Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (audio)

Title: The Nest
Author: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Narrator: Mia Barron
Published: March 2016, HarperAudio 
Length: 11 hours 6 minutes
Source: Library

A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

My thoughts: So...this book had a lot of hype and I picked it up because of that. Of course I was intrigued by the synopsis - a big family dealing with issues - dysfunction at its best...how could I not want to read more? 

The story was good, not great, but good. I felt like there was a lot going on and it moved all over the place - sometimes jumping around a bit too much, and then it would slow down and not really go anywhere for a while. And the ending was a bit of a let-down for me, but overall - a good, easy read for the summer.

As for the characters - they are spoiled adults living beyond their means, relying on money for happiness. And coming to the realization that they can no longer do this...nor is this the way to live. The dysfunction within this family did, in fact feel real, the sibling rivalry, the relationships between mother and children - that all seemed to ring true

I liked the book, I just didn't love it. 


Audio thoughts:
This is the first time I've listened to Mia Barron narrate a book and I thought she did a good job. There was a lot of characters in this book and while I didn't love the story, at least I liked the narration!

 

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-in July 29

 
 
A few weeks ago, I made mention of a big walk I'll be doing in early 2017...well, now that I'll all registered, I can talk about it. In March of 2017, I'll be doing the CHALLENGE WALK MS in Savannah, GA. It is a three-day, 50-mile walk that tests your strength and your spirit, and makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of people with MS and their families. 

I did the walk three years ago when it was held in Charleston, and what an amazing experience it was...it is grueling and physically challenging, but also awe-inspiring at the same time.  I won't officially start my training until September when it hopefully starts to get a little more comfortable to walk outdoors, but I can at least start with the fund-raising efforts.

Click here if you'd like to donate

 

Update on July goals:

  • 10K steps M-F, at least 7,500 steps on the weekend - 5/5  & 2/2
  • Strength-training exercises 3x a week - Done!
  • Yoga 2-3 times a week - at least 15 minutes - Done!
  • Eat mindfully - continue to drink a minimum of 64 oz of water, limit caffeine intake, up intake of fruits and veggies, up intake of protein at each meal, limit intake of sugar. - Some weeks this is easy, some weeks not so much. The water intake is easy, but trying to eat healthy in this heat isn't always so easy! Some days all I want is ALL THE ICE CREAM!!!
   
Here's how my week went:     
Jul 23:  7,780 steps (15 min yoga)
Jul 24:  9,424 steps
Jul 25:  14,027 steps
(5K - 3.2 Charity Miles for Girls on the Run)
Jul 26:  10,649 steps (30 min fitness walk, 15 min yoga)

Jul 27:  10,069 steps (30 min fitness walk, 15 min yoga)

Jul 28:  10
,155 steps (30 min fitness walk)
Jul 29: 
10,157 steps (30 min fitness walk)
Total Steps: 72,261 steps
 
 
Audiobooks listened to this week: 

  • Started & Finished Night & Day by Iris Johansen, narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers
  • Started  What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton, narrated by Christina Delaine

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


Virtual 5K /10K Tally:
     January:                               May:
           5K  -  3                                  5K  -  9
         10K  -  0                                10K  -  2
     February:                             June:

           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  5
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  5                  
     March:                                  July:
           5K  -  4                                  5K  -  3
         10K  -  1                                 10K  -  1
     April:
           5K  -  4
         10K  -  5


Friday, July 29, 2016

#SRC2016 Book Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abott



Title: You Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Published: July 2016, Little Brown
Format: ARC Paperback, 352 pages
Source: BookSparks

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

My thoughts: This is the second book I've read by Megan Abbott and wow...just WOW! She manages to create such captivating thrillers that you get completely sucked into with these amazing twists and turns where you have no idea what is going to happen. 

While this book appears to be about gymnastics at a quick glance, it's much more than that. It's about the parenting that comes with competitive gymnastics and just how far and how obsessive parents become when their child is told she has what it takes to be the very best. This then changes the dynamics of the family life as now this becomes their primary focus, almost to the exclusion of everything else, even any other children.

There are so many layers to this story and when you add in the mystery of the death, it just ramps up the suspense and adds in more questions. You want to know how it's all tied together and who is responsible, but you are almost afraid to find out. So many questions come to mind and so many what if's...I wasn't sure where this was headed and I sure didn't guess it, but boy oh boy, what a ride!

Megan Abbott knows how to write an addictive book...I devoured this book and cannot wait to pick up her other books I have not read yet. Have you read Megan Abbott yet

 



You Will Know Me  by Megan Abbott is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks.

Follow the #SRC2016, #BestSRCEver and #BestSummerEver hashtags on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books!


