Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand (audio)

Title: Here's to Us
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Narrator: Erin Bennett
Published: June 2016, Hachette Audio
Length: 12 hours 30 minutes
Source: Library

Three romantic rivals. One crowded house. Plenty of room for jealousy.

Laurel Thorpe, Belinda Rowe, and Scarlett Oliver share only two things; a love for the man they all married, Deacon Thorpe--a celebrity chef with an insatiable appetite for life--and a passionate dislike of one another. All three are remarkable, spirited women, but they couldn't be more different. Laurel: Deacon's high school sweetheart and an effortlessly beautiful social worker; Belinda: a high-maintenance Hollywood diva; and Scarlett: a sexy southern belle floating by on her family money and her fabulous looks. They've established a delicate understanding over the years--they avoid each other at all costs.

But their fragile detente threatens to come crashing down after Deacon's tragic death on his favorite place on earth: a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage. Deacon's final wish was for his makeshift family to assemble on his beloved Nantucket to say good-bye. Begrudgingly, Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett gather on the island as once again, as in each of their marriages, they're left to pick up Deacon's mess. Now they're trapped in the crowded cottage where they all made their own memories--a house that they now share in more ways than one--along with the children they raised with Deacon, and his best friend. Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett each had an unbreakable bond with Deacon--and they all have secrets to hide.

Before the weekend is over, there are enough accusations, lies, tears, and drama to turn even the best of friends--let alone three women who married the same man--into adversaries. As his unlikely family says good-bye to the man who brought them together--for better or worse--will they be able to put aside their differences long enough to raise a glass in Deacon's honor?

My thoughts: One of the hallmarks of summer to me is a new Elin Hilderbrand book, and yet somehow I missed last year's new book! I'm not quite sure how that happened - but before this year's book is released, I quickly devoured last years book. One of my favorite aspects of Elin's books is of course the location - good old Nantucket! This is my ideal summer location and one of these days I swear I am going to get there, even if I have to go by myself!

I really loved the characters in this book. The three women - Laurel, Belinda and Scarlet - couldn't be more different from each other, yet they all have one thing in common - their love for Deacon, and it is that love that brings them together to mourn his passing. I loved these women for their flaws and complexities. Oh, don't get me wrong - they weren't necessarily the nicest of characters, but that's what made them so great. They were all well-developed and fun to watch interact with each other. Imagine having to spend anytime with an ex's spouse or such in close quarters...and to think that there were three of them!

There isn't a whole lot of action in this book, but there is a lot of heart. This is about a dysfunctional family and the way they deal with their grief and loss. There are a few lessons to be learned here, too, if you pay close enough attention.

All in all, this was a good book - a little different from the usual lightheartedness of Elin's typical summer books, but I enjoyed it just the same and am looking forward to picking up a copy of this year's summer book and reading it in a more timely fashion!

Audio thoughts:
Erin Bennett does such a great job narrating Elin's books. I've listened to quite a few that she has narrated - all Elin's books - and she just gets the characters and the story line. In this one, she was not only able to give each character their own voice and identity, but she brought them all to life. She gave them attitude and personality, infusing just the right amount of emotion and tension in her voice when needed. I like this pairing between narrator and author and hope it continues as it's a good fit!


Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde (audio)

Title: Allie and Bea
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo and Janet Metzger
Published: May 2017, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 10 hours 35 minutes / Paperback, 350 pages
Source: Audio via Brilliance Audio / Paperback via Little Bird Publicity
Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.

My thoughts: This is the first book by Catherine Ryan Hyde that I've read, though I am familiar with her work, having watched, and loved, the movie 'Pay It Foward,' which I didn't realize was adapted from her book! Having read this book, though, I can totally see her style in that. This latest book was just as good with just as many little nuggets of wisdom.

I think what I loved most about this book is the endearing and charming characters - both Allie and Bea immediately work their way into your hearts and stay there. These two form an unlikely bond, and dare I say friendship, after both finding themselves being stuck with the same problem - neither has a place to live nor any money.

This unlikely friendship between an old lady and a young girl will strike a chord with many. Both are quite naive, as Allie is quite young and Bea has led a rather sheltered life. But what's most remarkable is how much they learn from each other and how they learn to adapt to their new circumstances in order to survive.

There is so much food for thought in this book. It's an emotional journey that will have you appreciating all the important things in life - but also give you lots to think about. One question that came to me was this: Does anticipation and doubt sometimes prevent us from doing new things?  Do we tend to overthink things to the detriment of just doing them? And it will really reinforce one of my favorite attitudes - that a little kindess really does go a long way. 

This book and these characters really made an impact on me and will be one that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. It may be the first book I've read by Catherine Ryan Hyde, but it surely won't be the last!

Audio thoughts: I really liked the audio production of this book. I think that both the narrators did a great job with each of the parts and I liked the way the story was told - each character having their own part to tell. I've listened to Janet Metzger before, but Lauren Ezzo is new to me. I found both narrators to be easy to listen to and I look forward to listening to them again.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio (audio)

Title: Before the Rain Falls
Author: Camille Di Maio
Narrator: Dara Rosenberg
Published: May 2017, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 25 minutes
Source: Publisher
After serving seventy years in prison for the murder of her sister, Eula, Della Lee has finally returned home to the Texas town of Puerto Pesar. She’s free from confinement—and ready to tell her secrets before it’s too late.

