Saturday, February 28, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 27

So, my 1/2 marathon is in 2 weeks and I'm not even stressing about it. Last year at this time I was a total wreck - I think because it was my first one. I guess because this will be the 3rd 1/2 marathon I'm walking, it's not as stressful, though I do admit I was not as diligent with my training this time around as I was last year. This winter has been brutal and it really is affecting me, more so than ever before. I don't want to leave the house if I don't have to and I know that's not good. Spring really needs to get here and get here soon so I can resume my outdoor walking, which is really what I prefer!
Here's how my week went:  

Feb 21:  rest day (3985 steps)
Feb 22:  rest day (4232 steps)
Feb 23:  impromptu rest day due to crazy busy work day (3871 steps)
Feb 24:  1 hour indoor walking (10,856 steps)

Feb 25: 1 hour indoor walking (11,445 steps)

Feb 26:  1 hour on treadmill at gym - 4 miles (13,582 steps)
Feb 27:  1 hour indoor walking (9,250 steps)

Audiobooks listened to this week: Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan, narrated by Kristin Kalbli. 
How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (audio)

Title: First Frost   
Author: Sarah Addison Allen   
Series: Waverly Family, #2   
Narrator: Susan Ericksen  
Published: January 2015, Brilliance Audio  
Length: 8 hours 34 minutes   
Source: Publisher  

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My thoughts: About two years ago, I listened to Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells and really enjoyed it. I found myself wishing there was more to the story, as I had really come to love the Waverly sisters, so imagine my delight when I head that SAA's newest book, First Frost, was the bringing us back to them!

I just love these characters - Claire, Sydney and Bay, who is now a teenager. The relationship between sisters and mothers/daughters, while not always as strong as it should be, is a bond that can never be broken. Each of these characters have struggles that are real and so it's easy to relate to them. The characters themselves are so fully drawn that at times it's easy to forget that they are just characters in a book. 

While there is some action in this book, including that of the mysterious stranger that comes to town to cause trouble for the Waverly's, this book is more character-driven than anything. It's about knowing and accepting yourself for who you are. Each of the Waverly's has had to go through this rite of passage, sometimes more than once, and we now witness Bay finding herself as she learns to accept her gift and figure out how to live alongside it. Even Mariah, Sydney's daughter, finds out what her gift is...though she is still so young.

My favorite part of this book is the way the magic is woven into the story. It seems to just enhance the storylines without overpowering them - it never feels as if it's too much, but rather you need to suspend belief just a little. It's the perfect little extra that makes these stories so good! And really, don't we all claim to have those special powers every once in a while - that special remedy that only you know about or that perfect way of calming down an infant that only you seem to be able to do?

Picking up this book was like revisiting old friends. While I had only read/listened to Garden Spells two years ago, I had no problem remembering these characters once I got into this book. It did help that First Frost picks up ten years after Garden Spells ends, and there is enough explanation of who's who in the beginning that if it's been seven years since reading the previous book or you've never read it, I think you'll be fine. I do hope, though, that this isn't the last we've seen of the Waverly's. The way the book ended gave me the glimmer of hope that just maybe there will be more...

Audio Thoughts: I just love listening to Susan Ericksen. She actually narrated Garden Spells, which I also listened to, and I felt like I was right back in Bascom, NC, as soon as this book started. Susan is able to give every character their own unique voice and infuses just the right amount of sass and emotion when needed. I'm really glad that she narrated this second book!

Books in this series:
  1. Garden Spells
  2. First Frost

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Last Spring, at BEA, I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Kubica and picking up her debut novel, The Good Girl. So of course, I was ecstatic when I heard it was one of the She Reads 'Books of Winter' selections. I read it over the summer and found it to be one of those books that I just couldn't stop thinking about. I've since recommended it to everyone I know! You can read my thoughts of the book here.  Today the book is being released in paperback.

Title: The Good Girl   
Author: Mary Kubica          
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA  

"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is one of the She Reads "Books of Winter" reading selection picks. 
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Winter" selections. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag (audio)

Title: Ashes to Ashes    
Author: Tami Hoag   
Series: Kovac & Liska, #1    
Narrator: David Colacci 
Published: November 2014, Brilliance Audio (re-release)   
Length: 18 hours 26 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

He performs his profane ceremony in a wooded Minneapolis park, anointing his victims, then setting the bodies ablaze. He has already claimed three lives, and he won’t stop there. Only this time there is a witness. But she isn’t talking.