 

Review: The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard (audio)

Title: The Drowning Girls
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
Narrator: David Atlas, Amy McFadden
Published: April 2016, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 45 minutes
Source: Publisher
 
Critically acclaimed author of The Mourning Hours and The Fragile World, Paula Treick DeBoard returns with a tale of dark secrets, shocking lies and a dangerous obsession that will change one neighborhood forever.

Liz McGinnis never imagined herself living in a luxurious gated community like The Palms. Ever since she and her family moved in, she's felt like an outsider amongst the Stepford-like wives and their obnoxiously spoiled children. Still, she's determined to make it work—if not for herself, then for her husband, Phil, who landed them this lavish home in the first place, and for her daughter, Danielle, who's about to enter high school.

Yet underneath the glossy veneer of The Palms, life is far from idyllic. In a place where reputation is everything, Liz soon discovers that even the friendliest residents can't be trusted—and almost everyone has secrets they'd do anything to protect. So when the gorgeous girl next door befriends Danielle, Liz can't help but find sophisticated Kelsey's interest in her shy and slightly nerdy daughter a bit suspicious.

But while Kelsey quickly becomes a fixture in the McGinnis home, Liz's relationships with both Danielle and Phil grow strained. Now even her own family seems to be hiding things, and it's not long before their dream of living the high life quickly spirals out of control…

My thoughts: This is the first book I've picked up by Paula Treick DeBoard but it certainly will not be the last! From the very first chapter I was hooked and found I couldn't walk away from the book...the twists and surprises that are intertwined in this story just didn't stop coming, and you never knew what would happen next.

What I really loved about this book is how the tension builds so slowly...you aren't really sure what is going on, but you know it's going to get bad. And the back and forth in time just adds to this. It was such a great way to tell this particular story. And while these types of stories have been done before, I think this one stands up well!

I also loved the characters - they were fleshed out and well-developed, even the unlikeable ones. And that's important. You don't have to like a character to love them, if that makes sense. There are secrets and lies and at times you don't know what or who to believe. 

This book is crazy...and will have you realizing just how easy it is to find yourself caught in the middle of a nightmare that you had no intention of being in. What started as a simple interaction on one person's side turned into something completely out of control because the other person took it that far. 

Be forewarned...once you start this book, you are not going to want to put it down until you finish it...it's that addicting and you are going to want to find out how it all ends! I cannot wait to pick up Paula Treick DeBoard's other books and will definitely be keeping an eye out for future releases from this talented author!  


Audio thoughts: The audio of this book was done very well and I thought both Amy McFadden and David Atlas, both of whom I've listened to before, did great jobs with the voices. The accents they uses, especially David's accent for Phil's character were spot on, and made the listening experience quite enjoyable. 

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon (Giveaway Closed!)

Please join me in welcoming Anna Solomon to Always With a Book. Anna's new book, Leaving Lucy Pear, is out today. I'll be reviewing this book in the coming weeks, but for now, please enjoy this spotlight on the book and be sure to enter the giveaway below!!!


Title: Leaving Lucy Pear
Author: Anna Solomon
Published: July 2016, Viking
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
A big, heartrending novel about the entangled lives of two women in 1920s New England, both mothers to the same unforgettable girl.

One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle's house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea's hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea's abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.

In mesmerizing prose, award-winning author Anna Solomon weaves together an unforgettable group of characters as their lives collide on the New England coast. Set against one of America's most turbulent decades, Leaving Lucy Pear delves into questions of class, freedom, and the meaning of family, establishing Anna Solomon as one of our most captivating storytellers.

Praise for Leaving Lucy Pear: 

“The worlds of three women collide on the coast of Massachusetts in the 1920s in this beautifully told tale of a young woman’s journey to discover herself.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“You'll get lost in this story, which feels truly new and fresh.”—GoodHousekeeping.com 

“An intense tale of choices and consequences which, despite its early-20th-century setting, has the capacious feel of a Victorian novel…Repeatedly opting for the less predictable outcome, Solomon reaches resolutions marked with the same reflective maturity as the rest of this solidly absorbing novel. Slow-movement storytelling: fully-fleshed, compassionate, and satisfying.”—Kirkus Reviews 

“Solomon’s…razor-sharp prose scrapes her characters raw as she plants them deeply in the history and turmoil of 1920s New England. A beautifully rendered tale of discovering one’s true nature. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal 

“Quietly powerful…Solomon excels at portraying flawed characters.”—Booklist 

“Ambitious and satisfying…[a] lushly written look at two women's haunting choices.”—Publishers Weekly 

“From the first page, I was under the spell of Anna Solomon’s emotionally engaging novel about the devastating choices we make and the unexpected consequences they bring. This is a fine literary tapestry woven with beautiful language, complex characters, and a precise probing of human desires and demons.” —Sue Monk Kidd, New York Times bestselling author of The Invention of Wings

“Anna Solomon writes with a poet's reverence for language and a novelist's ability to keep us turning the page. LEAVING LUCY PEAR is a gorgeous and engrossing meditation on motherhood, womanhood, and the sacrifices we make for love.” —J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times-bestselling author of Maine and The Engagements.

