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, 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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Audiobook Review, Nonfiction, Reese Witherspoon's Book Club, Self Help

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand AloneBraving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’ll keep this review short because… well… the book is short.

I snatched this audiobook from the library in my quest to read all the Reese Witherspoon Book Club picks. This is her pick from January of 2018.

Don’t let the title or the cover deceive you. I thought this was going to be a book about a woman out in the wilderness trying to survive. Wrong. Well at least not in the literal sense.

Braving the Wilderness is about the quest to belong. What does that really mean? The author would tell you, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” And Brown take us on a quick journey through her research surrounding this topic.

While I didn’t find this book awe-inspiring, it did give me a lot to think about. About my thoughts and actions and how I respond to people. Why our society is so divided, particularly in the political realm. This book does have lots of political undertones (although I would not say it is overtly political in nature). And I think it applies to folks on both sides of the political fence and everything in between. How can we be nicer to each other? How can we take opportunities to listen to understand rather than listen to respond? How do we bridge the enormous divide in our country and stop judging those who aren’t in our “political corner?”

You may not agree with everything Brown presents in this book, but I guarantee you will walk away with at least a few ideas for improving yourself as a human being. And at a short 4 hours on audio (a little over 200 pages in print), it is an extremely quick read you could tackle in one afternoon.

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

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We LostThe Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Reese Witherspoon Book Club success!

So let me first just put this disclaimer here. I don’t think this book will be a five star read for everybody. But it was for me. And I will tell you why.

The Light We Lost is a beautifully written story about real life. Plain and simple. I felt like the characters in this story could have walked straight off the pages of this book and walked around today’s society. They were flawed. They were real. They were honest. They struggled. I can’t see how any man or woman who reads this book can’t find something to relate to in one of the character’s stories.

The story is simply about a boy and a girl who connect on 9/11/2001. On that fateful day they find comfort in each other and are bonded to each other for life. Over time, they develop into an emotionally unavailable man whose mission is to make a difference after the events of September 11th and a woman who finds herself madly in love with him. His wanderlust takes him away from her, and as life goes on, she finds another man who makes her feel safe and comfortable, but doesn’t ignite the passion of her first love. She finds herself asking whether fire, passion, and feeling alive with a “wild card” type of man are the key to a happy life or if the key is in the safety, comfort, and security of a man who provides stability and normality.

I think we can all relate to that feeling at one point or another in our lives. Girls who go for the “bad boys” or chase after the wrong men for the thrill, while perfectly nice guys are waiting in the wings wishing they were being chased. That’s an age old story. And if you haven’t been there personally, you know somebody who has.

There is nothing Earth shattering about The Light We Lost. It’s not the world’s most original story. Which is why I say it may not be a five star read for everybody. But, it was such an honest and raw depiction of love and life that I found myself making a strong connection with the main characters and their struggles.

I honestly listened to this book in one sitting straight. It’s a relatively short audiobook at around 7 hours (which took me 3.5 hours to listen to on double speed). While it is kind of depressing and sad, it would still make a good listen for a long car ride.

I’m not a huge romance fan, but this is one that I would highly recommend.

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