Enter Kate Conlan, former FBI agent turned victim/witness advocate. Not even she can tell if the reluctant witness is a potential victim or something more troubling still. Her superiors are interested only because the latest victim may be the daughter of Peter Bondurant, an enigmatic billionaire. When Peter pulls strings, Special Agent John Quinn gets assigned to the case. But the FBI’s ace profiler of serial killers is the last person Kate wants to work with, not with their troubled history. Now she faces the most difficult role of her career—and her life. For she’s the only woman who has what it takes to stop the killer . . . and the one woman he wants next.

My thoughts: I only started reading (or in this case listening to) Tami Hoag a few years back and I have to say I really enjoy her books. I had been sent her short story, The 1st Victim, which was a prequel to her novel, The 9th Girl. Little did I know that these two books were part of a series that she was coming back to after a long absence. Enjoying both of them, I promised myself I would go back and pick up the earlier books when I had the chance. Fortunately for me, Brilliance Audio happened to re-release the audio for the first two, so I snatched them up via Audible and now I'm just hoping they will be doing the same for the third one.

I will say with this book, I was a bit confused at first, because I went into the book knowing it's the first in the Sam Kovac/Nikki Liska series, but felt that they really weren't front and center the whole time. Kate Conlon and John Quinn, in my opinion, really seemed to get more focus than Kovac and Liska. That's not to say that Kovac and Liska weren't part of the book, because they certainly were, they just seemed to be more like supporting characters than main ones. And, I really liked Kate and Sam - they had a history prior to this book and due to the case they are all working on, are brought back together. They have serious chemistry and I'd love to see them continue in a series of their own.

The case itself is pretty intense and gruesome, and there are plenty of twists and turns throughout. It's fast-paced with lots of action and, being the first in the series, plenty of character development. The suspense builds nicely, but at times is ramped up and each time I thought I had figured out who the Cremator was, another development popped up to change my mind. I love books like that, where I am constantly kept on my toes. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the next two books are set up and I'm also curious if Kate and Sam appear in any future books...I guess I'll have to read on to find out!

Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to David Colacci narrate a book and I thought he did a fantastic job with this book. He was able to give each character their own unique voice and even did a fairly good job with the female characters - not being overly dramatic when emotion was needed. I'm excited he's narrating the second book in this series and really hope he does the third if Brilliance re-releases it.

Books in this series:
       1.   Ashes to Ashes
       2.   Dust to Dust
       3.   Prior Bad Acts
       3.5   The 1st Victim
       4.   The 9th Girl


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Post #60 (2.22.15)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. I'm also going to link this up with Sheila's It's Monday post over at Book Journey  

Oh winter, you certainly are digging your heals in! We got another 6 inches last night, and while it's supposed to warm up today - close to 40 degrees, it's only going to drop again tonight to frigid temps this week. I am definitely counting the days until the spring!

Have a great week everyone!!!
Last week on the Blog:                        

* Review: Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker  
* Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
* Short & Sweet Reviw: Anything But Love by Beth Ciotta
* Review: The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 20

Books Read:            
* One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis (library book)  
* A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor (review book/audio book) 
* The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery (review e-book)    

Currently Reading:            
* Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon (review book)  

* Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips (audio book)

Books Up Next:                   

* Disarming Detective by Elizabeth Heiter (review e-book)
* Mrs. Grant & Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini (review book)

Recent Giveaway Winner:                  
* Susan Mallery's California Dreamin' Prize Package ...Dixie-Lee Campbell

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag
* Book Spotlight: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
* Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
* Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
* Review: One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

Book Haul:           
For Review:
* The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell (courtesy of Publisher) 

* Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips (audio book courtesy of Publisher)
* Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan (audio book courtesy of Publisher)
* Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman


Saturday, February 21, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 20

This wasn't the greatest week - my work schedule was very hectic, so instead of working from home most of the week, like I usually do, I was out at meetings and then helping with testing all week. Needless to say, it really screwed up my schedule and so I didn't get as much walking in as I would have liked, nor did I make it to the gym this week. This week coming up isn't looking too promising either as it's going to be another repeat of this past week. Oh well, will just have to make the best of it.
Here's how my week went:  

