Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle CreekMiracle Creek by Angie Kim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an interesting and unique thriller! I feel like I’m always harping on my thriller authors out there because the story lines have become stagnant and tired. Untrustworthy husband this. And devious, backstabbing wife that. I’m always looking for that plot line that hooks me on something completely different. And Miracle Creek delivered.

Let’s talk HBOT. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. A treatment strategy whereby patients are placed in a sealed chamber which is pressurized with high levels of oxygen. The theory? Provide high levels of oxygen to damaged tissues in the body to promote healing. Which is exactly why the patients in this novel were taking part in HBOT….. until the chamber exploded, tragically killing some of those who were inside. What follows is half courtroom drama and half whodunnit to determine who set the fire which caused the explosion.

I really enjoyed the thought Angie Kim put into this book. All of the loose ends tied together extremely well which showed just how well planned the story line was. I have to admit that I figured out the “who” very early in the story so wasn’t incredibly surprised when the arsonist was exposed. But I did not figure out the “why” or “how.” They were both completely unexpected with a good twist for the reader.

I also appreciated the multifaceted relationships described throughout the story. Patients and their family members. Patients and other patients. Family members and other family members. The HBOT owners and the patients. There was a lot to unpack.

I did feel like there was a little bit of a lull in the middle where I found the story to be a tad repetitive, and I did feel like the ending took a really long time to fully unfold. There was a point where I wanted the story to just “get there” in terms of giving away its secrets because it felt a bit drawn out. But that’s really the worst thing I can say about this book. Overall, it was a great read and I would recommend to any thriller lovers looking for a unique story line.

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Audiobook Review, Memoir/Biography, Nonfiction, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Ann Patchett is nothing short of a powerhouse writer!

Living in Nashville and being a book junkie, I naturally made my way to Parnassus Books for a visit (it just happens to be co-owned by Ann Patchett herself). And while I was there, I decided to pick up a signed copy of Ann’s book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from 2017. As I’ve made it a goal to slowly make my way through Reese’s recommendations, this seemed like a fitting choice.

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I’m not a huge believer in reading book jackets or synopses before diving in (I read a wide variety of genres and prefer to be surprised), so I had no idea that this was a) nonfiction and b) a collection of essays. This is exactly why I don’t read book jackets. Because those two components together are not what I would typically gravitate toward in a book. And by reading the jacket and making a preemptive judgment, I would miss out on a ton of really amazing books.

In This is the Story of a Happy Marriage Ann Patchett teaches us life lessons, tells us about love and loss, gives us a glimpse into how she got where she is today both in her personal life and her career, and paints a lovely picture of Nashville that this Nashvillian really appreciated. But the magic isn’t necessarily in the content itself, but the author’s masterful storytelling. Her sentence structure and the way she combines words and phrases is magical. She had a lot of really insightful things to say that made me think. There were moments when I chuckled. And there were moments where I said, “I want to be friends with Ann Patchett.”

If a collection of essays doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you should read this book anyway. While it’s technically a bunch of short stories strung together, it reads more like a cohesive memoir. The essays flowed together logically to tell a complete story that did not feel disjointed. I would highly recommend and will definitely be reading more from Patchett in the future.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

The HuntressThe Huntress by Kate Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network recently and fell in love with her ability to tell stories about strong women in World War I and II. She has a knack for finding untold stories of brave women during wartime and spinning fictional tales based on true events. In The Alice Network it was the story of a network of female spies. In The Huntress it’s the story of a female pilot who flies for the infamous Night Witches, a group of Soviet women who flew bombing missions in WWII and were feared by Nazi Germany.

In addition to the story line following the Night Witches, there is a story line about a man named Ian who essentially becomes a bounty hunter after WWII. His mission is to track down Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. His target: The Huntress. A woman who is said to have murdered innocent children during the war.

And finally, the story of a young woman coming of age in 1950 post-WWII. When her father comes home with a new fiance and her daughter she is excited for her family to be complete again. But there is something about her soon-to-be stepmother that makes her a tad uneasy.

