Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

The Winter SisterThe Winter Sister by Megan Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always love a good thriller and this was no exception. I had been seeing the cover for The Winter Sister all over social media so decided to put it on hold at the library.

The Winter Sister is the story of Sylvie, whose sister was strangled to death many years ago. Nobody was ever arrested in connection with the murder and the case has since gone cold. But Sylvie has her suspicions. She vehemently believes that her sister’s at-the-time boyfriend, Ben, is at fault…. but they’ve never been able to prove his involvement. Fast forward to today, Sylvie must return home to tend to her ill mother where she comes face to face with Ben. Old wounds are ripped wide open and this time Sylvie is determined to find out who murdered her sister… and why.

I really enjoyed this book. The plot was simple, yet engaging and kept my attention the whole time. There was a good amount of mystery embedded in the story and a few twists along the way. What I would consider the “big twist” at the end wasn’t all that surprising to me. I actually saw it coming about a third of the way through the book, so I wasn’t all that shocked. But it was still a good concept and I appreciated the thought Megan Collins put into developing the story line.

Overall, it was a solid 4 star thriller/mystery. It didn’t blow me completely out of the water as this genre is super saturated with similar concepts and plot twists, but I still did enjoy it and would recommend it to mystery genre fans.

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Audiobook Review, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

The Killing Lessons (Valerie Hart, #1)The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warning! Warning! Dark and disturbing material ahead!

One of my fellow book lovers posted about The Killing Lessons on Facebook and I quote, “I’m only an hour and half in and convinced the dude who wrote this is a serial killer (sure he’s a lovely man but no one writes like this without having done it himself.)”


And what do I do? Immediately add it to my TBR.

So here I am a couple months later having just finished, and I have to say I agree! What a disturbing, psychotic, and horrifying story. It reminded me a lot of an episode of Criminal Minds on steroids.

This book is not a “whodunit” like most mystery novels. The “who” is divulged within the first few pages when a woman and her son are brutally murdered by a team of two sadistic men. And they aren’t their first victims. What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Detective Valerie Hart attempts to track down the serial-killing duo before another victim succumbs to their psychotic games.

I have to say, call me a weirdo. I liked it. The content was difficult to stomach at times, but the thought Saul Black put into the story was commendable. Despite multiple subplots, the story flowed extremely well and kept me engaged. And the narrator of the audiobook created the perfect amount of tension to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting for what happened next.

The one negative for me was the length. I feel like I say this a lot, but I don’t mind length if it is purposeful. In this case, I felt like a few parts dragged on and could have been slightly more succinct. But overall, that’s the only thing I can complain about.

If you have a strong stomach and don’t mind stories that live on the dark side…. or, if you’re a Criminal Minds fan, this is a book for you!

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost ManThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #5 in the Booksparks Winter Reading Challenge complete! #WRC2019

I feel like I read a different book than everybody else… Hate it when that happens!

The story begins with two brothers discovering the body of their brother in a deserted section of the Outback.  And the mystery begins.  Did he walk away from his life, planning to end his life in the unrelenting heat?  Or was there something more sinister at play?

Looking at reviews from friends on Goodreads and others, the majority of people loved this book so please don’t let my review deter you.  I thought it was just okay.  And I think there were a few things that made the experience worse for me that were not the fault of the author.

#1. I listened on audiobook

As the book is set in Australia, the narrator had a very thick Australian accent.  I typically listen to books on double speed and I found myself having to slow down the audio for this one because the accent was so thick I was having a hard time comprehending what I was listening to.

The book is also very heavy in multi-character dialogue.  And there wasn’t always clarity on who was speaking which added to the confusion.  If I had read the book as opposed to listening, I likely would have had a completely different opinion.

#2. I found myself zoning out a lot

This may or may not have been the author’s fault.  A lot of it had to do with the issues I had with the audiobook (see above), but some if it was how slow the story moved.  I feel like I missed entire chunks of the story because I could just not get invested in the story enough to pay attention.


All of that being said, I had a few other issues with the book that made it a struggle for me.  There were a lot of characters all introduced very early in the book without a ton of differentiation.  I had a really hard time reconciling how they were all related, and spent a long time trying to figure out who everybody was.  Then, once I got all the characters straight I just waited for something to happen.  And nothing really did for a long time.  If you read other reviews, you will see other people refer to this book as a “slow burn.”  Which is fine.  I enjoy a good slow burn if (and only if) the story really captures me enough to feel invested in the outcome.  This story waxed and waned for me and never really drew me in.  So the “slow burn” style just ended up feeling drawn out and boring.