Feb 14:  rest day (5965 steps)
Feb 15:  rest day (2781 steps)
Feb 16:  1.5 hours indoor walking (12,579 steps)
Feb 17:  1 hour indoor walking (10,295 steps)

Feb 18: 30 minutes indoor walking (5,390,228 steps)

Feb 19:  45 minutes indoor walking (7,494 steps)
Feb 20:  1 hour indoor walking (11,831 steps)

Audiobooks listened to this week: Finished up A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor, narrated by Nicola Barber. 
How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen (audio)

Title: The Perfect Witness   
Author: Iris Johansen      
Narrator: Elisabeth Rodgers  
Published: September 2014, Brilliance Audio  
Length: 10 hours, 34 minutes   
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

She had the perfect life.
She had the perfect cover.
She was the perfect witness.
Until they found her.

When Teresa Casali was young she discovered she had a strange gift:  the ability to read people’s memories.  But the gift seemed more like a curse as her mob boss father used her to gain the upper hand in his world of corruption and violence.  Exposed by her own family to the darkest impulses of mankind, Teresa is alone and unprotected.  She realizes that if she is to survive, she has to run.

Out of nowhere, or so she believes, a man by the name of Andre Mandak appears. He kills her pursuers—but that’s not nearly enough for Teresa to trust him. It is his promise to get her into Witness Protection, along with his mind-blowing ability to help her control her gift before it consumes her, that convinces Teresa Casali to become Allie Girard. Living a normal life with a new family, she shuts the door to the past …although Mandak is clear: when the time is right, he too will benefit from her powers.

For years Allie flourishes …until the day her cover is blown and the truth comes tumbling out.  Once again she is on the run, with her own life and those of her loved ones at stake.  But this time she will not be a pawn.  This time she will use her finely honed gift to end the threat that began with her family’s betrayal. From perfect target to perfect witness, Allie Girard is ready to take on the past even if it kills her.

My thoughts: I'm a really big fan of Iris Johansen, especially her Eve Duncan series and her newest spin-offs, Catherine Ling and Kendra Michaels, both of which were came out of the Eve Duncan series. Iris creates strong, kick a** female leads and you can't help but want more from them. I've also enjoyed quite a few of her stand-alones, but sadly, this one didn't quite make the mark for me.

I don't really know what it was about this book, but I never felt completely hooked on the story, which is unusual when it comes to Iris Johansen's books. Yes, there was plenty of action and there was a mystery, but I just couldn't get into it. I also had a hard time connecting to the characters and I definitely didn't see or feel the connection between Allie/Teresa and Mandak.

There was just something off about this book. I kept going with it to see if something would interest me, plus I got to the point where I just had to see how it would all come together, but I just never found myself completely invested. Since I listened to this book via Audible, I was able to listen to it at a faster speed than I normally would (2x) and in this case, I admit I definitely took advantage of that option. 

I'm quite sad I didn't love this book as much as I usually love her other books, but I can say without a doubt that this in no way deter me from picking up her next book. I will be counting down the days til her next release, Your Next Breath, the next book in the Catherine Ling series, which comes out in April.

Audio Thoughts: I just love listening to Elisabeth Rodgers narrate...she is one of my favorite narrators and she's done quite a few of Iris Johansen's books. While I didn't love the story, I did love her narration of it, if that makes sense. As always, she did a fantastic job with the voices, giving everyone their own unique voices and adding a sense of urgency or emotion when needed. I love I pick up a book Elisabeth Rodgers has narrated because I know I'm in for a listening treat!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Short & Sweet Review: Anything But Love by Beth Ciotta

Title: Anything But Love   
Author: Beth Ciotta    
Series: Cupcake Lovers, #3      
Published: October 2013, St. Martin's Press 
Format: E-book, 304 pages   
Source: Personal copy  


For Reagan Deveraux, Sugar Creek, Vermont, and the Cupcake Lovers are a dream come true: A cozy little town where family and friends come before everything else. She’s never experienced anything like it—especially not growing up with her mother, a fickle, fame-hungry heiress. But Rae’s plan to hide out in anonymity for a year until she can claim her inheritance—and her independence—changes with one kiss from gorgeous pub owner Luke Monroe.


