Always With a Book

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reading Goals/Challenges 2018

This year, I have decided not to partake in the many reading challenges I have in the past. The reason for this being that I rarely, if ever, end up linking my reviews to these challenges, nor participate in any of the other activities they may have. I have been using those challenges mainly as a way of tracking what I have been reading - How Many Books I've Read, Library Books, E-books, New Authors, Audio Books - and I can surely do that without the added work of updating all the challenge pages. 

This year, I've decided to officially join one challenge, which is more about reading goals than anything else. I am joining the #UnReadShelfProject2018 where I hope to read more of the books I have already sitting on my shelf. As of Janaury 1, 2018, I had over 200 unread books sitting on my shelf...this is insane!!! And that doesn't even take into account all the e-books and audio books I have that are unread/unlistened to. But for this year, I am solely focusing on my print books.

While there are no hard-set rules with this, I have given myself some guidelines:

  • Read more of my own books - I am not setting a specific number, because then I am destined to fail. I am just going to make more of a conscious effort to read my own books.
  • Try to limit book buying - I am not banning myself from buying new books, rather I am going to be more mindful of what I buy. 
  • Revisit my list of unread books and determine if I still want to even read them - it is quite possible that some of the books I have sitting on my shelf are no longer of interest to me...reading tastes do change after all!  

I think these guidelines will help me to be successful in this challenge. At the end of the year, if I have gotten my number down even a little bit, I'll be happy. 

So, do you have a ton of unread books sitting on your shelf or do you read the books you buy right away?  

Let me know if you are participating in this challenge - we can cheer and motivate each other!

Short & Sweet Review: Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich (audio)

Title: Hardcore Twenty-Four
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #24
Narrator: Lorelei King
Published: November 2017, Random House Audio
Length: 6 hours 8 minutes
Source: Library

Janet Evanovich’s #1 New York Times bestselling sensation Stephanie Plum returns in her twenty-fourth thriller as mutilated corpses litter the streets of New Jersey...
Trouble comes in bunches for Stephanie Plum. First, professional grave robber and semi-professional loon, Simon Diggery, won’t let her take him in until she agrees to care for his boa constrictor, Ethel. Stephanie’s main qualification for babysitting an extremely large snake is that she owns a stun gun—whether that’s for use on the wandering serpent or the petrified neighbors remains to be seen.

Events take a dark turn when headless bodies start appearing across town. At first, it’s just corpses from a funeral home and the morgue that have had the heads removed. But when a homeless man is murdered and dumped behind a church Stephanie knows that she’s the only one with a prayer of catching this killer.

If all that’s not enough, Diesel’s back in town. The 6-foot-tall, blonde-haired hunk is a man who accepts no limits—that includes locked doors, closed windows and underwear. Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli isn’t pleased at this unexpected arrival nor is Ranger, the high-powered security consultant who has his own plans for Stephanie.

As usual Jersey’s favorite bounty hunter is stuck in the middle with more questions than answers. What’s the deal with Grandma Mazur’s latest online paramour? Who is behind the startling epidemic of mutilated corpses? And is the enigmatic Diesel’s sudden appearance a coincidence or the cause of recent deadly events?

***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: Do you ever continue with a series just to see how it will end? I think that's where I am with the Stephanie Plum series. At book 24, I feel like it's the same old, same old - Stephanie gets herself into crazy predicaments with Lula, some hi-jinx ensue, they eventually capture who they need to, and along the way, she ends up blowing up a car or two, with Ranger coming to her rescue as always. Does anyone else feel this way? And yet, I can't abandon this series until I know how it's going to end. Who is she going to end up with?

And speaking of romance, the love triangle is still going strong - Morelli and Ranger, Ranger and Morelli. Though, this time around, there was a new guy added to the mix - Diesel was staying at Stephanie's apartment because he was involved in a case in the area and there is definitely some chemistry there, too. But much longer can this be drawn out? 

I think what makes the series is the crazy humor, and that comes not only from Stephanie and Lula, but from Grandma Mazur. She is hands down one of my favorite characters ever! As Stephanie describes her in this book, "she is a hoot!" I can't agree more!!! She definitely keeps me coming back - that and knowing that these books are pure mindless escapism.  

This one is filled with zombies, snakes and headless corpses...not my favorite things to read about, but the humor and the characters are what made it tolerable. So, are you sticking with this series to the very end or have you already bailed?

