Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my I am behind on my book reviews! I decided not to review any books while on vacation in Miami and read a whopping 5 books on vacation which are patiently waiting to be reviewed. So here goes nothing!

I have recently been dying to read Kate Quinn’s The Huntress which just came out. But in my quest to read everything from Reese’s Book Club, I simply had to read The Alice Network first (plus my library has like a 6 month waiting list for The Huntress….).

The Alice Network is a WWI AND WWII novel, with one story line taking place during the Great War and the other taking place shortly after the Second World War. In the past, Eve is a full blown spy, trying to expose German secrets. But when she finds herself in a relationship with the enemy, she may have gotten more than she bargained for. In the later timeline, Charlie is a pregnant-out-of-wedlock young lady whose parents have dragged her overseas to get an abortion. But while she’s there she will be more focused on searching for her cousin Rose who went missing in Nazi-occupied France during the war. Eve and Charlie will come crashing together as their stories collide.

I simply adored this book. STRONG WOMEN. That’s what I have to say. Both Eve and Charlie were incredible characters dreamed up by Kate Quinn and splashed on the pages of The Alice Network. They were both fiesty and fierce and fought for what they believed in. It’s especially inspiring to see such strength in the time period in which this book was set. And to think that network of spies deemed The Alice Network was a real thing is simply incredible.

I listened to this book on audio and would highly recommend. The accents are good and the narrator is engaging. It’s a pretty lengthy audiobook that will keep you entertained for either a really long car ride or many short ones (or just a day of cleaning the house and errands… however you like to listen to your audiobooks).

And now I am so much more excited to read The Huntress… if only I didn’t have to wait so long to get my hands on it. I think I know where my next Audible credit is going!

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Reese Witherspoon's Book Club

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reese’s Book Club does it again! What a fabulous, though provoking, and honest story.

This book is incredibly challenging. It challenged my though process. It challenged how I thought I would parent my future children. It challenged how I treat people. It opened my eyes to a social issue that impacts many families, and the strength some parents have to let their children be themselves.

Ask yourself. What would you do if your young child came to you and said they were somebody else? If your young boy wanted to wear dresses and makeup? If he asked you when he would grow up to a be a girl? Would you let her pursue her truth? What would you do if your child was bullied for her choice? Would you keep your child’s gender identity secret for the sake of social acceptance, or would you let your child live freely without hiding?

These are the questions you will ask yourself as you read This Is How It Always Is. Laurie Frankel handles a sensitive topic with grace, and opens the reader’s eye to the difficult choices some parents are faced with for the sake of their child’s happiness. I am not a parent. I have never faced these challenges. But, I found myself asking myself how I would react if I were the parents in this book. And how I would feel if my child weren’t happy in their skin.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Regardless of your morals or beliefs, dealing with transgender children is real life for many families across the world, and this is a must read for everybody to gain some understanding and perspective. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. Everybody can learn something from this story.

Please put this one on your list. It is heartbreakingly beautiful and wonderfully honest. I loved it more than I can share. Thank you to Laurie Frankel for writing this gem.

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Mystery, Thriller

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

The Last Time I Saw YouThe Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out May 7th! Pre-order from Amazon here.

When I read The Last Mrs. Parrish as part of Reese’s Book Club last year, I fell in love with Liv Constantine (the pen name for powerhouse author duo and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine). So when I had an opportunity to review an advanced copy of The Last Time I Saw You, I was overjoyed.

The Last Time I Saw You is very different from The Last Mrs. Parrish. Where the latter was more of a domestic thriller, this book leaned more into the mystery genre. The story bounces back and forth between that of Kate, a woman whose mother was brutally murdered, and Blaire, her long-time-but-recently-estranged-best-friend and mystery writer who is determined to find the killer. When Kate begins to receive threatening messages, an investigation ensues, and they will stop at nothing to find out who is behind the mystery.

I always enjoy the writing of this fabulous duo. They have a way of sucking you in and keeping you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Was this the most original mystery/thriller? No. Will it stand out at the end of the year among the other books in this category? Probably not. But it was super fun to read and I enjoyed it. It would make a good, easy pool read this summer.

The one thing that I will say is that I guessed one of the larger twists very early on in the story so I wasn’t entirely surprised in the end. There were still a few tricks up the author’s sleeves so I didn’t feel entirely let down, but the end got a little convoluted and crazy.

At the end of the day I’m still a huge Liv Constantine fan and will continue to read anything this pair publishes. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Liv Constantine, and HarperCollins Publishers for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction, Romance

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

When We Left CubaWhen We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chanel Cleeton has done it again! And she may have done it better.

I simply adored Next Year in Havana when I read it as one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks last year. It so fantastically captured the essence of Cuba while providing a lot of great historical information about how Fidel Castro rose to power.

So when I saw When We Left Cuba hit the shelves, I could not wait to read it. And it did not disappoint. When We Left Cuba starts where Next Year in Havana leaves off. The Perez family has fled to the United States after Fidel Castro assumes power. And the story follows Beatriz as she struggles to accept the reality of her beloved Cuba. She is angry and decides to use her beauty and intelligence to help the CIA with their plans to overthrow Castro.

I absolutely adored Beatriz. She was such a strong character with strong morals and values, oozing independence and fire. Chanel Cleeton did the perfect job developing her and making her totally believable.

Beyond my love for Beatriz, there were two really great things about this book:
1. The Love Story. There was kind of a bizarre love triangle thing going on in the story and it was perfectly executed. I was enraptured with Beatriz and how she balanced her love for Cuba and her mission with her conflicting love interests.
2. The History. I learned so much about The Cold War by reading this book and it was fiction. I’ve always thought one of the fantastic things about historical fiction as a genre is the ability to make history interesting and engaging. Cleeton did the perfect job incorporating true events (The Bay of Pigs, Kennedy’s assassination, The Cuban Missile Crisis) into the story, and giving good historical information without bogging down the story with boring factual content. She used Beatriz’s experience of these events as a delivery tool and it worked wonderfully.

Overall, this was a very strong follow up to Cleeton’s successful first novel. I think I may have enjoyed it even more than Next Year in Havana which was a hard act to follow. As each book is told from the perspective of a different sister in the Perez family, I truly hope Cleeton continues this story from the perspectives of the other sisters in the family. I would be delighted to find out what happens next.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely WifeMy Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy wow. That escalated quickly. Looking for something sick, twisted, and marvelously, magnificently messed up? You know who you are. The people who have to listen to audiobooks with their headphones on or car windows rolled up for fear that somebody will overhear and silently judge you for your listening choices. This one is for you.

So look. I generally never read a synopsis for a book before I decide to read it. I tend to go in completely blind with no information other than the cover, the author, and the publisher. So I am often surprised by the content in the books I read. This one was no exception.

My Lovely Wife is about a husband and wife who get off on murdering young girls together. Yep, you heard me right. They stalk their prey, selecting the perfect targets for their sick and twisted murder plots, and then they strike. But when Wifey Dearest starts to go a little rogue, Hubby finds himself questioning her actions, leading to a crazy, twisty ending that you won’t see coming.

I flew through this audiobook in no time. In the vein of Caroline Kepnes’s You and Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard, My Lovely Wife gives the reader insight into the mind of a psychopath (or two). I was hooked from beginning to end and was impressed with Samantha Downing’s ability to transform a psychopath into a character with whom the reader wants to empathize.

All of my psychological thriller fans out there, we all know that this genre has gotten incredibly competitive. It is challenging to find a book that delivers something new and fresh, while still managing to surprise me, and I think this book came through on all fronts. I would highly recommend… but only if you’re able to tolerate the utterly disturbing.

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