Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review: 2015

2015 has been another great year and it's hard to believe that 2016 starts tomorrow!
Some of the highlights of this year include:
  • Attending BEA 2015 - for the second year in a row. Another fantastic experience with my partner-in-crime, T from Traveling with T!!! Lots of great books, meeting other bloggers in person, networking with publishers/publicists, meeting authors and attending some of the parties! So much fun! Still on the fence as to whether I'm going in 2016 - it's not in NY this year, which isn't quite as convenient...stay tuned to see what happens.
  • I had my name mentioned in the acknowledgement section of a book for the first time - so very cool and yet humbling at the same time!!!

My top reads of 2015 are (in order I read them):

So, here are my stats for 2015. Overall, I completed 153 books (which includes audio books) - this is 5 books shy of what I read last year. Here are some stats about how much I read and what I read:
  • 153 books completed
    • 81 books read - 50 print/31 e-book
    • 72 audio books listened to
  • 20 books from library 
    • 3 print/17 audio
  • 3 books read from my shelves - NEED TO WORK ON THIS!!!
  • Purchased 64 books (includes audio books purchased via Audible)
    • read/listened to 40
  •  59 books completed were from new-to-me authors

Of the 7 year-long reading challenges that I participated in for 2015, I completed 5. To see which ones I did, see my Month in Review: December 2015 post, where I list the final totals of each challenge.

In the next few days I will be adding the challenges that I plan on participating in during 2016. I primarily use these challenges to help me keep track of what I read - how many books overall, how many library books I read, how many audio books I listen to, how many new-to-me authors I read, and how many of my own books I read - this last an area that I tend to not do too well in. I found a challenge where I can set the terms and I hope that will make me more successful - I'll be posting about it in the next day or so.

Thank you to all my readers - I love reading and sharing with you my thoughts on the books I read. I also love reading all your blogs. I look forward to seeing what 2016 brings for my reading!


Month in Review: December 2015

Here are my reading stats for December! 
  • Books read:  13

 Books I read:
  1. Flash & Bones -- Kathy Reichs (audio book)
  2. What She Knew -- Gilly Macmillan
  3. Rose Harbor in Bloom -- Debbie Macomber (audio book)
  4. The Distance -- Helen Giltrow (audio book)
  5. A Wedding on Primrose Street -- Sheila Roberts (e-book)
  6. Night Blindness -- Susan Strecker
  7. Smoke -- Catherine McKenzie (audio book)
  8. Love Letters -- Debbie Macomber (audio book)
  9. The Nightingale -- Kristin Hannah (audio book)
  10. Eight Hundred Grapes -- Laura Dave (audio book)
  11. Anything for You -- Kristan Higgins (e-book)
  12. Three Truths & a Lie -- Lisa Gardner (e-book)
  13. The Muralist -- B.A. Shapiro (audio book)
Favorite Books of December:      
  • What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
  •  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

2015 Challenge Update:
  • You Read How Many Books Reading Challenge -- Books read: 153/150 - Completed
  •  Library Books Reading Challenge -- Books read: 20/24
  •  Mount TBR Reading Challenge -- Books read: 3/24
  •  Netgalley Reading Challenge -- Books read: 30/21 - Completed
  •  First Reads Reading Challenge -- Books read: 59/26 - Completed
  •  E-books Challenge -- Books read: 31/25 - Completed 
  •  Audio Book Challenge -- Books listened to: 72/50 - Completed

*Kathryn over at The Book Date has created a Month In Review meme for those who put together these monthly posts. From now on, I'll be linking my posts up each month...Thanks Kathryn for putting this meme together!!!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie (audio)

Title: Smoke
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Narrator: Amy McFadden, Cassandra Campbell, & Danny Campbell
Published: October 2015, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 9 hours 51 minutes / ARC e-copy 370 pages
Source: Publisher / Netgalley

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce, and when a fire started in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.

