Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Devoured. Binged. Slammed. Tore apart.

Whatever verbiage you want to use, that’s what I did to Between Shades of Gray.

When I found out last week that Ruta Sepetys would be coming to my local library Monday for a screening of the movie adaptation of this book, Ashes in the Snow, followed by a Q&A, I was super excited. I read her novel Salt to the Sea a while ago and fell in love with it. Ruta’s writing has a way of sucking you in and transporting you in time and in setting. When it comes to books made into films, I prefer to read the book first, so I had to quickly read this one before the author event (tomorrow!).

What I truly love about Ruta Sepetys is that she tells the forgotten stories. If you read WWII historical fiction, you’ve read stories about Nazi-occupied France or about Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or about the attack on Pearl Harbor. But Ruta finds the stories you’ve never heard. Important stories. And she brings them to life.

Between Shades of Gray is set in 1941. It tells the story of Stalin’s “death list” and the many families in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia who were secretly deported and imprisoned by the Soviet Union in the beginning of WWII. The book follows the life of fifteen-year old Lina who is sent to a remote camp in Siberia along with her mother and brother as they fight to stay alive.

I could not believe this was a true story. And it’s one I’ve never heard. The things these people were subjected to during their internment by the Soviet Union were unbearable and unthinkable. And Ruta Sepetys did a fantastic job recreating the horrid conditions. I found myself as the reader questioning if I could have survived. This one definitely made me think about how lucky I am to have the things I do and its message makes me appreciative for my freedom.

The audiobook narration is particularly good. I felt the tension and uncertainty in the narrator’s voice and she portrayed a young girl in this time period very well. At a little over 7 hours, it is a very quick listen.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I think this is a must-read. I am so excited to attend the movie screening tomorrow and meet Ruta herself!

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Watch Me DisappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watch Me Disappear is my book club’s May pick. And I sure hope I can remember all the details by the time we meet up on May 29th because I read this one so far in advance of our gathering!

I really loved the concept of this book. Wife and mom, Billie Flanagan, goes hiking in the woods alone and disappears. A year later, her husband Jonathan and daughter Olive are coming to terms with the fact that she’s probably dead. But suddenly Olive starts having visions of her mother and she starts to question if her mom could still be alive. As they dig deeper into Billie’s past, they will discover a web of deception and trail of lies.

Janelle Brown did such a good job keeping me guessing for the duration of this book. I never knew what was coming next and loved the ride. There was maybe a small portion in the middle that lulled a bit, but it quickly picked back up until the end.

The relationship dynamics were really strong between the characters, and I enjoyed the twists toward the end. The epilogue was particularly well written and tied together all of the loose ends and questions that were outstanding.

Overall, I was a fan of Watch Me Disappear and can’t wait to read other works by Brown in the future.

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Winter in Paradise (Paradise #1) by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter in Paradise (Paradise #1)Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh how I adore Elin Hilderbrand! If you’re looking for an author who nails the “beach read” category, this is your girl. Her covers always draw me in with their brightness, sunshine, and touch of mystery. They never show faces and leave me wondering who the people are on these beaches and what they’re doing there.

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Winter in Paradise was one of my selections from Book of the Month that I just got around to reading. I was pleasantly surprised by the change of location for Hilderbrand. Typically her stories are set in Nantucket, but the Paradise series is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands which was a nice change of scenery but still achieved Hilderbrand’s beachy signature feel.

This book has a lot going on. But at its core, it is about the death of a man and woman in a helicopter crash. After the crash, the man’s wife is notified of her husband’s death only to find out that he was living a double life in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His wife and children come down to identify his body and end up unearthing facts about their husband/father’s secret life. Meanwhile, the female victim’s friend is devastated by the news of her friend’s demise and finds herself shocked as pieces of her friend’s secret life are revealed. The family and friends of these two secret lovers will find their lives intertwined in a way they never imagined.

I loved the complexity of this story. There were a lot of relationship dynamics that gave the book a lot of depth. Mother/son. Father/son. Brother/brother. Husband/wife. Friend/friend. Just a lot of interesting character interaction and development. Since this book is the first in a series, I did feel like there was a lot of time spent building character relationships that will hopefully be expounded on in future books.

This is a great book to read poolside this summer or to save for the winter when you’re feeling tired of the snow and need to mentally escape to the beachy sands of the Caribbean. Bravo to Elin Hilderbrand. I can’t wait for the second book, What Happens in Paradise, which will be out later this year!

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Audiobook Review, Mystery

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies (Cat Kinsella, #1)Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eek. I’m finding this one a tad difficult to review. I chose this book as my Book of the Month pick many months ago and have finally gotten around to reading it…. well actually listening to it because audio is so much faster for me to get to and I requested it from the library.

Sweet Little Lies was totally not what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a juicy and twisty thriller. Instead, I got a slow paced police procedural. But even despite the genre mix-up, I found the story just okay.

Cat Kinsella is a detective charged with investigating the murder of a woman named Alice Lapine whose body is found dumped in the woods. But when Alice turns out to really be Maryanne Doyle, a girl who vanished in 1998, the case starts to get strange.

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this book because I found it to be kind of boring. While I ultimately appreciated the ending, it took a lot of “stuff” to get there. And the “stuff” was kind of long and drawn out and all over the place. I unfortunately never got invested in the story and found my attention ebbing and flowing with the audio as some parts reeled me in and then others lent themselves to periods of zoning out.

I wish I could say I loved this book more. There are plenty of rave reviews on Goodreads so my opinion should not be the determining factor for whether you read it. I’m kind of maxxed out on thriller/mysteries right now and am finding them harder and harder to wow me with new and fresh content. So I also may not be a great judge at the moment. Please feel free to check out other wonderful reviews for this book as you may find yourself on that side of the fence.

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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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