Audio thoughts: I just love Lorelei King and her narration of this series. Her enthusiasm for the characters and her unique voices is consistent from book to book, and as an avid audio book listener and avid series listener, I really appreciate that. This is just a fun book, and series, to listen to and Lorelei King makes it that much better!


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard

In a little over a week, Paula Treick DeBoard's latest novel, Here We Lie, comes out, and I'm pleased to offer you, my readers, a chance to win a copy! I've already read the book - it's amazing!!! - and will be posting my review on publication day (January 30). You can see what others have to say below and then be sure to enter the giveaway below!!!

Title: Here We Lie
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
Published: January 2018, Park Row Books
Format: Paperback, 368 pages

A riveting novel about how the past never stays in the past, from the critically acclaimed author of The Drowning Girls and The Mourning Hours .

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. But in 1999, Megan and Lauren become college roommates and, as two young women struggling to find their place on campus, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship. The two quickly become inseparable, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before their senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. The weeks go by, filled with fun and relaxation, until late one night at the end of the vacation, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of the girls' friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, in the midst of a political scandal, Megan finally comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth about Lauren's family and threatening to expose their long-buried secrets.

In this captivating and moving novel of domestic suspense, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the power of friendship and secrets and shows how betrayal can lead to disastrous, and deadly, consequences.

Early Praise:

"DeBoard does a wonderful job creating her realistic and flawed characters, giving even secondary characters a rich backstory and a haunting sense of intrigue. This story particularly resonates now, in the throes of the #MeToo movement." --Booklist

"A wrenching tale of broken friendship and shattered dreams." --Kirkus Reviews

"With this story of two very different young women, DeBoard portrays the lies that people tell to find acceptance and the terrible acts that powerful people casually commit." --Publishers Weekly 

"Nuanced and complex... At its heart, Here We Lie examines the seemingly unbreakable bonds of both friendship and family, and the lengths one will go to take care of their own. Compulsively readable!" --Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year and The Blackbird Season

"From her riveting first chapter, DeBoard casts a line back in time and reels an unlikely college friendship ever closer to the novel's inevitable conclusions. An absorbing exploration of how we attain personal power and the consequences of wielding it." --Kathryn Craft, award-winning author of The Far End of Happy and The Art of Falling

"... a mesmerizing tale of two former best friends and one shocking secret. Suspenseful and evocative, with pitch-perfect prose and pacing, Here We Lie is a story that resonates long after the last word. An engrossing read." --Kimberly Belle, bestselling author of The Marriage Lie

"Here We Lie takes you on a remarkable journey of two girls who learn, together and alone, to decide who they will ultimately be--it is at once observant, devastating, and thoroughly satisfying." --Emily Carpenter, author of The Weight of Lies and Burying the Honeysuckle Girls


Giveaway Details -- (US/Canada Only)
Thanks to the author,  one reader will win a copy of Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter by January 27.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to US/Canada residents only and ends January 27th.

Good Luck!!!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Blog Tour & Review: The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley (audio)

Title: The Pearl Sister
Author: Lucinda Riley
Series: The Seven Sisters, #4
Narrator: Stephanie Racine, Rehanna MacDonald
Published: November 2017, Whole Story Audiobooks / January 2018, Atria Books
Length: 19 hours 54 minutes / 528 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - ARC E-copy via Netgalley via Publisher

From the breathtaking beaches of Thailand to the barely tamed wilds of colonial Australia, The Pearl Sister is the next captivating story in New York Times bestselling author Lucinda Riley’s epic series about two women searching for a place to call home.CeCe D’Apli├Ęse has always felt like an outcast. But following the death of her father—the reclusive billionaire affectionately called Pa Salt by the six daughters he adopted from around the globe—she finds herself more alone than ever. With nothing left to lose, CeCe delves into the mystery of her familial origins. The only clues she holds are a black and white photograph and the name of a female pioneer who once traversed the globe from Scotland to Australia.

One hundred years earlier, Kitty McBride, a clergyman's daughter, abandoned her conservative upbringing to serve as the companion to a wealthy woman traveling from Edinburgh to Adelaide. Her ticket to a new land brings the adventure she dreamed of…and a love that she had never imagined.

When CeCe reaches the searing heat and dusty plains of the Red Centre of Australia, something deep within her responds to the energy of the area and the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people, and her soul reawakens. As she comes closer to finding the truth of her ancestry, CeCe begins to believe that this untamed, vast continent could offer her what she’s always yearned for: a sense of belonging.

