Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

Title: The Girl Before
Author: Rena Olsen
Published: August 2016, G.P Putnam's Sons
Format: Paperback, 314 pages
Source: Personal copy

In this powerful psychological suspense debut, when a woman’s life is shattered, she is faced with a devastating question: What if everything she thought was normal and good and true . . . wasn’t?

Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.

My thoughts: OMG...this book!!! As soon as I heard about this book,  I knew it was a book I wanted to read and guess what - I absolutely loved it!  But, I know there have been mixed reviews about this book - that's due to the heavy subject matter - this is a dark, twisted book. It's complex, layered and disturbing, but it's also a really good book if you can get past that.

I loved the way this story was told, but at the same time found it to be frustrating. The way the chapters alternated back and forth between the past and the present, slowly start to put together a complete picture of what really happened to Clara. But,the past is not told chronologically and that at times is frustrating as you never know where you are going to end up going back you never quite get all the answers - you still need to fill a bit. Clever, very clever!

It would be so easy to dislike Clara, and there are so many times when I wanted to, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't. Why? It's so hard to put into words without giving any spoilers...but just know that this is a character that is complex. My opinion of her kept changing, just as Clara's confusion kept growing.  

This book is so cleverly crafted - it is just brilliant and as it all came together at the end - WOW...just amazing. Even though this book touched on some dark topics, the way it was told, the characters, the voice - all together to tell a thrilling psychological tale and I cannot wait to see what Rena Olsen brings us next! She is definitely an author to keep an eye on!!!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review: The Candidate by Lis Wiehl (audio)

Title: The Candidate
Author: Lis Wiehl
Series: Newsmakers, #2
Narrator: Devon O'Day
Published: October, 2016, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Length: 9 hours 19 minutes
Source: Publisher

How far would a candidate go to become President of the United States?

In covering the presidential election campaign, star newsmaker Erica Sparks notices that favored candidate Senator Mike Ortiz seems dependent on his wife to an unnatural degree. Celeste Ortiz is a brilliant and glamorous billionaire who—along with her best friend and confidant Lily Lau—has engineered her husband’s meteoric rise. The White House is within their reach. But the more Erica investigates the Ortizes’ strange relationship, the more intrigued she becomes.

Erica begins an investigation. But everyone material to her probe ends up dead. With each death, her foreboding grows. Is she next? And can she find out in time if the country’s beloved candidate is what he seems . . . or a threat to national security?

My thoughts: This is the second book in Lis Wiehl's The Newsmakers' series and I am really enjoying it. It was an interesting book to read during our election this year, though this book was certainly much more dark and cynical than things ever became in real life.

I love Erica and her go-get-em attitude. She is not afraid to go after what she believes in, despite the fact that it often puts her, and in this case her daughter's life, in danger. I loved the balance between the political intrigue and the media manipulation, especially knowing Lis Wiehl's background as legal analyst. It really does make you wonder just how accurate this portrayal really is at times.

While I tend to be a very unpolitical person, I found this book - a book that is all about a presidential election - to be completely captivating. I loved the political intrigue and found myself completely engaged the entire time. Perhaps because I knew it was fiction, perhaps because of the timing, perhaps because I love the series - I don't know, but this was a good book!

This is a fast-paced, suspenseful book. The mystery will keep you on your toes and Erica is one sharp cookie! She is dedicated to her job and believes in journalistic integrity all the way. I cannot wait for the next installment of the series and I love that seems nothing is out of bounds for Lis Wiehl...what will Erica Sparks be investigating next?

Audio thoughts: I really love the way Devon O'Day narrates this series...she just brings Erica and company to life! Her pacing and characterizations are spot on and the tension she adds to her voice leads to the overall suspense of the book. She is the perfect narrator for this series and I hope she continues for as long as this series goes on!