My thoughts: This is my first book by Catherine McKenzie and I really enjoyed it! Listening to it kept me completely engaged in the story and I found myself hooked right from the beginning. It's an intense story that sucks you in and doesn't let up. 

I love the way this story was told, alternating between Elizabeth and Mindy's point of views, but also including news updates of the fire. Was the fire intentionally set or was it an accident? While this is what drives part of the story, it does end up playing a secondary role. We also delve into the lives of Elizabeth and Mindy, both who are dealing with personal struggles of their own. These two used be good friends, but something has happened to estrange them and now they don't talk at all. 

The story is told in the present with flashbacks interspersed to fill in gaps. And it is through these flashbacks that details are slowly revealed about the drama that is going on between Elizabeth and her husband, Mindy and her family, and even the history between Elizabeth and Mindy.  The fire is more the backdrop to these other stories and ends up the catalyst to change - change in their own lives and in their relationships. 

Usually when there are two main characters, I tend to find myself drawn to one more than the other, but in this case, I was drawn to both - I felt both were equally compelling and I wanted more of each. Even the secondary characters get under you skin and you want more of them, but not as much as I wanted of Elizabeth and Mindy. They were just so vividly drawn and not that they were perfect characters, but just that I was desperate to know everything about them - what motivated them and what made them vulnerable. They were each so different and yet I was equally drawn to each. I don't think I've read a book where this has happened in a while.

This book will grab you from the start and have you flipping through the pages or glued to your earphones, desperate to know how it is all going to play out. I even think it might be the type of book that is worthy of a reread or relisten and luckily I have both copies available to me for that very reason! I am glad I gave this book a try and will definitely be looking into Catherine McKenzie's other books.

Audio thoughts: This was a great audio book production. I don't listen to too many books with multiple narrators, but this one was well-done. I think Danny Campbell is the only one that was new to me, and he was great with the news updates about the fire. Amy McFadden and Cassandra Campbell both are great narrators and I enjoy listening to them. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (audio)

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Polly Stone
Published: February 2015, Macmillan Audio
Length: 17 hours 26 minutes
Source: Library

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

My thoughts: I have been a fan of Kristin Hannah's books for a while now and as soon as this book came out, I knew I was going to read it - but I also knew I would want to get the audio version of it. Ever since making the choice to listen to instead of read Winter Garden, I just knew this book would be better in audio and I was right...what a phenomenal book and to listen to it was truly exceptional!

I will say - this is an emotionally, heartbreaking book to get through - it will take you through the ringer, but in the end, it is so worth it. It will also make you think - what would you do if you found yourself in either Vianne or Isabelle's position? Do you see yourself more as Vianne or Isabelle?

The book opens up in the present day as an elderly woman - it is unclear whether it is Vianne or Isabelle - is packing up her belongings to move into a care facility. Not until the very end do we find out who this woman is and periodically the story flashes back to her as she reminisces on her life...

Two sisters - different as night and day, learn just how strong they really are during the German occupation of WWII. But, this isn't only a book about surviving the war - it's also about finding the courage to stand up for what you know is right, even when that might put you and those you love in danger. It's about family and love and all that comes with it - strong bonds and dysfunction, too. 

I particularly loved the way Kristin Hannah pointed out all the ways women helped during the war - this wasn't something I was aware of before reading this book. Obviously I knew they supported their families and maintained the homes the best they could, but I didn't know that they risked their lives to help hide Jewish children, among other things. Its little things like this - little facts that authors like Kristin Hannah put into their books that always make reading Historical Fiction leave me wanting to learn more - I absolutely love that!!! 

This is the type of book that stays with you long after you finish reading or listening to it. The characters and the story line are just so vivid that you can't stop thinking about them. This has definitely been one of my favorite reads of the year, despite it's emotional heaviness.  Yes, I cried as I listened to this, but I knew that was a possibility going in and I was okay with me, that's the sign of a good book, and I knew, with this type of subject matter that tears (and a lot of them) were a strong possibility! This is even the type of book that I foresee myself buying just to have on my shelf to remind myself of when I look at - it is that good!

