The best audiobooks for women - Includes romance, Christian lit, historical fiction, memoirs, and non-fiction; both fiction and non-fiction. Great ideas for libraries, including some new books and older ones.
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Listening to audiobooks has literally changed my life because they allow me to consume so many more books. Once I started listening to them, I couldn't believe all the opportunities I found for listening – like when I'm driving, during my walks, while doing dishes, and even when getting ready in the morning.
Note: After the 3-month trial is completed, you’ll automatically be charged $14.95 per month at the regular rate. If you no longer want to continue your subscription after the trial, go into settings and cancel your subscription (Amazon makes it very easy). This will prevent any automatic charges from showing up on your account. Or, you can call Audible and ask for the silver subscription, which is $14.95 every other month.
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Here's the link to get the Audible deal, and I've shared all of my favorite audiobooks for women below. These are the ones I find myself recommending over and over and over, although it's been years since I discovered some of them. They're the best of the best.
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Here's what I would buy if I were trying out Audible for the first time:
(These are some of the best audiobooks of all time, but they are for adults, specifically women. If you're looking for audiobooks for kids and families, check out this post instead.)
Love Does by Bob Goff is one of only two audiobooks I've ever listened to more than once. Bob Goff's books don't read like Christian commentary or even Christian anything because he's writing essays (a collection of short stories really) about life and living and loving and being. He's talking about living love and being like Jesus because Jesus was love. This book is a winner, and I absolutely adored it - it is positive, optimistic, and full of charm. I want Bob Goff to be my uncle or next door neighbor. 5 stars.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – I have loved most of the books on this list, but this one ruined me for all other books. It is by far and away my favorite on the entire list and the best audiobook of the year. I binged it and listened to the entire book in under four days because I. just. couldn't. get. enough. I needed with my whole heart to know what would happen next. The story is about a girl who is six when her mother walks away from the family, and then all her siblings fade away, too, leaving her with an abusive, alcoholic father in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. She treasures the marsh and all its inhabitants, and she squirrels away treasures from her explorations which become important later in the story. Despite all odds, she grows up into a beautiful but backward and highly intelligent woman. Then simultaneous to her coming of age story is a murder mystery in which she is the chief suspect. Knowing the end, I listened a second (and third) time just for the fun of noticing more details. This book is so good. So so good. Old Grandma loved it too, and she said she didn't see the ending coming - which is huge for her! She always figures out the ending of mysteries. My new all time favorite classic novel. 5+++ stars.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – This story is crazy and completely original. It's about a bunch of weirdos who get taken hostage by a bank robber who is actually not a bad person. Every chapter presents a new surprise, and you will may not understand who is who and what is happening until the story is nearly finished. It's a little confusing in how it's written, but it is so good and it will all come together in the end. Definitely worth reading for any book lover. 5 stars.
You by Caroline Kepnes – There is a Netflix series called You which is (very loosely) based on this book. This series has a lot of very very vulgar language (going way beyond "normal" swear words), but it makes sense within the story. If you haven't seen the series, this is about a man who stalks a woman and ends up getting her to be his girlfriend. But he kills people and does all manner of horrible things to get her. Loved every minute. There are 3 more books in this series, equally awesome. 5 stars.
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – I loved this twisty turny book. The first lines are: "My name is Amber Reynolds. I'm in a coma. Sometimes I lie." and you question every single statement the whole way through the book. Except that you get sucked into the story and forget to question it, and then you're left in the end with your mouth agape, wondering what exactly is happening. I thought I knew what happened after finishing, but then I went back and listened to the second half a second time. I thought I knew what happened even then, but then after convincing a coworker to listen to it, I heard a completely different perspective that left me questioning what I thought. This book is nuanced with great character development. So good. You'll want to discuss it with someone when you're finished. 5 stars.
I listen to audiobooks every single day on my 60 minute walk around the neighborhood, and before that, I used to listen every day on my hourlong commute to work. If you've seen any of my Instagram live videos or Insta stories, you've probably seen me talking about the latest book and how much I love it.
I've been really lucky lately as far as audiobooks go. I've listened to a lot of awesome ones full of insight, and there have only been a couple that I wouldn't recommend.
One thing I also want to mention is that I have sent most of these books to Old Grandma who is 93. She devoured each one in less than a day and enjoyed them all. I share this because I think they are books with appeal to many different ages, but mostly to women.