Luke’s charm is legendary, but he’s never been a one-woman man. Until Rae captures his attention, that is, and then disappears. With a little help from a friend, Luke tracks her down—and unearths secrets almost too wild to be true, as well as the fact that Rae lied to him, and to all of Sugar Creek. Luke’s not sure if he can forgive her, but he definitely can’t forget her, and when she returns to save the Cupcake Lovers from disaster, he knows it’s his chance to get the truth—and get the girl, this time for good…
***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: I've said this before, but I'll say it again...I adore this series. I love the characters, I love the small-town setting and I love the romance. I also love all the cupcake recipes included at the back of the book!

Without a doubt, the romance in this book is my favorite so far in this series. I loved Luke and Rae's journey to their HEA, which was actually foreshadowed in the previous book, The Trouble With Love. But, it's here in this book that we see them really connect and start their romance. The problem is that each is not without their own personal demons and secrets.

In addition to Luke and Rae's story, we also get updates on the other residents of Sugar Creek. The Cupcake Lovers need help with their recipe book and the daycare center also needs saving. Who ends up coming to the rescue is quite surprising! And, the next romance is set up for the last book of this series - oh how bummed I am that this series is coming to an end with only one more book left to read.

Books in this series:

    1.  Fool for Love
    2.  The Trouble With Love
    3.  Anything But Love

    3.5  Some Kind of Wonderful
    4.  In the Mood for Love


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Title: The Violets of March   
Author: Sarah Jio       
Published: April 2011, Plume Books  
Format: Paperback, 296 pages   
Source: Personal copy   

A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

My thoughts: So I am quite late to the Sarah Jio fan-club as this is only my second book by her, but can I just say - I love her books, or at least I've been fortunate enough to have loved the two I've read - this and The Look of Love. Besides being quick reads (and who doesn't love a quick read!!!), they are simply beautifully written stories that you just find yourself getting lost in.

What I loved about The Violets of March were the characters. I felt so invested in Emily's story - I wanted her to find happiness after her life is turned upside down. When she goes to stay at her great-aunt's for the month, I felt like I was right there with her - the setting was so vivid and well-drawn. I also loved the dual-line narrative - this time using a journal to take us back in time. I admit, I'm a sucker for dual-line narratives when they're done well, and this one was definitely done very well! And I was equally invested in both Emily and Esther's story - each time the book switched from one story to the other, I wanted to go back to the other one. I just wanted to know more about both of them at all times! Usually I find that I'm more interested in one than the other, but this time I completely entranced in both stories.

I love when I get so wrapped up in a novel that my heart aches for the characters. That is how I felt about both Emily and Esther. The mystery kept me glued to the pages as did the promise of a budding romance for both women. There are a few twists and turns that keep the book from becoming predictable, but it is also quite moving and touching. It is beautifully written and at it's heart it is about forgiveness and love. 

I am definitely looking forward to picking up more books by Sarah Jio. I have Goodnight June on my shelf and will hopefully be reading that soon. If you are a fan, what is your favorite book of hers?


Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker (audio)

Title: Mercy Snow   
Author: Tiffany Baker      
Narrator: Christine Lakin  
Published: January 2014, Hachette Audio  
Length: 11 hours, 23 minutes  
Source: Library 

In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake.

June McAllister is the wife of the local mill owner and undisputed first lady in town. But the Snow family, a group of itinerant ne'er-do-wells who live on a decrepit and cursed property, have brought her -- and the town -- nothing but grief.

June will do anything to cover up a dark secret she discovers after the crash, one that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life, even if it means driving the Snow family out of town. But she has never gone up against a force as fierce as the young Mercy Snow. Mercy is determined to protect her rebellious brother, whom the town blames for the accident, despite his innocence. And she has a secret of her own. When an old skeleton is discovered not far from the crash, it beckons Mercy to solve a mystery buried deep within the town's past.

My thoughts: I've been a fan of Tiffany Baker ever since coming across her first book, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. Of course, I was thrilled when I found out that her latest book, Mercy Snow, was selected to be one of She Reads 'Books of Winter' picks. Because I've enjoyed listening to her previous books, I decided to go with the audio of this book and thought it was a great audio production.

What I loved about this book are the characters. They are so richly drawn and developed. You have this small paper mill town that is run by the McAllisters. They seem to think they are above everyone and everything, that rules don't apply to them. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have the Snows, who struggle to make ends meet. When a youth bus is run off the road with tragic results, of course, Zeke Snow is blamed because his broken down truck happens to be near the scene of the accident. But was he really responsible?

