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

Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Still LivesStill Lives by Maria Hummel

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m on a quest lately to read all of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club picks from the last few years. Luckily the library has almost all of them so I’m able to fly right through them. Sorry Reese. Didn’t really love this one as much as I hoped I would!

Everybody is dying to see Kim Lord’s new art exhibit, Still Lives…. a collection of paintings based of photographs of Kim posing as famous dead women. Think Nicole Brown Simpson and The Black Dahlia. Creepy, right? My thought exactly. And imagine everybody’s surprise when Kim Lord is M.I.A. for the opening night of her exhibit. The rumors start circulating. Is this part of the art, or is Kim in danger? Meanwhile a young copy editor for the museum named Maggie finds herself wrapped up in a the scandalous art world, and the more she learns about Kim Lord, the more convoluted the story becomes. Maggie quickly finds herself in the middle of her own investigation into the disappearance of Kim Lord.

I thought the spin on modern art in this book was really evocative and lovely. I appreciated Maria Hummel’s thoughtfulness in designing this somewhat grungy, underground-feeling world of eccentricity. Even though we don’t technically meet Kim Lord’s character, her description was so well done that I felt she was. And the way the art folded into the murder mystery had a wonderful uniqueness that I enjoyed.

What didn’t I like about it? I felt like my interest really ebbed and flowed as the story progressed. There were times when I was really invested and I felt like the story was really grabbing me and then there were times when I felt my mind drifting. Usually when I found myself losing interest in the story, I felt like the story had gone off on a tangent briefly and left me feeling disconnected. And to be honest, the story’s conclusion ended up being a tad too complicated for my liking.

Overall, this book had a ton of potential and I really did enjoy the concept. But the execution fell a little flat for me.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club, Thriller

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying GameThe Lying Game by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing that I’ve learned as part of the book community is that there are two camps when it comes to Ruth Ware:

Camp I-Love-Her
…and…
Camp I-Don’t-Get-The-Hype

I happen to be in the former and adore everything she publishes (and P.S. I can’t wait to read her next book The Turn of the Key which will be out later this year…. read the first chapter here!). Her style is right up my alley with the right amount of mystery, oddball character development, and oftentimes Gothic undertones.

I’ve now read everything she’s ever published (with the exception of a short story that I recently got exclusive access to…. more on that to come). This was the last book I had on the list and while it wasn’t my favorite of hers…. *cough* The Death of Mrs. Westaway *cough*…. it still was really good.

And side note, it was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks in 2017 if you follow her recommendations like I do!

The Lying Game is essentially the story of four friends who reconnect at an alumni event at their former school after many years apart. Something fishy happened at the school all those years ago, and they’ve been keeping the secret ever since. But when a body is discovered close by, will their secret suddenly unleash itself? Or will they band together in their web of lies to keep their secret safe?

I could totally see Ruth Ware’s signature voice shining through in this story and really liked the overall content. I listened to this one on audio, and as with many of the other Ruth Ware’s books, I could not get enough of Imogen Church’s narration. She is one of my favorite audiobook narrators and I always enjoy the subtle personalities she gives the characters.

If I had one complaint, it would be that I felt it was maybe a tad too long. As I always say, I don’t mind length if I feel like it is necessary to the development of the story. But, I don’t care for stories that are long just for the sake of being long which in my opinion was the case here. I think in some places, the story could have gotten to the point faster and kept me more engaged.

But overall, really strong work again by Ruth Ware. I cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

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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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General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction, Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & the SixDaisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Expected Publication: March 5th!

ALL THE STARS!!! SERIOUSLY, FIVE IS NOT ENOUGH!

I adored this book so much. It is only the 6th day of 2019 and I would venture to say that this will probably be in the top 5 books I read this year, if not the best book I read this year. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a powerhouse. After reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I considered myself a fan of her storytelling. But Daisy Jones & the Six blows it out of the water.

Daisy Jones & the Six is a story about the fictional rock band… you guessed it… Daisy Jones & the Six. It tells the story of their rise to stardom and their later collapse. But the characters are the magic. The individual subplots are superb, and I was able to make a connection with each and every character in the book. I loved the way Taylor Jenkins Reid tied everything together with the ending expertly crafted and told. Although the entire story was fabulous, the last 10% of the book gave me all the feels and really brought it home for me.

The formatting was so unique and different. Written in the form of a transcript, with different characters telling their version of the story was super interesting. It also added a real element as everybody’s version of events was at times different, as they would be if actual people were telling their own accounts of the same story. And the humor. Perfectly placed. I found myself chuckling and laughing many times throughout. It was not overtly humorous by any means. But the way the author crafted conflicting accounts of certain events made me smile.

As this was a story about a rock band, there was mention of the various songs they wrote and performed. And not only did TJR allude to the band’s songs. She wrote them. At the back of the book are the lyrics of all ten songs for the reader to enjoy. Now if only we could have an accompanying soundtrack, my life would be complete. A girl can dream, right?

I will be recommending this book to everybody I know. And I have to thank BookSparks for helping a sista out with the request for this ARC. Hearts!

You will definitely want to preorder this one so click here to take yourself straight to Amazon and do it! This is one of the most highly anticipated books of the year, and I have a feeling it will be one of the most talked about after it is published.

-I was gifted an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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