get a good understanding of just who she is. It also gives us a good history of Faye and Jack's relationship, starting in the present and then flashing back to when they first got together. You can see the evolution of their relationship, which is important for later on.

I loved the relationships that Faye developed after her marriage falls apart, especially the female ones. Chris was always her rock and that whole storyline just gutted me. At first I wasn't sure why it was included, but it was needed. It speaks to Faye's overall character and her loyalty to those she loves.

I cannot recommend this story's got steam, it's got entertainment value, it even touches on some timely topics. This was a fantastic read and just further reinforced my love of Camilla Lackberg's writing. I'll be catching up on her Fjallbacka series as I wait to see what she comes up with next! 


Review: Side Trip by Kerry Lonsdale (audio)

Title: Side Trip
Author: Kerry Lonsdale
Narrator: James Patrick Cronin, Sarah Naughton
Published: July 2020, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 9 hours 53 minutes / 334 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - ARC Paperback via Kathleen Carter Communications

An unforgettable and breathtaking novel of love, loss, and the unexpected routes that life takes from Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale. 

With her deceased sister’s Route 66 bucket list in hand, California girl Joy Evers sets out on a cross-country road trip to meet up with her fiancĂ©, checking off the bullets along the way.

Singer-songwriter Dylan Westfield has a serious case of wanderlust and a broken-down car. Stuck at a diner between LA and Flagstaff, he meets Joy, his complete opposite. She’s energetic. He’s moody. She’s by the book. He’s spontaneous. She believes in love at first sight. He thinks love is a complicated mess. But Joy has a brand-new convertible.

They strike a deal. She’ll drive him to New York. He’ll pay for gas. Only three rules apply: no exchanging of last names; what happens on the road, stays on the road; and if one of them wants to take a side trip, they both must agree.

A heart-stirring love story that spans a decade, Side Trip explores what-if. What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?

My thoughts: Kerry Lonsdale is back with another new stand-alone that will keep you hooked from start to finish. I have loved her previous books, including her Everything series, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to read this new book and I definitely was not disappointed.

We all live with regrets. We all find ourselves asking that dreaded question, what if? Joy made a bad decision at the age of 13 and has been living with the grief and consequences ever since. Wanting to somehow make amends, if only to herself, she decides to fulfill her deceased sister's bucket list. And so begins the road trip that throws Joy's carefully planned world upside down.

It was so easy to end up caring for these characters as we get to know them. Both Joy and Dylan are at crossroads in their lives and are both carrying some heavy burdens. I loved that the story alternated between both their perspectives so we really get to know and understand both characters and why they are on their respective journeys. I loved the dynamics, and chemistry, between these two. Even though Joy had a carefully mapped out plan, life happens when we are busy living it and that could not have been more true on this road trip.

This book is all about forgiveness and learning to let go of what is beyond our control. I loved how pieces of the past from both characters are given out bit by bit at just the right times. It isn't revealed all at once, but rather piece meal so that we are eased into it and can see just how much these events have shaped our characters.

This book was great. As I've come to love, and even expect, from Kerry Lonsdale's books, this book was emotional, relatable and completely addicting. Even on audio - once I started listening, I could not stop! This book will definitely tug at those heartstrings for sure but will also have you laughing a few times, too. I cannot recommend this book enough - it's a great book to add to your summer reading or listening list!

Audio thoughts: I had the opportunity to listen to this book and it was so delightful. Both narrators really did a fantastic job with their sections and made this book come to life! Their attention to the feelings and emotions of the characters and their pacing was spot on and it really made for a great audio book. This story really lent itself quite nicely to audio and I enjoyed it very much.

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