Shortly after the crash it becomes clear who really is responsible for the crash, but there are many secrets wrapped up in this that are slowly revealed throughout the rest of the book. And these secrets have many repercussions on the residents of Titan Falls. 

The three women that the story focuses on are June McAllister, Mercy Snow and Hazel, the bus driver's wife. Each woman is fiercely independent and a force to be reckoned with in her own right. They are certainly not someone you want to mess with. These are women you just want to read more about -  you get captivated and entranced by their tales - and not necessarily because they are all good characters because they are certainly not. But that's what I love about a good book - there's a mix of good and bad characters. In this case, the good characters aren't all good and the bad ones aren't completely horrific. 

This was such a great book and as is typical with Tiffany Baker's books, it contains just a touch of magic, which I have come to love. It's not too much and, in my opinion, just gives it that little extra that makes the book stand out.

Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Christine Lakin narrate and I really enjoyed listening to her. She gave all the characters their own unique voice, adding the necessary emotion when necessary. She really had me engaged and I had a hard time walking away when I needed to do something else. I can still hear her voice and her characters in my head as I think of this book and I am definitely going to be looking to see what else Christine Lakin has narrated.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker is one of the She Reads "Books of Winter" reading selection picks. 
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Winter" selections.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Sunday Post #59 (2.15.15)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. I'm also going to link this up with Sheila's It's Monday post over at Book Journey's downright frigid today! We got some more snow yesterday, but not nearly as much as they were predicting...thank goodness! But, with the cold temps that we had last week, today and this week coming up, there is no chance of any of this snow melting any time soon :( At this rate, we'll have snow right through until Easter! Oh well. Valentine's Day was nice - hubby and I went to Philly for the day to visit his buddy at the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention. I don't have any tattoos, but it was really cool to see some of the tattoo artists from Ink Master and Best Ink in person (one of my guilty pleasures is watching those shows!). Earlier in the week, hubby had sent me a lovely bouquet of red tulips and purple irises (my favorites!) and a box of chocolate-covered strawberries, which we finished up last night!!!

Have a great week everyone!!!
Last week on the Blog:                      
* Review: The Magician's Lie by Greer MacAllister   
* Review: Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger   
* Blog Tour & Excerpt: The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery Plus Giveaway
* Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel  
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 13

Books Read:            
* The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (library book)  
* First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (review audio book)
Currently Reading:            
* One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis (review e-book)  

* A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor (review book/audio book) 

Books Up Next:                   

* White Gardenia by Belinda Alexandra (review e-book)
* The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan  Mallery (review e-book)

Current Giveaway:                  
* Susan Mallery's California Dreamin' Prize Package ...Ends 2/18/15

Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
* Review: Violets of March by Sarah Jio
* Review: The Perfect Witness by Iris Johansen
* Review: Anything But Love by Beth Ciotta
* Review: Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag
Book Haul:           
For Review:
* The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (courtesy of Publisher)  


Saturday, February 14, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in February 13

I finally made it to the gym this week - 2 days in a row!!! And boy did that feel good! The 1/2 marathon I'm training for (that I'll be walking not running) is in 4 weeks, so it's now crunch time...but I'm feeling pretty good about it. Now if I can just keep up the momentum I have going, all will be fine! I just need to remember to do some yoga a few times - more for the stretching, which I'm so bad at doing. Once the race is over, I'll get back to taking classes once or twice a week.
Here's how my week went:  

Feb  7:  rest day (3534 steps)
Feb  8:  rest day (2251 steps)
Feb  9:  1 hour indoor walking (12,136 steps)
Feb 10:  45 minutes indoor walking (8,790 steps)

Feb 11: 1 hour indoor walking (11,228 steps)

Feb 12:  Gym - 3.75 miles on treadmill - 1 hour (14,543 steps)
Feb 13:  Gym - 6 miles on treadmill - 1.5 hours (16,206 steps)

Audiobooks listened to this week: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen narrated by Susan Ericksen and A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor, narrated by Nicola Barber. 
How did your week go? You can find this week's link-up here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

Title: The Forgotten Girls    
Author: Sara Blaedel    
Series: Louise Rick/Camilla Lind (not sure what #)      
Published:  February 2015, Grand Central Publishing 
Format: ARC Paperback, 312 pages   
Source: Publisher  

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick-the new commander of the Missing Persons Department-is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a "forgotten girl." But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed-and hidden-in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

My thoughts: I was fortunate to pick this gem up at BEA last Spring and have been looking forward to reading it. I've been on quite a thriller/crime kick lately and this certainly fit the bill, plus it introduced me to a new series to get hooked on and, if you know me at all, you know how much I love reading series!