My thoughts: Without a doubt, this series is going down as one of my favorites! This is the latest installment, book 4, in Lucinda Riley's The Seven Sisters series and with each subsequent book, I fall more in love not only with the D'Apliese family, but also with Lucinda's writing. It is magical and just pulls you into the story so that you don't want to put the book, or audio, down until you have reached the last page. I keep saying with each new book that it's my favorite, but really - they all have been so good that I don't know if I can just single out one over the overs.

I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about reading a whole book devoted to Cece - she hasn't been the most likeable of the sisters in the previous books - and so I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this one. Well, I needn't have worried. Lucinda Riley does such a great job of writing Cece's character here -we see her come into herself as an individual person, instead of always relying on Star. Yes, she is a bit out of sorts in the beginning, but we do see some incredible strength of character and personal growth in her throughout this book. Her story is one of hope, yet also filled with a bit of sadness, but it all works to create an engaging and addicting read.

I love the dual narration in these books. So far, I have found myself equally drawn to both time lines. That doesn't always happen, as usually one is stronger or more engaging than the other. Not in the case of Lucinda's writing - she makes both equally captivating. I love that as the girls are learning about their past, we get such a rich story out of it, and in this case in particular, quite a history lesson. 

We are now just past the halfway point in this series and there are still so many unanswered questions. I like that there is this big mystery surrounding Pa Salt. Who was he and why did he adopt all these girls? And, who is the seventh sister? I keep hoping we will get answers in each book, yet I find that not only do  we not, but the mystery itself seems to get bigger and bigger. I love this - it makes me want to read the series even more and possibly at some point in the future, reread it to see if there were clues along the way! But for now, I am just savoring each book - and loving the attention to detail and being able to explore and learn about different parts of the world.

Audio thoughts: I adore listening to this series on audio - I just get lost in the narration and have found so far, that each and every narrator has done a great job telling the story. In this case, both narrators - Stephanie Racine and Rehanna MacDonald - were new to me, so I didn't know what to expect as far as their narration skills. But, I needn't have worried - I thought they did a great job and I felt that having two different narrators, one for the present and one for the past, really did make sense. 

Books in this series:
  1. The Seven Sisters
  2. The Storm Sister
  3. The Shadow Sister
  4. The Pearl Sister
  5. The Moon Sister - Due out in UK 11/18 (?), not sure when in US

About the Author:  
Lucinda Riley is the #1 internationally bestselling author of sixteen novels, including Hothouse Flower and The Seven Sisters. Her books have sold more than ten million copies in over thirty languages. 

Lucinda divides her time between West Cork, Ireland, and Norfolk, England with her husband and four children.   

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

The Pearl Sister  by Lucinda Riley 
January 23, 2018 
Hardcover ISBN: 9781501180033 
E-book ISBN: 9781501180057


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig (audio)

Title: The English Wife
Author: Lauren Willig
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik
Published: January 2018, MacMillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 14 hours 52 minutes / 384 pages
Source: Audio - Personal copy via Audible / Print - ARC Paperback via Publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.
Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips? 

My thoughts: I have read a few books by Lauren Willig and always find myself completely myself completely wrapped up in her stories. This latest one is set during the Gilded Age and is scandalous and suspenseful all at the same time. 

I love the characters that Lauren creates - they are all so well-drawn that you can't help but find yourself completely engaged in their tale. In this case, there are some really good characters and then there are some deliciously devious characters - and at times, it is sometimes hard to figure out which side they are on. Let's just mention the mother here...she's overly domineering and hard to like, but she is quite memorable for sure!

The story is told from two timelines that end up converging at the end. I loved this - I found myself equally engaged in both and desperately trying to figure out how and where it would all end up. The mystery really keeps you on your toes, especially as clues are slowly revealed. The added family secrets only heightened the suspense and give the story more depth. This is definitely a case of things not quite being what they seem. 

I really enjoyed this book - I found myself completely captivated from the beginning and loved the setting. I even learned a few things about the area where the story took place. I never knew that "Kill" was the dutch word for river...hence all the names of the towns along the Hudson River that have the name "Kill" in it - Peekskill, Fishkill, etc. I've lived in NY almost all my life and I never knew that. That's what I love about reading in general and reading historical fiction specially - I feel I always learn something new!