I get all of my audiobooks through Audible. The rates are easy on the budget ($14.95 per month for 1 regular title plus unlimited titles from the Prime library), and I get to keep the books in my library forever. I upgraded to the 2 books per month plan, and it's still relatively inexpensive.
So, without further ado, here are the books I've been listening to, in order of my listening (newest at the top).
Currently Listening to:
On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova – At the beginning of the story, a guy was killed in a hit and run and his mom seems to have lost her mind and her marriage in the subsequent months. The story develops as his mom, her friend, and their newish neighbor develop a friendship. 5 stars.
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins – The title of this made me think of Jane Eyre, and there is a nod to that in the general arc of the story. In the beginning, this mysterious petty thief stars walking dogs in a super rich neighborhood, and she snares the rich widower whom everyone loves. They fall in love, and she moves in and then they get engaged. But about a third of the way in, you find out that he has a secret. I really want to say more, but there are about six big twists and I don't want to ruin it for you. This book was really really good, and I didn't see the ending coming at all. 5 stars.
The Patient's Secret by Loreth Anne White – The prologue of this book says that it's based on a real event, but you don't really find out that angle til the very end. In the beginning, a woman is pushed off of a cliff and dies. (Interestingly, at the very end, the person who's responsible for her death claims that he reached out to try to save her... so which is it, did he push her or did she slip and he tried to help???) A guy finds her body and does some weird stuff which makes him sus. Eventually, he and his wife are arrested for her murder. The plot thickens of course, and you find out that the wife and the victim were linked by a terrible past. This book was riveting and moved along at a really nice pace. 5 stars.
My Perfect Daughter by Sarah Denzil – At the very beginning of this book, a young woman is lured to the grasp of a serial killer by his 5-year-old daughter. But she is nice to the little girl, and she helps the woman to survive and then escape. The woman adopts the little girl and then goes on to get married and have a second child with her husband. Eleven years later, mean girls in the now teenager's school start dying, and the girl gets blamed. She swears she's innocent. Then the little girl's long lost mother shows up and shit gets crazy. The whole book was chilling and so good. 5 enthusiastic stars. Loved this one.
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica – My friend told me that Audible kept recommending this book to her, and she asked me to read it first, so I obliged. There are two storylines, one about a woman who died eleven years ago, and a second about the woman's five-year-old daughter who disappeared at the same time. A 16-year-old girl escapes from her kidnapper and shows up, claiming to be the missing girl. And then it all unfolds. I guessed part of the ending but was way off on the rest. 4 stars.
The Lying Club by Annie Ward – The ending of this book was c.r.a.z.y! It was so original and interesting that I never could have imagined what was going to happen at the end. The story is about the young receptionist at an elite private school who gets caught up with an older man. He's a popular teacher and coach at the school and works privately with a bunch of the teenage girls to prepare them to play soccer in college. The woman becomes friends with two of the moms from the school, and they quickly discover that they all have more in common than it would appear. There is a death at the beginning of the book, and you find out slowly over the whole story who died and how, and then the ending! OMG. 5 stars.
Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea – This completed my exhaustive listening of all Charlie Donlea's books. At the very beginning, there's a murder, and then the book tells about the journalist who investigates the murder and and learns about the victim and her life leading up to the crime. The whole time, I was sure I knew who killed her, but then the ending blew. me. away. 5 big stars.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin – This was a really interesting story. It's set in Nigeria, and the main characters are a polygamist and his wives. The family was really happy when there were just three wives, their children, and the husband, but then he goes out and brings in a fourth wife, and all manner of drama ensues. Then the new wife has trouble conceiving, and Baba Segi takes her to the hospital for tests. It gets so good from there. I loved this story. 4 stars.
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo – I have a bunch of friends from Nigeria, and I decided to read some Nigerian books to become more familiar with the culture and history of the country. This was my first one, and it was just so good. It's about this band of misfits, started by an army colonel who deserts when commanded to kill a village full of civilians, and including a corrupt government minister. They live like a family, squatting in an opulent but secret bunker in Lagos. The story is meandering and interesting and brilliant. 4 stars.
We Were Kings by Court Stevens – This was about a girl, her mother, her mother's best friend who is on death row for murder and set to be executed in two weeks, and her mother's estranged family. The girl goes back to her mother's hometown to try to figure out who really committed the murder, and she unwittingly starts a YouTube podcast (is there another name for that?) called Death Days in which she becomes an instant worldwide celebrity. There's a mild love interest, and the ending blew me away. C-r-a-z-y! 4 stars.