She finds a willing audience in journalist Mick Anders, who is reeling after his suspension from a Boston newspaper and in town, reluctantly, to investigate a mysterious portrait of Eula that reportedly sheds tears. He crosses paths with Dr. Paloma Vega, who’s visiting Puerto Pesar with her own mission: to take care of her ailing grandmother and to rescue her rebellious younger sister before something terrible happens. Paloma and Mick have their reasons to be in the hot, parched border town whose name translates as “Port of Regret.” But they don’t anticipate how their lives will be changed forever.

Moving and engrossing, this dual story alternates between Della’s dark ordeals of the 1940s and Paloma and Mick’s present-day search for answers?about roots, family, love, and what is truly important in life.

My thoughts: Wow...what a stunning, mesmerizing story! This is the first book I've picked up by Camille Di Maio and it certainly will not be the last, that's for sure!

This story will grab you right from the start and keep hold of you until the very end. The characters are so well-developed, flaws and all, that they draw you into their world. As the story moves between the past and present, you find yourself completely engaged and wanting to know more, finding it hard to concentrate on anything else other than what is going on within their world.

This is an emotional story, yet one filled with hope. It's about the lengths one goes for the love of family; it's about sacrifice and forgiveness; love and loss. But just as much as the characters make the story come to life, so do the settings of the story - Puerto Pesar both in the present and the past, as well as the prison where Della Lee spends the majority of her life. 

I loved the way everything unravels, ever so slowly - but oh so worth it! And the ending - OMG...the way it all comes together - tears streaming down my face - both of joy and sadness combined. So beautiful, so captivating! I cannot wait to read more from this author.

Audio thoughts: Dara Rosenberg did such a great job with the narration of this story. She was able to bring these characters to life, giving each of the characters distinct voices and infusing just the right amount of emotion and tension into her voice when and as needed. This was such a great book to listen to and I found myself wanting to just listen to huge chunks of the book at a time - it was that good! I've listened to Dara before and I think this is one of her best narrations yet!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

Title: The Girl Who Lied
Author: Sue Fortin
Published: February 2017, Harper Impulse
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Source: Publisher

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

My thoughts: Sue Fortin is a new-to-me author, but I knew I wanted to read this book. It sounds like just the type of book I like to read...and I was right! It's not so much a fast-paced thriller as it is a psychological drama - an in-depth study into family dynamics and the lengths a family will go to protect their own. I was captivated by this book once I started and had a hard time putting it down until I finished it.

I loved the way this story was told, alternating between the two narrators, Erin and Roisin. But be warned - this book will get under your skin. Once you get into it, be ready to be totally consumed by it. The story is told through flashbacks to help flush out the plot and as it unfolds the bigger picture emerges, slowly! 

The characters are well-developed - almost to be the point of being over-developed. All the relationships between the characters and their backstories are flushed out. At times, this is a bit tedious, but as a psychological story looking into the family dynamics, this would and should be expected. It's the secrets that really make this story what it is and how they have that ripple effect not only at the time of the secret but for many years to come. 

I loved the way the secrets were ever so slowly revealed bit by bit. Each time something came to light, a new twist was thrown into play, I was left scratching my head trying to put all the pieces together. This one really kept me on my toes, wondering just how things would play out in the end and boy oh boy was I in for a surprise. While I had some things figured out, I was still left with a shock or two, and that's good! 

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be keeping Sue Fortin on my radar. I have her newest book, Sister Sister, on my shelf to read and hopefully I'll be getting to that really soon! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Title: Rich People Problems
Author: Kevin Kwan
Series: Crazy Rich Asians, #3
Published: May 2017, Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royale fought through couture gown sabotage and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch, but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong finds herself at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife—a woman hell-bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing and determined to raise their son more lavishly than a future king, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette.

A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly-appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.

Rich People Problems  by Kevin Kwan is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser (audio)

Title: Almost Missed You
Author: Jessica Strawser
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Published: March 2017, Macmillan Audio
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My thoughts: This debut novel is such a compelling that I am so glad that gals at She Reads picked as a Spring Book Club selection. It's one that I had on my radar but would probably not have gotten to as soon as I did had it not been for the book club. 

This book kept me captivated from start to finish. At the center is the story of a missing little boy, but it's so much deeper than that. It's about secrets and the wrong people knowing the wrong secrets. It's also about connections and how we sometimes romanticize the past a bit more than it really was.

I loved the way the story is told - from multiple view points as well as going back and forth in time. It really gives the story that multi-dimensional feel. As the story moves around from character to character and from the present to the past, you begin to find out each person's motive and as the secrets are slowly revealed, we find the true motivation and driving force behind each character.

This book was certainly not what I expected. I was kept on my toes the entire time, desperately trying to guess what the mystery was behind the abduction and ultimately where everything would end up. This domestic fiction is one that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. And this author is one that will I will be keeping on my radar - for a debut novel, she knocked it out of the park!

Audio thoughts:
This was such a great audio to listen to and Therese Plummer did an outstanding job with the narration. She gave each character their own unique voice and I never once felt lost as to who was talking. She really brought this book to life with her performance.

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser 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.


Friday, May 19, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Title: The Best of Adam Sharp
Author: Graeme Simsion
Published: May 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 314 pages
From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances

On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.

But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

What readers are saying: 

***One of Glamour's "Most Anticipated Books of 2017"

"Readers are already clamoring." ―Library Journal

"This dazzling story about a former pianist who has a second chance in midlife with his former actress flame will do some major heart-warming this Spring — and readers will never foresee the incredible ending." —POPSUGAR

"It's a fun sweet ride." —The Washington Post

“An extraordinary literary treat that reminds readers the best things in life have nothing to do with plans.” —20 Must-Read Books for Spring 2017,


The Best of Adam Sharp  by Graeme Sharp is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)


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