Audio thoughts: Despite the fact that I had a print copy of this book, I decided to go the audio route and what a great decision that was. While Barrie Kreinik is a new narrator to me, and I wasn't sure what to expect from her, I need not have worried - she did a great job narrating this book. She gave each character their own unique voice and the characters just came alive under her narration. This was a great book to lose oneself in and the audio did just that for me.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review: Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake

Title: Just Between Us
Author: Rebecca Drake
Published: January 2018, St. Martin's Griffin
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

Four suburban mothers and friends conspire to cover up a deadly crime in this heart-stopping novel of suspense in the tradition of Lisa Scottoline and Lisa Unger.

Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.

Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengths they’ll go to in order to help a friend.

Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Rebecca Drake and it definitely won't be the last. This twisty domestic thriller kept me on my toes the entire was engaging and once I started it, I had a hard time putting it down.

This is a tale about four women who have become friends because of their children. It is told from the perspectives of each of the women - and while this is a little confusing at the beginning, trying to keep each of them separate, it eventually becomes clear who is doing the narrating at different points. What I did find intriguing, though, is that as we are getting to know each of the women, it that there are hints at an underlying darkness in each of the women's past...this is what kept me reading long after my bedtime! I needed to know what it was they were hiding.

Two questions kept circling my mind as I read this - Just how far would you go for your friends? and How well do you really know your friends? As the story progresses and we start to uncover those secrets, I became more and more addicted to the story. I loved that along the way, there were these little "bombs" dropped - just little pieces of the puzzle that were revealed when you least expected them to be. This kept me guessing as to what was really going on - my brain was going into overdrive each time something new popped up.

The suspense builds slowly and the pace moves along at a good clip. The twists and turns really keep everything on edge - though I will say I did figure out one part before it was revealed. But this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book...I think it only heightened my thinking while I was reading. And I think the best part of this book is that it definitely didn't go where I thought it would. I thought I had it all figured out, but between the twists and turns and the secrets - it really keeps you guessing.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Short & Sweet Review: Private L.A. by James Patterson

Title: Private L.A.
Author: James Patterson
Series: Private #6
Published: February 2014, Little, Brown & Company
Format: Hardcover, 425 pages
Source: Personal copy

Private Jack Morgan investigates the disappearance of the biggest superstar couple in Hollywood.

Thom and Jennifer Harlow are the perfect couple, with three perfect children. They maybe two of the biggest mega movie stars in the world, but they're also great parents, philanthropists and just all-around good people.

When they disappear without a word from their ranch, facts are hard to find. They live behind such a high wall of security and image control that even world-renowned Private Investigator Jack Morgan can't get to the truth. But as Jack keeps probing, secrets sprout thick and fast--and the world's golden couple may emerge as hiding behind a world of desperation and deception that the wildest reality show couldn't begin to unveil. Murder is only the opening scene.

***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: For me, reading this series is just pure fun...the books are easy reads, fast-paced, filled with memorable main characters - characters that are well-developed and usually come with quite strong personalities, and the cases themselves are so intriguing, you find yourself glued to the pages until everything is solved. It's an adrenaline-filled read every time!!!

I liked that in this one, it's back to having Jack Morgan at the forefront - some of the other books in this series focus on other team members, especially those that are set in other countries. In this one, though, not only do we have Jack leading the investigations, but his twin brother Tommy is back and boy oh boy, their sibling rivalry comes out in spades here. I love that this thread periodically pops up and is further developed. I also liked that we got to know a little more about Justine, one of Jack's employees. The character development that occurs in this book is pretty good.

The book is filled with crazy twists and turns and you are never quite sure where things are heading. The short chapters lead to you binge-reading this book, as is the case with most of James Patterson's books, leading to that "just one more chapter" mentality, until you find yourself at the last page. 

Books in this series:
*This list contains both the Private home office books and the Private other offices books combined. Some lists keep these as separate. And some books have 2 different names, depending on where you buy them.

     1.  Private
     2.  Private #1 Suspect
     3.  Private Games
     4.  Private London
     5.  Private Berlin
     6.  Private L.A.
     7.  Private Oz / Private Down Under 
     8.  Private India: City on Fire
     9.  Private Vegas
     10.  Private Paris
     11.  Private Rio / The Games
     12.  Private Sydney / The Missing
     12.5  Bookshots - Private Royals
     13.  Private Delhi / Count to Ten
     13.5  Bookshots - Private: Gold


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