I loved getting to know Louise Rick. In this book, she's just starting a new job where she will be heading a special search unit for missing persons. She has a new partner, Eik Nordstrom, and, while they get off to a rather rough start, it's fun watching how their relationship develops during the book, especially when the case they are working on ends up having ties to Louise's past.

There are a lot of twists and turns throughout this book. The first case Louise and Eik are given is particularly baffling - the missing girl turns out to be someone who was reported to have died and issued a death certificate thirty years ago, as was her twin sister. Given that they now know who this woman is, the head honchos want to close the case and have Louise move on to the next case, but Louise feels there's more to it and starts to dig deeper. She even enlists her friend Camilla, a journalist, to help by digging into the history of the state mental hospital where the girls were wards.

While that case is ongoing, Louise and Eik stumble onto another case, that of a serial rapist, that another division is heading up. Louise ends up helping out on that case and finds that there are ties to her past which brings up a whole host of bad memories, and brings up some questions to an event that might not have been so innocent after all.

There are some developments that happen towards the end of the book that will have you eagerly awaiting the next one. As I was checking out where this book fell within the series, there was some discrepancy, so I'm not exactly sure - I do know that it's the first book that Grand Central has published and that they will be publishing the sequel to this book next year. I definitely will be keeping my eyes out for that!!! I did happen to find a copy of Call Me Princess at one of the Barnes and Nobles by me that has a phenomenal used book section - pure luck on my part!!! Now if I can only find the other books, I'll be all set!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blog Tour & Excerpt: The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery Plus Giveaway!!! (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

Today, I’m excited to share with you an excerpt from Susan Mallery's upcoming book, The Girls of Mischief Bay, the first book in her new series. There is also an amazing 'California Dreamin’ Prize Package' up for grabs so be check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post.  I am stop #12 on the excerpt tour, so if you haven't been following along, be sure to go back to the beginning as the book excerpts follow along in sequence.  You can find the full tour schedule here. I'll also be participating in the review tour for the book and my review will be up in early March. 

Title: The Girls of Mischief Bay   
Author: Susan Mallery    
Series: Mischeif Bay, #1    
Published: February 2015, MIRA  
Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, three very different women will discover that friends can become family, and that life is richer with sisters at your side.

Shannon finished the quarterly reports and hit the send button. She would meet with the CEO later to discuss the actual results, but she wasn’t worried. The numbers looked good.

She’d recently revamped the timetables and discounts in accounts payable. Cash flow was better, which meant the company’s expansion could be funded internally. When interest rates were low, taking out a loan made sense, but she had a feeling they were going to start climbing. Better to keep the money at home.

While a lot of finance people saw the products their companies produced as interchangeable “widgets,” she didn’t agree. Every company was different. The challenges to produce a physical good varied between industries and even within them. Cars were different from furniture and software was nothing like envelopes. Her attitude had been the key reason she’d been hired nearly five years before. Nolan could have hired any one of a dozen applicants, but he’d chosen her. She had a feeling her rant on the fact that manufacturing products shouldn’t be reduced to the pejorative term “widget” was a part of the reason.

She glanced out the big window by her desk. The sun had set a while ago. There was no hint of light coming from the sky—not counting the bright lights from around the office building, of course. She’d been at the office since six thirty and except for taking a class at Mischief in Motion during her lunch break, she’d pretty much been chained to her desk.

She saved her files and began to shut down her computer. She would stop for some Thai food on her way home and spend a quiet evening by herself.

Because she didn’t have a date. Certainly not with Adam, who had yet to call after their single meeting.

She’d been hopeful, she thought as she watched her computer move from saving to shutting down. Hopeful that he was man enough to accept her success, her career demands, to respect them, even. But he hadn’t and that meant he wasn’t for her. But being logical didn’t help the dull ache she’d learned to recognize as loneliness.

Sure there were friends she could call. With Eric so busy with his screenwriting, Nicole was often up for dinner out. Tyler came with her, which was fine with Shannon. She enjoyed hanging out with the charming, happy little boy. Or she could see if Pam and John wanted some company for an after-dinner glass of wine. No doubt there would be delicious leftovers for her to dine on.

But while she loved her friends, she wasn’t lonely because of them. Every now and then, she wanted to find “the one.” That ridiculous concept she’d been unable to shake, no matter how she tried. Sometimes Shannon worried that all the talk about pair bonding in humans just might be true.

She pulled open the bottom desk drawer and removed her handbag. She reached for her cell only to have it buzz with an incoming call.

The screen flashed with the icon she’d linked with the name. A skull and crossbones. Humorous, but also a warning. Because hearing from Quinn was never good.

She considered letting the call go to voice mail. Mostly because that was the safest action. He wouldn’t leave a message. No doubt she wouldn’t hear from him for weeks. But if she did answer…

She grabbed her phone and pushed the talk button.



That was all it took. A single word in that low, smoky voice. Her tension eased, her breathing slowed and between her legs she felt the telltale combination of hunger and dampness. She could talk all the successful-career, self-actualized crap she wanted, but at the end of the day, she was little more than Quinn’s bitch.

“Hey,” she murmured, even as she glanced at the clock on the wall and calculated how long it would take her to drive to Malibu at this time of the evening.

“Come over.”

Quinn didn’t ask. He instructed. He took charge. It was the same in bed, where he decided what they were going to do and who came first. She should have resented it, but she didn’t. There was something to be said for a man who took charge. She relaxed around him because there was no point in fighting the tide.

“I can’t stay,” she said—a feeble attempt to take control. But she’d learned the hard truth. Better to get what she wanted and escape than spend the night.

“No problem.”

There was a soft click. She knew the call had been disconnected.

She dropped her cell into her handbag, then crossed to the private bathroom that came with her C level title. After using the bathroom, she freshened her makeup and brushed her teeth. Then she left and headed for her car.

The drive to Malibu was simple. Head north on Pacific Coast Highway, which became Sepulveda and a half dozen other streets through Marina del Rey and Venice. She picked it up again in Santa Monica, then followed the road until she reached Malibu.

When people thought of that town they pictured beachfront mansions and star sightings. Both were plentiful, but much of the community was also old and a little worn around the edges. Tiny restaurants favored by locals nestled against the larger, more famous attractions, like Gladstone’s.

Shannon turned onto a small street. In one of those weird L.A. ironies, the most beautiful homes often had completely deceptive entrances. There was a garage, a secured gate and what looked like the beginning of a modest thousand-square-foot bungalow. All of which concealed eight or ten million dollars’ worth of luxury living and incredible views.

Quinn’s house was similar, although his gate kept anyone from pulling into the driveway. Shannon punched in the code. In that split second before the heavy iron gate swung open, she wondered if it would. Because she knew there would come a day when her code would no longer work. She often told herself that would be a good thing. Some days she even believed herself.

But it wasn’t tonight, she thought as she drove into the open garage and parked next to his Maserati.

She got out and walked inside.

Text Copyright © 2015 by Susan Macias Redmond

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Purchase the book at:


About  the author: New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has won the hearts of millions of readers around the world with books described as “immensely entertaining, intensely emotional” (RT Book Reviews), “hilarious” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), and “heartwarming” (Publishers Weekly).

One major retailer recently described her as “the queen of romantic fiction.” While she deeply appreciates the accolades of critics and booksellers, Mallery is even more honored by the enthusiasm of her readers and the word-of-mouth that catapults her toward the top of the bestsellers lists time and again.

Mallery lives in not-so-sunny Seattle with her husband and a toy poodle who makes her laugh every day and who’s not even a little bit impressed by her growing fame.

Author Links: Website | FacebookTwitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

The folks at Harlequin have put together this amazing prize package - the California Dreaming Prize Package - for one lucky reader here at Always With a Book:

 A Pacific blue beach towel
Pure Paradise body cream
Luxury moisturizing bath bar from the San Francisco soap company
An autographed copy of EVENING STARS by Susan Mallery (the first book with a character from Mischief Bay)
Flip-flop tea candle holder
Map of Mischief Bay
Handy bath mini-tote
Susan Mallery lip gloss
Susan Mallery 3D luggage tag
Susan Mallery pen

To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form by February 18th.  

Form closed

This giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only & ends February 18th.  
Good Luck!!! 

**Be sure to follow the rest of the tour HERE to find out what happens in the next excerpt and for another chance to win another prize package.
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