Audio thoughts:
This was an amazing audio book - I am so glad I listened to it. The narrator, Polly Stone did a great job between the accents, the storyline and the pacing - this was a tough one to narrate and I thought she did it very well. I knew I wanted to listen to this book as soon as it was released and I am glad I did - I felt that both Vianne and Isabelle had their own unique voice and it was very easy to follow along. While it is a long audio book, I found myself completely wrapped up in the story and listened for long stretches at a time. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor (Giveaway Closed!)

Title: The View from Prince Street
Author: Mary Ellen Taylor
Series: Alexandria, #2
Published: January 2016, Berkley
Format: Paperback, 352 pages

The author of The Union Street Bakery and At the Corner of King Street returns to Alexandria, Virginia, with a heartfelt tale of reconnection.

Rae McDonald was fifteen when a car accident took her sister’s life and threw her own into reckless turmoil. When she got pregnant a year later, she found a loving couple to adopt the child. Since then, she’s buried her grief and guilt under a heart of stone.

Lisa Smyth survived the fateful crash, but never told the truth about what happened. And when a family obligation draws her back to Alexandria, the weight of Lisa’s guilt grows heavier by the day.

As both women confront a past refusing to be forgotten, long-buried artifacts are discovered by the Shire Architectural Salvage Company that point to a shared history between families.  Now, Rae and Lisa must finally ask themselves if denying the past is worth sacrificing the future.

Early Praise for The View from Prince Street:

“Taylor's complex tale spans three families over two centuries and includes a dose of ancient magic, but the story remains grounded in fascinating history and emotional turmoil that is intense yet subtle. An intelligent, heartwarming exploration of the powers of forgiveness, compassion, and new beginnings.”--Kirkus Reviews

“The second book in Taylor’s Alexandria series completes the story started in the first novel, and everything wraps up beautifully. Continuing characters from The Union Street Bakery series provide richer depth to the narrative. Themes of family, letting go of the past and owning up to mistakes breathe life and emotion into the tale.”--RT Book Reviews


Thanks to
the publisher
one reader can win a copy of  The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor.   To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form by January 3rd.


Form closed

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends January 3rd
Good Luck!!!


The Sunday Post #95 (12.27.15)

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 Kathryn's It's Monday post over at Book Date. 
I can't believe this is the last Sunday Post of 2015...what a year it's been! We spent Christmas Eve with my husband's family - it's always a big family gathering with all the cousins and aunts and uncles. Christmas Day is more low-key, which is just fine. We spent the day at my in-laws and then went to my brother's for dessert. My family does our Christmas celebration next week - it's just easier that way, and we've been doing like this for the past few years. This year it's at my brother's house - the past 2 years I've hosted. I'm looking forward to a quiet week of catching up on some last minute reads in 2015!

Have a great week everyone!!!


Last 2 weeks on the Blog:                              
* Review: Rose Harbor in Bloom by Debbie Macomber
* Review: Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
* Short & Sweet Review: Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

* Review: The Distance by Helen Giltrow
* Book Spotlight, Guest Post & Excerpt: Seized by Elizabeth Heiter
* FitReaders: Weekly Check-in December 18
* Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in December 25

Books Read:                      
* A Wedding on Primrose Street by Sheila Roberts (review e-book)
* Night Blindness by Susan Strecker (review book) 

* Smoke by Catherine McKenzie (review audio book)
* Love Letters by Debbie Macomber (library audio book) 

* The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (library audio book)
Currently Reading:                    
* Anything for You by Kristin Hannah (review e-book)    
* The Witches by Stacy Schiff (review book)    
* Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (library audio book) 
Books Up Next:                                
* 3 Truths & a Lie by Lisa Gardner (review e-book)

* Seized by Elizabeth Heiter (review e-book)
Current Giveaways:
* Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels...Melanie Backus
* Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima...Anne
Coming Up on the Blog:
* Book Spotlight & Giveaway: The View From Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

* Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
* Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
* Month in Review: December 2015

* Year in Review: 2015
* First Book of the Year 2016
* 2016 Goals for Reading/Blogging/Fitness
* Review: Anything for You by Kristan Higgins (with Giveaway!!!)