Books in this series:
  1. The Newsmakers
  2. The Candidate
  3. The Separatists - due out June 2017 


Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner (audio)

Title: Missing, Presumed
Author: Susie Steiner
Series: DS Mannon, #1
Narrator: Juanita McMahon
Published: June 2016, Random House Audio
Length: 12 hours, 57 minutes
Source: Library
Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

My thoughts: This is the first book in Susie Steiner's DS Manon series and I really enjoyed it. When I first picked it up, I had no idea it was the first book in a series - I had just seen it around the blogosphere, so I put it on reserve at the library and thought I would give it a shot - and I'm so glad I did! I love finding new authors/series to get hooked on!

This book is the type that leaves you with so many questions as you make your way through it - both having to do with the case and about the characters themselves! I loved the change in point of view and how we really get to know quite a few of the characters - their inner minds, so to speak. This sort of sets it apart from some of the other books in a way, and I liked that. We hear from not only Detective Manon, but also Davy, Manon's partner; Miriam, the missing girl's mother; Helena, Edith's best friend, and Edith, the missing girl. 

I really liked DS Manon - she's a strong female character, yet she's flawed and troubled at the same time. This makes her so much more relatable. I loved getting to see the personal side of her - her forays into internet dating and all that go with it. This again makes her more real. 

This was an interesting case that the team was working on and I found it interesting to see all the dynamics come to play - the case starts strong, everyone involved, but after time, it starts to lose cohesion and focus. Susie Steiner does a great job relaying this in her book - making you as the reader feel the intensity start to dwindle on the case, after time has passed. 

I'm so glad that this is not the last we have seen of DS Manon - I think this is going to be a great new series and I'm so glad I found it when I did! Now I just have to be patient until the next book comes out!!!  

Audio thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Juanita McMahon narrate and I thought she did a great job with the narration. She did a great British accent and gave each character their own unique voice. She pacing and characterization was spot on. I really do hope she continues to narrate this series.

Books in this series:  
  1. Missing, Presumed
  2. Persons Unknown - due out Summer 2017


Sunday, November 27, 2016

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in November 25

This was not really a good week...not because I was sick again, but because I was dealing with another health issue. As some of you know, I get frequent headaches and boy oh boy, did I have some crazy headaches this past week! Bad enough that I didn't want or feel like doing anything. I ended up going to the eye doctor - I was due to get my eyes checked anyway, and it turns out my vision changed. I wear reading glasses and my prescription jumped quite a bit - definitely could be the reason for my headaches! So, I just have to wait for my new glasses to come in - oh and I had to get 2 pairs - one that will just be for reading and another pair that I will use while working on the times! Oh the joys of getting old :) 

November Goals:

  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend - 0
  • 30 minutes of active walking every day, M-F - Met
  • Eat mindfully/eat enough (esp. in important while training!) - Met
My training plan for the Challenge Walk MS I'll be doing in March of 2017:

* Put on hold until I get better!
  • Tuesday & Thursday: 4 miles
  • Saturday & Sunday: Distance walks (distances will vary)
  • Try to attend one yoga class a week

Here's how my week went:    

Nov 19:  7,646 steps
Nov 20:  7,813 steps
Nov 21:  7,961 steps

Nov 22:  8,864 steps

Nov 23:  7,359 steps

Nov 24:  3
,352 steps
Nov 25:  5
,019 steps

Total Steps: 48,014 steps

Audiobooks listened to this week (since I'm not much of a music fan, I listen to books while I walk): 
  • None :(

How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.

***In March of 2017, I'll be doing the CHALLENGE WALK MS in Savannah, GA. It is a three-day, 50-mile walk that tests your strength and your spirit, and makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of people with MS and their families.

To help me reach my fundraising goal, click here :)

Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:                             September:   
           5K  -  3                                  5K  -  9                                 5K  -  4
         10K  -  0                                10K  -  2                               10K  -  4
     February:                             June:                            October:

           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  5                                 5K  -  2
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  5                              10K  -  0 
     March:                                  July:                             November:
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  3                                 5K  -  4
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  1                               10K  -  0
     April:                                    August:
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  8
         10K  -  5                                 10K  -  1

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