Together We Will Go by J. Michael Straczynski – This book rivals Crawdads for my new favorite. It is real and painful and beautiful and honest. It's about a band of misfits (I seem to have a thing for books about bands of misfits?) who all sign up to commit suicide together. There is a guy and his sick cat, a bipolar woman, a woman with chronic pain, an older widower, and a bunch more. They tour the country, and their final destination is driving off a cliff in California. In the end, some live, and some die. But their journey is incredible and moving. I laughed in a lot of parts, and I cried a few times. (I recommended this to a friend who said it sounded depressing, but it wasn't depressing. Maybe you have to have a history of mental illness and suicidal thoughts to relate? I don't know, but I connected with this book in a very meaningful way, and I know I will read it again at least one or two more times.) 5++++ stars.
Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren – I love Christina Lauren (an author team made up of women named Christina and Lauren), but be warned: they are really graphic, sexual romances. When I'm in the mood, I devour them as a break between my WWII books and my murder books. So anyway, this is the first in a delicious series of 4 books. It starts like this: 3 friends go to Vegas to celebrate their college graduation, and there are 3 very attractive slightly older boys in the suite next door, and they all wind up hungover and married in the morning. Two of the couples get their marriages annulled (but hook up again in subsequent books), but Mia and Ansel decide to try to make a go of married life. He is French, and she moves to France to live with him for the summer before heading off to graduate school. It's a trashy, hot romance, but it has a great story with really interesting characters. Don't miss the rest of the series either, although I think the 4th one isn't as good as the first 3. 5 stars.
Some Choose Darkness by Charlie Donlea – I fell in love with Charlie Donlea's books and devoured five out of six of them in just over two weeks. This one was about a forensics expert whose father dies. She is also an attorney and takes over his law practice as a means to close out his business. Unfortunately for her, his most nefarious client is set to be paroled, and the judge insists that she not pass the case off to another attorney but instead sees it through. The client is a serial killer who was convicted of killing his wife but not any of this other victims, and he claims his wife is the one person he didn't kill. So the main character sets out to discover the truth about him and his wife and what happened to them after the conviction. This is probably the best mystery I've read so far this year, and I finished it in just over 24 hours. 5 enthusiastic stars.
The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea – This was the sequel to Some Choose Darkness, although the only connecting thread was the main character. This time, she and her partner are investigating an abandoned house which happens to be the site of two heinous murders and something like three suicides in the year since. Throughout the book, there are journal entries from the killer, and you know he or she is the killer, but you don't know which of the actual characters is the author. I thought I had it all figured out and then – NOPE! I liked this one almost as much as Some Choose Darkness. 5 enthusiastic stars.
Don't Believe It by Charlie Donlea – This book briefly mentions a character who was in The Suicide House, so I recommend reading it after the first two. It's about a journalist who is making a documentary about an old college friend who was convicted of killing her boyfriend ten years ago. I don't want to say more about this one because I don't want to give anything away, but it was really really good and the ending blew. me. away. I couldn't believe it. I don't think I've ever in all my reading years encountered an ending like that. I just shook my head in disbelief. 5 enthusiastic stars.
Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea – This is about a very famous tv news host (now that I think of it, was this the character from The Suicide House or was it really the journalist from Don't Believe It? I forget.) who investigates the identification of human remains from the World Trade Center site on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Turns out that woman was about to go on trial for murdering her lover, and the case had been a slam dunk. But of course, that all happens in the first hour and the story takes all manner of twists and turns on the way to a satisfying resolution. All of Charlie Donlea's books have a sort of CSI quality about them, focusing largely on forensic evidence and the details of the original crimes, and this one does not disappoint. 4 stars.
The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea – The main character in this one is a side character in Twenty Years Later, above. This one is about two girls who were kidnapped a year ago. One of them escaped two weeks after their abduction, and no trace of the other one was ever discovered. The sister of the still missing girl works with the girl who was found to try to solve the crime and find the still missing girl. Charlie Donlea is the master of the surprise ending, and I'm not going to say anything more about it lest I give something away. 5 enthusiastic stars.
The Drowning Girls by Lisa Regan – I write down a summary of each book that I read or listen to, including the ending and my rating, in a special reading journal that I keep next to my desk. I always wait until the very end of the book, and then I write down my thoughts before starting a new one. Well. I was certain I had this book all figured out and, even though there was still a half hour left, I was sure that the half hour was a preview of some other book and the story was over. So I wrote down my thoughts and summary and the ending – and then the plot twisted and the ending was actually a whole different thing that I never saw coming! It was insane. I love when stories do that.