So if those feel like three totally different stories, it’s because they are. For a lot of the book, I felt like I was reading three separate and distinct books. I couldn’t see how they related to each other and how they were going to tie together. By the end of the novel, the stories eventually converge and they ended up meshing well. But I will say there was a portion of the middle where I started to lose a little bit of interest. I found that there was somewhat of a lull in the story. That also may have been due to the book’s extensive length which was a tad too long in my opinion.

That being said, I did really enjoy the story overall and very much enjoyed Kate Quinn’s writing and storytelling ability. The characters were vivid and had distinct personalities that I enjoyed. I felt invested in their individual outcomes. And very much appreciate learning stories of WWII that I’ve never heard (in this case about the Night Witches).

I struggled a bit with the audiobook in places because there is a lot of authentic German or Soviet terminology and nomenclature throughout the book. I’m very much a visual learner and would have found it easier to keep the names straight if I had read the print version as opposed to listening to the audiobook despite the narrator being fantastic.

While I enjoyed The Alice Network more, I did like this one as well and think if you’re a fan of Kate Quinn’s previous work you will probably appreciate it as I did. Would highly recommend but would probably recommend that you read in print as opposed to listening to the audio.

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

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick!

Eleanor Oliphant lives a mundane life. Her activities are scheduled. Her food choices are consistent and predictable. She is perfectly put together and proper. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Until she’s not….

That’s it. That’s all the description I can provide without giving away key pieces of the story.

Let me start off by saying that the first half of this book was incredibly boring. It seemed to be done on purpose to illustrate the unremarkable and routine nature of Eleanor Oliphant’s life. And while I appreciate that strategy conceptually, I’ve got to be honest. I probably would not have finishing this book if it hadn’t been a pick from Reese Witherspoon. I likely would have closed the front cover and walked away.

Now before you throw stones at me…. I did finish the book and the second half was extraordinarily better than the first half. The back end of the narrative is where we see everything unravel, getting into the meat of the story, providing some clarity into Eleanor Oliphant’s actions, and seeing her come to terms with events in her life that have led her to where she is today.

Without giving too much away, there is a large focus placed on mental health in this book. And I think that overall it was successful in painting a picture of how crippling and life altering some mental health disorders can be without proper treatment.

From an audiobook perspective, I thought the narrator was spot on in giving Eleanor Oliphant a voice that portrayed her prim and proper nature and I could envision her personality perfectly. I would recommend giving this one a listen, although I’m sure it would be just as good in print.

At the end of the day, I’m glad that I powered through. There were moments when I didn’t think that I would be able to make it, but the conclusion is worth trudging through the slow beginning.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Romance

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to KnowThe Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’ve seen this cover everywhere in the last 4 to 6 months with people raving about the story. I cannot even tell you how many times I entered the Goodreads giveaways for this book (and never won… haha!). So I finally gave up and requested the audiobook from the library.

This was such a fun, quirky, and beautiful love story. Tracey Garvis Graves tells the story of Annika (rhymes with Monica), a socially awkward college student who meets a boy named Jonathan in chess club. Jonathan opens her up to a world she never knew… of love… of intrigue… of acceptance. But with love comes tragedy that will rip the young lovers apart, forcing them down separate paths of independence. But fate will reunite them 10 years later and send them on a journey of rediscovery.

I thought this book was so real. Both Annika and Jonathan were perfectly developed. I could feel Annika’s awkwardness… her struggle to get by in social situations… her longing to fit in.

The beginning for me was somewhat basic. It was a basic love story. Boy meets girl. Girl is complicated. Boy and girl fall in love and boy teaches girl new things. It wasn’t anything earth shattering with the exception of Annika’s personality quirks. But the second half of the book kind of blew me away. While I saw pieces of the ending coming, the author had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. I could feel the tension and angst and pain. I am not going to give away any secrets here because I think the end is the best part of the book and it is worth discovering on your own. Just take my word for it.

This one reminded me a lot of The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo which was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. If you enjoyed The Light We Lost, I would highly recommend giving this one a try. It will not disappoint.

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