Book Haul:    
For Review:
* Lies & Other Acts of Love by Kristy Woodson Harvey (Courtesy of Author)

* The Winemakes by Jan Moran (Courtesy of Publisher)
* The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth (
Courtesy of Publisher)

* The Road Back by Di Morrissey (Courtesy of Publisher)
* Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel (Courtesy of Publisher)   
From Library:        
* Love Letters by Debbie Macomber (audio)
* Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (audio)
* Lost & Found in Cedar Cove by Debbie Macomber (e-book) 

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in December 25

Still doing pretty well with my goal this month of hitting 10k every day - I'm 22 for 25 days...not too bad. I didn't quite make it on the 24th - that was a travel day for me, plus I was visiting my sister and nieces and then Christmas Eve is our big family celebration with my husband's family, and I didn't make it on the 25th either, though I did manage to take a walk that day - a nice leisurely walk down to the bay and back. 

I can't believe this is the last check-in of 2015...I'll still have the rest of 2015 in next week's check-in, but it will be the 1st check-in of 2016---I can't believe it!!! I want to take a moment to thank Felicia of Geeky Blogger and Jen of That's What I'm Talking About for hosting this all year long...I love being a part of this group and I can't wait to see what's in store for 2016!!! Thank you ladies for helping me to stay active and for keeping us motivated :)
Here's how my week went: 
Dec 19:  12,319 steps
Dec 20:  11,124 steps
Dec 21:  14,981 steps (5k on treadmill at gym)

Dec 22:  12,484 steps (45 min on treadmill at gym)
Dec 23:  10,060 steps

Dec 24: 
6,541 steps
Dec 25: 
8,830 steps (3 mile walk)
Audiobooks listened to this week:
  • Finished Smoke by Catherine McKenzie, narrated by Amy McFadden, Cassandra Campbell & Danny Campbell
  • Finished Love Letters by Debbie Macomber, narrated by Lorelei King
  • Started Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave, narrated by Joy Osmanski 

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Title: What She Knew
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Published: December 2015, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, 496 pages
Source: Publisher

In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes. 

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

My thoughts: It's no surprise that I love a good psychological thriller and this one definitely hit the mark - in fact, it's probably one of my favorites of the year. I had heard a lot of chatter about this one from across the pond, as it had been released there earlier in the year (under a different name - Burnt Paper Sky) and I was desperate to read it! 

I loved how this was told - I really think the narration added a nice element to the story -  alternating between Rachel's point of view, DI Clemo's point of view and the news pieces and blog entries. Hearing the mother's side of the story adds the emotional part, hearing the DI's part of the story gives the impartial part, and the newspaper clippings and blog stories are just such a part of today's world that it all ties together. Of course, through Rachel and DI Clemo, we do meet the other characters that make up the rest of the book - Rachel's husband John, Rachel's sister Nikki, her friend Laura, Ben's teacher, Clemo's partner and other co-workers. 

This is an emotional read, yet at the same time, it's such a thrilling, edge-of-your seat type of read. I was suspicious of many of the people that we meet along the way and I kept changing who I thought was responsible for taking Ben. 

What I found most interesting was how quick the media was to vilify Rachel when they really knew next to nothing about her. They were so fast to point the finger at her and make snap decisions and so many people were just at quick to jump on that bandwagon. It really got me thinking how often we do that when we see a news story of similar caliber on we ever really know what is going on in someone's life when something like this happens to them? That's where Gilly Macmillan excels with this book - she provides us with just enough insight on each of the characters to help us know them so that we might not be so quick to make that snap judgement. This, I think, makes us feel sympathetic for the characters, particularly Rachel at times.

This was a phenomenal debut and I cannot wait to get my hands on Gilly's next book. She is definitely going on my list of must-read authors list!

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