Anyway, this is something like #13 out of a series of books about a police detective and her police detective husband and their police detective friends. As one might imagine, they solve crimes. In this particular book, a member of the police department goes missing, and then her lookalike sister turns up drowned, and then more people drown, and bad news surfaces from the family's troubled past, and it goes on and on. I really liked this story, although I didn't love it enough to go back and start the series from the beginning. Maybe someday. 4 stars.
Count to Three by T.R. Ragan – This was about a private investigator whose five-year-old daughter was kidnapped five years ago. She wasn't a P.I. at the time but became one in order to help other families find their kids, even though she has never been able to find her own. At the beginning of the book, she takes a case to locate a missing 17-year-old girl whom police assume to be a runaway. The resolution to the kinapping case was maybe a little predictable, but it was still an awesome story, and the very end left me with mouth agape. 4 stars.
Good as Dead by Susan Walter – Imagine being a victim of a hit and run accident that kills your husband, and a slick high powered attorney swoops in and tells you that "everything will be taken are of" as he buys you a mansion and fancy cars and gives you a bank account containing millions of dollars – all in exchange for your silence. The neighbors start asking questions and stumble upon some of the secrets, and I don't want to tell you more because it will give too much away. 4-½ stars.
The Surrogate by Toni Halleen – This is about a very young woman who agrees to be the surrogate for an older childless couple. As you might imagine, she connects with the baby and runs away with her, turning to her ex-boyfriend as the only person she knows who can help. But it turns out that he's a pretty bad dude, and mayhem breaks out on several fronts. So you have the intended parents on a manhunt for the surrogate and the surrogate trying to track down the ex-boyfriend and the ex-boyfriend hiding out with his sister and doing dumb things. 4-½ stars.
The Longest Echo by Eoin Dempsey – I was surprised (and kind of not) to learn that this was based on a real life story. Liliana was the only member of her Italian (civilian) family who was not murdered by the Nazis. James was an American Prisoner of War who escaped from the Nazis when a train crashed. They helped each other to survive and escape to the Allied lines. Twelve years later, a chance meeting brings them back together in New York. 5 stars.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley – This was a crazy book about a destination wedding on a remote island and all the people involved. The bride and groom are a super sophisticated (and super beautiful) power couple, and their friends and family are complicated and diverse. You don't know who the murder victim is until nearly the very end (although you do know that there was a crime from the very beginning), and the ending is deliciously satisfying and unexpected. 5 stars.
No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield – This is another favorite of the whole year. At the very beginning, Lizzie is murdered by a gunshot wound that blows her entire face off. As the story unfolds, you learn the sad background of a woman who's lived in the shadows her whole life, disregarded by the community, and the woman who murdered her wakes up in a luxury townhouse in the big city and has to proceed to cover up the crime. I couldn't wait to share thiso ne with Old Grandma because it was so good - and the twist partway through was so unexpected. 5+++ stars.
I Found You by Lisa Jewell – This was a really complicated story but sooooo good. It starts with a man on a beach with no memories, and he is found by a lonely single mother. Then at the same time, there's a woman hundreds of miles away whose husband is missing. Then there's also a story from 1993 that explains some parts of the two mysteries but not all (until the very end, of course). I'm not explaining this very well, but it was a really really good mystery (and of course, there's a murder, but not in the beginning). The end wraps everything up nice and tight and was a satisfying conclusion and explanation for the drama. 5 stars.
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell – I LOVED this story about a teenager named Sapphire who used to see a therapist named Rowan for some childhood trauma (that he never uncovers...?), until he decided against her wishes that she was ready to be discharged. She starts stalking him and discovers all of his secrets, and then she goes missing. Rowan's shady (but misunderstood) neighbor gets blamed and goes to jail, but no one finds out what happened to Sapphire until the very very end of the book. 5 stars.
Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell – This was a lovely book about a man named Toby whose father bought him a large and beautiful house before totally disappearing from his life. His wife left him after only a month of marriage, and he took in a bunch of weirdo tenants to keep himself company and fill up his house. Trouble is, 15 years later, they're all still there (plus a couple), and he wants to sell the house and move away. But he feels bad for all of them and can't put them out. 4 stars.