“LEAVING LUCY PEAR is that rare combination of stunning language, raw emotion, and profound wisdom that catches you up and wrings you out and yet somehow leaves you fuller than when you began. In this tender new novel, Anna Solomon looks at our most fundamental relationships--between mothers, children, and lovers--with more compassion and grace than seems humanly possible.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You

“In Anna Solomon's marvelously textured new novel, Cape Ann in the late 1920s thrums with the issues of the day. When two seemingly dissimilar women become bound to the same child, we're given a piercing and often profound look at motherhood, what it is and isn’t, as well as the ways suffering makes and unmakes us all, sometimes many times over. Solomon is an enormously gifted writer, and her penetrating tale will linger in your mind long after the last page has turned.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

“A marvel of a novel, bursting with intelligence, insight, compassion, and truth. Anna Solomon is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller.” —Robin Black, nationally bestselling author of Life Drawing

“A mosaic of longing: a cast of characters wrestling with lives they might have led, keeping secrets that could free them, and building uncertain futures. With great empathy, Anna Solomon transports us to an evocative and overlooked time and place in this morally complex and deeply satisfying story.” —Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love

*********************************************************************************

GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (US only) 
Thanks to the publicist I have one copy of Leaving Lucy Pear to give away to my readers. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form by August 2nd.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends August 2nd. 


Good Luck!!! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel

Title: The Killing Forest
Author: Sara Blaedel
Series: Louise Rick, #2
Published: February 2016, Grand Central Publishing
Format: ARC E-copy, 320 pages
Source: Netgalley

Sara Blaedel, author of the #1 international bestseller The Forgotten Girls--which was roundly praised as "gripping" with "uncompromising realism" (Washington Post) and "tautly suspenseful" (BookPage)--returns with the thrilling next book in her series featuring police investigator Louise Rick.

Following an extended leave, Louise Rick returns to work at the Special Search Agency, an elite unit of the National Police Department. She's assigned a case involving a fifteen-year-old who vanished a week earlier. When Louise realizes that the missing teenager is the son of a butcher from Hvalsoe, she seizes the opportunity to combine the search for the teen with her personal investigation of her boyfriend's long-ago death . . . Louise's investigation takes her on a journey back through time. She reconnects with figures from her past, including Kim, the principal investigator at the Holbaek Police Department, her former in-laws, fanatic ancient religion believers, and her longtime close friend, journalist Camilla Lind. As she moves through the small town's cramped network of deadly connections, Louise unearths toxic truths left unspoken and dangerous secrets.

My thoughts: This is the next book in Sara Blaedel's Louise Rick series and I was so excited to get my hands on it. I really liked the previous book in the series, The Forgotten Girls, and have been desperately waiting for this next book. 

If you know anything about my reading habits, you know I have to read series in order and in this case, it really does make sense. The previous book sets up a big part of the personal story line that Louise is struggling with in this book - and in fact sets in motion her drive for finding out what really happened the night her boyfriend died so long ago. Luckily this personal investigation is able to be paired with the case she is working on - that of a missing teenager. 

As for this case...it's a bit creepy and a little suspect. It seems as if his family isn't all that concerned that the boy is missing. Between this and the old Nordic religion, Asatro, this book will have you intrigued for sure - sacrificial woods, an ancient religious cult, and a series of murders - how could it not?  

What I love about this book, and about the series so far, is that the characters are well-developed and believable. They are all flawed, real, down-to earth people that could easily be someone you might know or even be friends with - that makes them so much more relatable, even if they aren't likeable all the time! I also love that the books are fast-paced. Even when Sara is taking the time to set things up - like in this book when we are learning about the Asatro - I never felt bogged down in detail. 

Sara Blaedel is very quickly becoming one of my favorite crime fiction authors...and I really do hope her books continue to be translated in English. This latest one was really good, despite the creepiness of the case, and Louise Rick is such a great main character that I can't wait to catch up with her again. But trust me when I say, read The Forgotten Girls first - there is a lot of background story that is referred to in this book!!!


Books in this series:
  1. The Forgotten Girls
  2. The Killing Forest 

 

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