Overall, I enjoyed the idea of this book but the execution was a bit rough.  I really wish I would have read it as opposed to listen.  I honestly feel that it would have made a huge difference in my opinion.  I would still recommend this one just because of how many others have loved it, but would recommend reading as opposed to listening if you can.

On to the final book in the Winter Reading Challenge, They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.

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

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I think it was extremely lucky that this book was picked up by Reese Witherspoon as part of her book club. I love the Hello Sunshine Book Club and read everything that Reese Witherspoon recommends because all of the books she chooses feature a strong female lead in one way or another. All of her books tend to really resonate with me. That being said, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was not my favorite of Reese’s recommendations.

Nikki is the daughter of Indian immigrants, living in London, and looking for a job to help her family make ends meet. She stumbles across an opportunity to teach a creative writing class at the community center, a chance to teach Punjabi women. What she doesn’t realize is that most of the women don’t know how to physically write, a little detail that was left out of the job description. What follows is a hilarious journey of traditional Punjabi women (mostly widows) turning their creative writing class into a storytelling class. The topic? Erotica.

While I enjoyed the writing by Balli Kaur Jaswal, I just felt like the story had a lot going on and could have benefited from some simplification. There was the main plot involving the creative writing class, but beyond that there were subplots about Nikki’s sister looking for a husband, Nikki’s father and his disappointment in her, the long-ago death of a young woman and a touch of murder mystery, etc. While I really enjoyed the story of the class, I just felt like the other plot lines took away from the major elements of the story.

Also, I think if I were to read this again, I would read it in print versus audiobook. There were a LOT of characters with traditional Punjabi names and I found it extremely difficult while listening to be able to keep everybody straight/associate each of the characters with their own unique identity. I feel like it may have been easier to remember all of their names if I had read the book, but I’m also more of a visual learner so that may not be the case for everybody.

Because I had a hard time keeping the characters straight, I wasn’t able to connect with really any of the characters and at times when there was a lot of dialogue, I found myself just wanting the book to speed up and move forward.

Now, there were some major highlights for me. I did enjoy the humor laced throughout the book and found the Punjabi widows very heartwarming overall. I like the idea of very traditional women acting in a way that is very taboo, and having a great time doing it together. It put a smile on my face. I also thought the “erotic stories” interspersed throughout the book were tastefully done, and although erotica is definitely not my traditional genre of choice, I did not find it offensive or vulgar. I will say at times I did find the little mini stories that were peppered throughout the prose somewhat distracting from the overall story. While I understood the value it provided to the reader, making the storytelling sessions more realistic, I think there were maybe a few too many stories in the grand scheme of things which made for choppy reading.

Overall, was this the best book ever? No. Was it okay? Yes. Do I think it’s the best thing Reese Witherspoon has recommended? Nope. But it was interesting and definitely something different.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

It's Always the HusbandIt’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you to Booksparks for sending me this gem as part of the Valentine’s Day BookGram program. I may or may not have send myself a BookGram “from my husband” because he’s so darn thoughtful and knows how much I love books. And my mystery book just happened to be It’s Always the Husband.

I have so many books to read right now in print that I decided to find this one at the library and see if the audiobook was available to listen to instead… and it was! Plug for the library. If you don’t have a library card, go get one. All the cool kids are doing it. And heck, you’re paying for it. You may as well use it.

I digress.

This is the first book I’ve read from Michele Campbell and I was pleased with my first experience. Enough to request an advanced copy of her upcoming book A Stranger on the Beach (can’t wait to read it)! It’s Always the Husband is a story about three college roommates and besties… their lives and relationships as they navigate through their college years…. their struggles with dating and boys…. and the dark memories that bind them together of the dreadful night they will never forget. Fast forward many years later and that night still lies heavy on their conscience. And one of the girls will pay for her mistakes with her life.

I thought Michelle Campbell did a fantastic job developing the relationships between the three main characters. There was this “three’s a crowd” vibe throughout the book that made for an interesting dynamic and spiced up the drama for me. I also felt like all three girls had very distinct personality traits and characteristics that made them stand out as individuals, which made for a more interesting read in my opinion.

I was kind of surprised (in a good way) at the sudden turn of events somewhere around the middle of the story. The first part of the book is heavily rooted in the past while the second half of the book focuses on present day, and while I’ve ready many books with a similar past/present style, this book didn’t flip flop quite as often as some of the other books I’ve read. I appreciated the fact that my brain was able to stay in a particular time period for longer chunks of time as stories that bounce back and forth frequently can sometimes get a little challenging to follow.

Overall, this was a very good thriller. Was it the best book I’ve ever read? No. Was it the best thriller I’ve ever read? No. But it was entertaining and well worth the read.

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