Riley Thorne and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score – This was set in my city (Harrisburg, PA), and it was really cool to read about the areas that I already knew about. It was a light mystery/romance about a psychic who hates her "gifts" and doesn't want anything to do with the psychic world. A private investigator is hired to look into the death of her neighbor, and the two of them go on a crusade to save the city. 3 stars.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – This was about a woman with an invisible disability and the man she had a brief relationship with in high school. They meet up again as adults and try to sort out what happened back then and figure out whether or not they want to do it all again. It was a nice story with a nice ending. 4 stars.
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman – I almost quit this story halfway through, but I'm really glad I finished. Britt-Marie is odd and awkward but she learns to love a small rundown town after leaving her husband because she discovered he was having an affair. The story is about how she comes into herself as a post-middle-age woman who's never before lived her own life, apart from her identity as a wife and mother. 4 stars.
Bed Stuy: A Love Story by Jerry McGill – This is a sort of love story about an 18-year-old black man (boy?) who falls in love with a 50ish white (married) Jewish woman, and their relationship that spans a few years. I had high hopes for the story, but it didn't go the way I wanted, and I was disappointed in the ending. Still, it was well written and a decent story. 3 stars.
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn – This was made into a Netflix movie, but I haven't watched it yet. It's about an agoraphobic woman who never leaves her New York City apartment, but she is convinced that she sees her neighbor being murdered. She goes on a quest to prove that she's right, but she is shut down at every turn. Everyone in the world seems to want to convince her that she drunkenly hallucinated the whole thing, but she's adamant that she didn't. It wraps up in a surprise ending that I couldn't put down. 4 stars.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion –Amazon calls this a "hilarious, feel-good novel narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor" and that is exactly what it is. It was cute and light and explained how the main character designed a survey questionnaire to find Ms Right, but Rosie serves up all the wrong answers so he discards her. Except that he can't quite get rid of her, and they embark on a quest together to solve a mystery from her past even though they are not interested in each other romantically (and say so, often). I'm sure you can imagine how it ends, but the ride is wonderful and charming, and I really enjoyed it. 4 Stars.
Hamilton by Ron Chernow – This classic audiobook is 37 hours long. THIRTY-SEVEN HOURS. I'm not sure exactly why I decided to undertake it because it has severely derailed my reading cadence, but it is interesting to learn the real story that inspired the musical. (Lin-Manuel Miranda based his musical entirely on this exact book.) Unfortunately, I have to be in the right mood to listen to it, and it took me exactly 8 weeks to finish it. It's good but it's not as compelling as the fiction I'm used to. 4 stars, but I don't know if I'd recommend reading it unless you're hardcore into history.
Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – This was a quirky story about a woman who was a successful architect in her past life but now just torments her neighbors and the other parents are her only child's elite private school. As the title would imply, she disappears (but that happens near the end), and then there is a big mystery about where she went and why and whether she will ever be found. The voice of the actress was different and unusual, but I thought that contributed nicely to the story. It's been made into a movie, but I haven't seen it yet. 3 stars.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – This was a moving story about a man who vowed never to be in a relationship and the woman he fell for and the course of their marriage. I don't want to tell you the twist that happens pretty early in the book and thus can't tell you much about the story, but it touched me in a way that a book hasn't for a long long time. It was poignant because he was an awesome man who loved his wife deeply, and she was an awesome woman who loved her husband deeply, but what happened between them couldn't be undone. At the end, there is an author's note that the story is based largely upon her own parents' marriage which makes it just so much more achingly beautiful. 5 enthusiastic stars.
The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell – This was a slow moving mystery where the deceased is a young woman who's the third wife of an upper middle class architect. He is very involved with his first two families; they even vacation together regularly. For the whole book, you're trying to figure out if the death was a suicide or a homicide, and there is a mysterious woman who complicates the whole thing. If you like mysteries, you'll probably like it because it does have a complicated and interesting storyline, but it wasn't one of my favorites. 3 stars.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – I didn't know anything at all about this story except that the brilliant actor Tom Hanks was the narrator, and that's the only reason that I bought it. I love listening to him, and I am devouring the book. It's about a little boy whose mother left when he was very young, and he lives with his sister (who's 7 years older) and their dad, and before long, a step mom and 2 step sisters. The story is long and meandering, and there's not a real climax to the story. It's just about the boy's life as he grows up and becomes a man and has a family of his own and still retains close ties to his sister. It was a good story, although not one of my top favorites. 3 stars.
I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll – So I bought this one because I wasn't sure whether my coworker meant this book or the other Watching You book further down the list. