Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Title: The Mapmaker's Children   
Author: Sarah McCoy     
Published: May 2015, Crown  
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages   
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours  

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. 

   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Sarah McCoy and I absolutely loved it!!! I had heard good things about her other book, The Baker's Daughter, and have it on my ever-growing TBR list, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to be part of the tour for Sarah's latest book.

I found myself immediately hooked right from the very beginning of this book. Using a dual narrative to tell the story, we get Sarah's from the 1860s and Eden's in the present. Usually when reading these types of books, I find myself more drawn to one character than the other, but in this case, I was deeply invested in both characters.

I love reading about those unsung heroes from our past and feel that Sarah Brown is one of them. I don't remember learning about the role she played when it came to the Underground Railroad and loved reading about it here. She finds a way to help runaway slaves by putting maps into her drawings and hiding clues there. Then when that becomes too dangerous, she cleverly devises another plan.

Right away, I found myself connecting with Eden because I've been where she's been. I've gone through all that she's gone through and found myself asking the same questions...if no children, then what? And ironcially enough, while we did already have one dog, after our last attempt, we did get another puppy - so I could totally appreciate the Cricket storyline. Reading Eden's story was like looking in the mirror at times and while it brought up all that I experienced, it was also cathartic - here's an author that doesn't even know me and yet totally nailed what I went through.

I felt hope reading Eden's story and inspired reading Sarah's. Both, to some extent, are fueled by their infertility problems, but they choose not to make that the end of the world. This book is so much more than just about that, though in a small way, that does start the connection between the two women. They both come to learn, though, that motherhood can come in all forms.

This is a beautifully written book that perfectly weaves fact and fiction. I flew through the pages, wanting to read just a little more about each character, until I found myself at the very end. What I love most is that now I want to see if I can find out more about Sarah Brown - I love when books leave me wanting to delve deeper into a particular topic or person.

About the author: Sarah McCoy is the  New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Ricoand The Mapmaker’s Children (Crown, May 5, 2015).

Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an Army physician, and their dog, Gilly, in El Paso, Texas.

Authors Links: 
Website |  Twitter 

To see who else is participating in Sarah McCoy's The Mapmaker's Children tour, click here.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Spotlight: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Plus Giveaway!!!)

Last year, I read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd when it was first released, and I really enjoyed it! You can find my thoughts on the book here. On May 5 the book is being released in paperback and to celebrate, I am helping the publishers get the word out. I also have 1 copy of the book to giveaway - be sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post for details!  

Title: The Invention of Wings   
Author: Sue Monk Kidd        
Published: May 2015, Penguin Books   
Format: Paperback, 384 pages   

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Here are some goodies to whet your appetite further...

Book Club Recipes*
These recipes will be a delightful complement to your discussion.

Huguenot Torte
This quintessential old Charleston delicacy will provide the perfect complement to your book club's discussion.

4 eggs
3 cups sugar
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 large tart apples, cored and chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease two 17¼ x 11½ inch baking pans. Beat eggs in electric mixer on medium speed until frothy and lemon-colored, about 4 minutes. Gradually add sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt, beat until incorporated. Divide mixture between baking pans, and bake about 45 minutes or until crusty and golden brown. To serve, cut into pieces and scoop up with a spatula; stack on a large plate. Cover with whipped cream and a sprinkling of the chopped nuts.

Blackbird Cocktail
If your book club enjoys cocktails with their book discussion, try this delicious Blackbird while you talk about The Invention of Wings.

2 parts whiskey or bourbon
1 part half and half or light cream
1 part egg white

To make
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add all other ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass. Enjoy responsibly.

How to Brew a Perfect Pot of Tea
For your next book club meeting, brew tea the old-fashioned way using loose leaf tea and a beautiful teapot. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a perfect pot.

What you’ll need:
Loose leaf black tea. Darjeeling and Earl Grey are classic choices.
Add-ins: Milk, lemon slices, and sugar cubes (all optional)
Tea kettle
Teapot—you’ll need one large enough to serve all your guests
Strainer—if your teapot doesn’t have a built in strainer, you’ll need one
Spoons, cups, and napkins
Tea towel or tea cozy—you can also use a regular kitchen towel
Tray and sugar cube tongs (optional)

• If you’re using milk, start warming it on the stove. Warm milk is wonderful with freshly brewed tea!
• Warm your teapot by running it (and the lid) under very hot water. You can also warm your tea cups this way.
• Get your cups, strainer, and add-ins ready. Putting everything on a tray adds convenience and style.
• Add your tea to the teapot. Use roughly one teaspoon of tea for every 8 oz of water. Your tea packaging should also have instructions on how much to use. If your teapot has a strainer, add the loose tea into the strainer. If not, simply add the tea directly into the pot.
• When your water has reached a boil, turn off the stove and pour the water over the tea. Put the lid on the teapot and wrap it with a towel or a cozy to prevent cooling.
• Steep tea anywhere from 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.
• Pour the warm milk into your creamer or other pitcher. Remove the strainer from the tea (if applicable). If you’re using a separate strainer, place it over the tea cup before pouring the tea.
• Add milk or lemon to your cup first and then add the tea. Breathe deeply and enjoy with your Huguenot Torte or other treats! 

* From Penguin Online Book Club Kit - for more exclusive material directly, be sure to check this out. Click here for more details.


Are you an audiobook listener? Here's a clip of the audiobook, performed by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye, with an Author's note performed by Sue Monk Kidd herself; produced by Penguin Audio:

***I listened to the audiobook production of this book and thought it was an outstanding production!!!


Thanks to Annie at Viking/Penguin, one reader can win a copy of  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form by May 5th.

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends May 5th.

Good Luck!!!

Short & Sweet Review: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs (audio)

Title: Monday Mourning   
Author: Kathy Reichs    
Series: Temperance Brennan, #7     
Narrator: Michele Pawk  
Published: June 2004, Simon & Schuster Audio   
Length: 9 hours 44 minutes   
Source: Personal copy via Audible   

The secrets of the dead are in her hands.

The bones of three young women are unearthed in the basement of a Montreal pizza parlor, and forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan has unsolved murder on her mind as she examines the shallowly buried remains. Coming up against a homicide cop who is convinced the dead have been entombed on the site for centuries, Tempe perseveres, even with her own relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan at a delicate turning point. In the lab, the clean, well-perserved bones offer few clues. But when Carbon 14 confirms her hunch that these were recent deaths despite the antique buttons found near the bodies, Tempe's probing must produce answers quickly to stop a killer whose grisly handiwork has seen the light of day.
***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: As I've stated before, I'm slowly making my way through this series. I came to the series late, and am for the most part reading (or rather listening to it) in order, except for the fact that I got the latest book, Bones Never Lie, last year at BEA. Of course, I had to read that right away. In that book, there was mention of a previous case that I obviously hadn't read yet - until now! This is the book that Bones Never Lie references and now it all kinda makes sense. I do need to go back and glance through that book just to put it back in perspective, but I do think I now understand the background.

This book takes Tempe back to Montreal and has her working on quite a case. I just love the back and forth that goes on between Tempe and Claudel - his attitude really grates on her nerves and she gives it right back! The use of Carbon 14 was interesting - I vaguely remember hearing a little about this in the news, so it's interesting to see how it can be of use in cases like these.

And then there's the relationship angle. Ryan is acting all sorts of suspicious. Tempe is not sure what to do until he finally reveals all. How will this play into their relationship or will this be the end of them?

Audio thoughts: Another installment in this series, another new narrator...I'm kinda getting used to the fact that each book has a different narrator. It's just annoying that the narrator keeps changing, especially since I'm listening to these backs in quick succession...I get used to one narrator's voice, only to have to get use to another with the next book. But that's just a personal quirk. The audio production itself was done well and it was easy to follow along and know who was speaking as each character did have a unique voice. Michele Pawk even did a good job with the French accents and words.

Books in this series:

  1. Deja Dead                                12.  206 Bones
  2. Death du Jour                       13.  Spider Bones
  3. Deadly Decisions                 14.  Flash & Bones
  4. Fatal Voyage                         15.  Bones are Forever
  5. Grave Secrets                        15.5  Bones in Her Pocket
  6. Bare Bones                              16.  Bones of the Lost
  7. Monday Mourning              16.5  Swamp Bones
  8. Cross Bones                            17.  Bones Never Lie
  9. Break No Bones                    18.  Speaking in Bones - due out Jul 2015
  10. Bones to Ashes
  11. Devil Bones

Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Legacy: An Anthology by Various Authors

Title: Legacy: An Anthology    
Author: Various Authors    
Published: April 2015, Velvet Morning Press  
Format: ARC E-copy, 206 pages   
Source: Publisher  

What will you leave behind?

Long after we've left this world, our legacy remains. Or doesn't. Or remains only in the minds of those who knew us, those whose lives we've touched. Those we've written to, or about.

If you had a choice, what mark would you leave? How should people remember you? Should they remember you?

Fourteen authors sat down during the month of January 2015, shut out distractions of the outside world and wrote about the subject. The resulting fiction and nonfiction stories fill the pages of Legacy: An Anthology. The book includes stories from Kristopher Jansma, winner of the 2014 Sherwood Anderson Award for Fiction, New York Times best-selling author Regina Calcaterra and Canadian best-selling author Marissa Stapley among others.

Within these pages, there is laughter, pride and hope. There is romance and rock and roll. Certain messages are eerie, while others bestow a sense of peace. The collection, through the discerning lens of each writer, runs the gamut of the human experience.

My thoughts: I had the distinct honor to be approached by one of the authors, Jenny Milchman, of this anthology to read and review this on my blog. Now, while I don't typically read short stories, I was curious enough to take on this request. I have only read of that one author previously, but loved the premise of the book and even more, loved that this whole thing was spear-headed by a blogger who I follow and admire, Allison from The Book Wheel.

I loved the idea behind this anthology...the authors each wrote a piece, fiction or nonfiction, on what legacy meant to them. It's interesting how they each took the same topic and yet, approached it so differently. It also makes you think...what do you want your legacy to be? 

Some of the stories really stood out to me and I'm going to highlight my favorites: 

Apfelstrudel by Vicki Lesage
This is set during World War II and I love stories set during this time. It's centered around a young girl and her twin siblings who are suddenly sent away from their parents but do not know why. Year later, Edith, the older girl, learns the truth and finds that her mother did leave her with something. A sweet, touching story that I have not stopped thinking about.

Two Kinds of Legacy by Jenny Milchman
I actually had the pleasure of hearing Jenny speak recently at an author event where she had to read a personal essay. She actually read this one, so when I got to this piece, I was pleasantly surprised to already know it. As I was reading it, I could hear her voice in my head. I loved the message it leaves us: What kind of legacy do your actions leave? Jenny tells the story of how an event that happened to her in 6th grade shaped who she became. This one really makes you think about how your actions or words could have a lasting impact on someone else.

Gracie's Gift by Piper Punches
This is a beautifully heartwarming, yet heartwrenching, story about a grandmother and her granddaughter. They are working on a quilt that is to become a legacy. This story is about learning to let the past go, let go of the guilt that we tend to hold on to and to celebrate life. I'm a sucker for these types of stories and got goosebumps when I got to the ending.

These are just the stories that really captured my heart, but the others are just as compelling. If you've read Legacy, share with me what your favorite stories are. 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Sunday Post #69 (4.26.15)

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. 

One month from today, I will be heading into NYC for BEA 2015 (Book Expo America)...I cannot wait!!! This will be my second time going and I am getting very excited. My hotel is booked, and now I just need to start putting my schedule together. The author signing schedule just went up, so I'll be scouring over that to see which authors I want to make sure I see as well as which publishers I want to make sure I drop by to visit. It's a whirlwind few days but well worth it. If you're going, be sure to let me know so we can be sure to meet up at some point - I love being able to say hi to the people who I converse with on the blogosphere in person!

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

* Blog Tour & Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson   
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in April 24

Books Read:                  

* The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos  (audio book)   
* The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (review book)    
Currently Reading:            
* Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (mine)        

* Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs  (library audio book)

Books Up Next:                           

* At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (review book)     
* Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey (review e-book)
Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Legacy: An Anthology by Various Authors  

* Book Spotlight: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (with Giveaway!!!)
* Blog Tour & Review: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy   
* Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
* Month in Review: April 2015
Book Haul:      
For Review:
* Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear (courtesy of publisher)

* The Sound of Glass by Karen White (courtesy of publisher)
* I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster (courtesy of publisher) 
From Library:
* Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs (audio)


Saturday, April 25, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in April 24

So, I decided to take it easy this week. My back was bothering me (and for those that remember, I took a bad fall last year, landing on my tailbone and have had issues with it on and off ever since). Besides walking the dogs, I took a few easy walks outside, but refrained from anything too strenuous, including yoga. I'm not sure what aggravated it this time around, but luckily it seems to be doing better, so hopefully I can back to my regular exercise routine next week. But, I think I'll be visiting the doctor just to make sure nothing serious is going on!
Here's how my week went:  

Apr 18:  rest (7,088 steps)
Apr 19:  rest day (5,085 steps)
Apr 20:  Walking around aquarium with brother and niece (16,399 steps)
Apr 21:  8,414 steps

Apr 22:  15,175 steps

Apr 23:  12,646 steps

Apr 24:  12,032 steps
Audiobooks listened to this week - Finished  The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos, narrated by Abbie Craden & Arielle DeLisle. 

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (audio)

Title: The Bookseller    
Author: Cynthia Swanson    
Narrator: Kathe Mazur  
Published:  March 2015, Blackstone Audio / Harper (print)
Length: 11 hours 32 minutes / 338 pages  
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Publisher 

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It's everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

My thoughts: I think we all wonder at times what our life would be like if we had taken an alternate path...that ever present "what if" question. What if I had done this instead of that? What if I had gone here instead of there? Cynthia Swanson's debut novel tackles this and a whole lot more and it's a book that once you begin, you will have a hard time putting down.

I loved the premise of this book. Aren't there times in this world that we all wish our dreams were reality? Those dreams that seem so real, so vivid? Every time Kitty goes to sleep, she finds herself in another world, and known not as Kitty, but as Katherine. But each story line gives us clues as to who she really is. And what a great character she is. I just loved her. I loved the way we find out all the different facets of her life and what makes her her. She is charming and you just want to know what's going on with her. Why is she having these dreams and how is this all going to end?

This is a book that will make you think about the choices you have made in your life. What if you had made different ones? What impact would that have made? I remember having the same thoughts after watching the movie Sliding Doors, one of my favorite movies. This book is similar with that parallel story line, but will have you questioning which one is really real and each time you think you have it figured out, something will happen to cause you to reconsider.

This is one of the best books I've read this year and I will definitely be hanging on it to. I'm fortunate, once again, to have both a print copy and the audio version. Having listened to it this first time around, I think that next time - and there will definitely be a next time - I will read the print version. But in the meantime, I'll be watching Sliding Doors again soon and keeping an eye out for what comes next from Cynthia Swanson!!!

Audio Thoughts: I loved listening to this book on audio. Kathe Mazur did a fantastic job with the narration. The voices were great and she just pulls you into the story, making you want to do nothing but listen all day, until you finish it. She was the perfect voice for both Kitty and Katherine, making you really connect with her. It was a great audio production.

About the author: Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the midcentury modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th MoonKalliopeSojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel.

Authors Links: 
Website |  Twitter 


To see who else is participating in Cynthia Swanson's The Bookseller tour, click here.

  The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson is one of the She Reads "Books of Spring" 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 Spring" selections.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Sunday Post #68 (4.19.15)

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. 

Spring is here and I am loving it!!! We had a glorious week, weather-wise, and the dogs and I definitely took advantage of it by taking some extra walks each day. Today, hubby and I are heading into the city to meet up with his parents to go see The New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall...I've never even seen the Christmas show, so I'm very excited to see this one, especially since Derek Hough from Dancing With the Stars is in it!!! Hubby is less than thrilled to be going, but is being a trooper none-the-less :)

Have a great week everyone!!!
Last week on the Blog:                            
* Review: The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
* Blog Tour & Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert  
* Review: Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips
* Review: The Burning by Jane Casey  
* #FitReaders: Weekly Check-in April 17

Books Read:                  
* A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (review book)        
* Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs (library audio book)  
* The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (review book/audio book)        
* Legacy: An Anthology (review e-book)
Currently Reading:            
* Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (mine)      
* The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos  (audio book)

Books Up Next:                         
* At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (review book)   
* Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey (review e-book) 
Coming Up on the Blog:
* Review: Legacy: An Anthology by various authors
* Review: Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
* Review: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs  
* Blog Tour & Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Book Haul:      
For Review:
* The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy (courtesy of publisher)

* The Reckoning by Jane Casey (audio via Audible)
* The Last Girl by Jane Casey (audio via Audible)

* The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe (audio via Audible)
* The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos (audio via Audible)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#Fitbit Readers: Weekly Check-in April 17

It was such a nice week, weather-wise and the dogs and I definitely took advantage of that. We took more walks each day. They are loving that Spring is finally here!!!
Here's how my week went:  

Apr 11:  rest (4,678 steps)
Apr 12:  rest day (8,814 steps)
Apr 13:  5k on treadmill - 50 minutes (17,602 steps)
Apr 14:  1 hour indoor walking (16,152 steps)

Apr 15:  5k on treadmill - 50 minutes (18,134 steps)

Apr 16:  1 hour indoor walking (10,787 steps)
Apr 17:  1 hour yoga class (15,808 steps)
Audiobooks listened to this week - Finished  The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, narrated by Kathe Mazur. 

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

Review: The Burning by Jane Casey (audio)

Title: The Burning   
Author: Jane Casey  
Series: Maeve Kerrigan, #1   
Narrator: Sarah Coomes  
Published: May 2012, Brilliance Audio  
Length: 14 hours 53 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible 

A determined young police constable goes it alone against an enigmatic killer and her bosses in a series debut for fans of Sophie Hannah and Tana French
The Burning Man. It’s the name the media has given a brutal murderer who has beaten four young women to death before setting their bodies ablaze in secluded areas of London’s parks. And now there’s a fifth.

Maeve Kerrigan is an ambitious detective constable, keen to make her mark on the murder task force. Her male colleagues believe Maeve’s empathy makes her weak, but the more she learns about the latest victim, Rebecca Haworth, from her grieving friends and family, the more determined Maeve becomes to bring her murderer to justice. But how do you catch a killer no one has seen when so much of the evidence has gone up in smoke?

Maeve’s frenetic hunt for a killer in Jane Casey’s gripping series debut will entrance even the most jaded suspense readers.

My thoughts: This is the first full-length novel in Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series and I can tell you, I'm hooked! I have been on a thriller/mystery/crime kick lately and a foreign author kick to boot and this series fits both of those criteria. Because I am once again coming to a series late to the game, I happened to read the digital short story that came out after this was written but is really a prequel to the series. 

I loved the way this story is told - alternating between the points of view of Maeve and Louise, the friend of one of the victims of The Burning Man. Not only did this give us insight into Maeve and how she goes about doing her job, but it allowed us to get to know this one victim a bit more. But, as Maeve starts investigating, she begins to realize that things are just a slight bit off here. Is Rebecca really a victim of The Burning Man or is this the work of a copy cat?

The characters in this book are well-developed and engaging. Maeve is fun, witty and ambitious. She's the only female in a male-dominated field and constantly putting up with grief for being Irish. But, she's determined to move up in the ranks and works hard. Louise also proved to be an interesting character and I admit I looked forward to the parts that she narrated. I couldn't put my finger on it, but there was just something off about her. As the story progresses, each character sheds light on what really happened bit by bit, so that finally you get the full picture.

I'm looking forward to continuing with this series. I foresee Maeve becoming a favorite character of mine!!!

Audio Thoughts: Sarah Coomes is a new-to-me narrator and I thought she did a great job with this book. She was able to give each character their own unique voice and infuse just the right amount of empathy when needed. I'm quite excited to see that she narrates the whole series of Maeve Kerrigan books as I think I will be listening to them all! I love when the same narrator narrates the whole series - I like that continuity!!!

Books in this series:
      0.5  Left for Dead
      1.    The Burning
      2.    The Reckoning
      3.    The Last Girl
      4.    The Stranger You Know
      5.    The Kill


Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Perfect Fling by Carly Phillips (audio)

Title: Perfect Fling   
Author: Carly Phillips   
Series: Serendipity's Finest, #2   
Narrator: David Barker  
Published: 2014, Recorded Books   
Length: 8.5 hours
Source: Publisher 

In the picturesque town of Serendipity, New York, three siblings have grown up in the shadow of their proud and respected police chief father. But what do love, fate, and fortune have in store for the next generation of Serendipity's finest?

Assistant D.A. Erin Marsden is Serendipity's quintessential good girl. The daughter of the former police chief, she's never made a misstep, content with her quiet, predictable life...or so she thinks. Until Cole Sanders shows up with heated interest in his eyes and shadows in his past.

After seven years of deep undercover work in New York, Cole returns to town to help his aging father and find his moral compass again. Not to get involved with wholesome Erin Marsden. Even as a rebellious teen, he knew a girl like Erin was off limits. But neither can resist their off-the-charts chemistry, and a one-night stand brings complications neither expected.

Then a case puts Erin in a killer's crosshairs, and Erin succumbs to Cole's take-charge attitude. As a bodyguard, he's the best. As a lover, he's even better. But there's more than Erin's safety at stake. And Cole must forgive the sins of his past and prove to himself--and to Erin--that he's capable of the love and the forever she so desperately needs.

My thoughts: This is the second book in Carly Phillip's Serendipity's Finest series. I read/listened to this series completely out of order, which is very unlike me. I started with the first, but then had the opportunity to listen to the third and then got the second. Luckily for me, reading it out of order didn't really spoil anything, especially since I didn't read them back-to-back. With these books, we basically know right off the bat, who's going to end up with who. It's the journey that the book is all about.

This installment is Erin and Cole's story. Always known as the good-girl, Erin throws caution to the wind one night and has a one-night stand with bad body Cole. Weeks later, after little contact with each other, she finds out that one night is going to come back to bite her in the butt! But, that's not the only complication - suddenly, it seems she's being stalked and gets shot at. Finding herself needing a full-time body guard, it's only natural that Cole fill that role.

I love the way these two characters come together. A random hook-up starts the ball rolling, but that's only the beginning of their journey. Erin and Cole are as different as night and day and it's this contradiction that works so well for them. She's got a heart of gold, but get on her bad side and watch out! He may be known for his bad boy reputation, but when it comes down to it, he's completely unsure of himself and believes he doesn't deserve anything good in his life. Can Erin break down his barriers and show him how good they are together?

There's a lot going on in this book to keep you completely engaged besides the romance, including figuring out who exactly is stalking Erin and why. There's even a good storyline that involves Cole and his father that ended up being quite touching at the end. Of course there are appearances by the rest of the Marsden clan and some of the other Serendipity folks that you might have met if you read Carly Phillips' Serendipity series. 

Audio Thoughts: Once again, David Barker does a great job with the audio of this. I had listened to him narrate Perfect Together and ended up enjoying it, so I when I saw he was doing this one, I knew I was in a for another treat! He does a great job with the voices, even the female ones. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out to see what else he narrates.

Books in this series:

1.  Perfect Fit
   2.  Perfect Fling
   2.5  Perfect Stranger
   3.  Perfect Together


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (audio)

Title: Last Night at the Blue Angel   
Author: Rebecca Rotert    
Narrator: Andrus Nichols, Caitlin Davies  
Published: July 2014 Harper Audio / April 2015 William Morrow Paperbacks  
Length: 9 hours 42 minutes / 352 pages
Source: Personal copy via Audible / Publisher 

Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago, a city in transformation and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam but it is also home to some of the country's most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.

As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother's desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia's best friend, surrogate father and protector but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.

Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it's a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.

My thoughts: I actually received a copy of this book last Spring at BEA, but never got around to reading it, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to be part of the book tour for the paperback release of it. I decided to listen to the audio version of it and am so glad I did - I really enjoyed the book and the audio production was fantastic!

This is an emotionally charged book set in Chicago during the 1960s, a setting and era that I don't read too much about. Right from the start, the characters pulled me in and I found myself totally involved in their story, wanting things to go right for them when it seemed as if anything but that would happen. 

I loved how the book was told from the alternating perspectives of young Sophia and her ambitious mother, Naomi. Poor Sophia just wanted her mother's love and attention and all Naomi wanted was fame and stardom. Sophia has seen things no ten-year-old should see and is wise beyond her years. Lucky for her, she has other adults to give her the love she so desperately wants - Jim, Rita, and Sister Idalia. Naomi, on the other hand, has a past that makes you sympathize with her, while at the same time makes you want to throttle her for always putting her daughter second to her career. She definitely is not always a likeable character, but I did find myself routing for her to find love and success.

I also loved how as the story progresses you get more and more of the story. You find out why Naomi left her hometown and who Rita and Sister Idalia are, how they came to be the only family that Naomi and Sophia have. These other characters really round out the story and provide a support system for both Sophia and Naomi. They may be offbeat and eccentric, but these other characters really do create a family that is all any of them have. 

This is an emotionally charged read. It's a story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page and I know for sure I will be revisiting this in the future. I'm fortunate to have both a print copy and the audio version and I can't wait to dig in again. My only regret about this book is that I waited so long to read it!

Audio Thoughts: This was a great audio production - the two narrators were both new to me and I thought they did a fantastic job!!! Caitlin Davies did great justice to young Sophia - adding that sense of young innocence to her voice. And Andrus Nichols was the perfect choice for Naomi - she oozed the  self-absorbedness (if that's a word) that you would expect from Naomi and seemed to have the voice that you would expect a night club singer to have. They both did great voices for the other characters when they were telling their sections of the story. I will definitely be looking to see what else they have narrated.

About the author: Rebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Authors Links:     
Website |  Twitter

To see who else is participating in Rebecca Rotert's Last Night at the Blue Angel tour, click here.

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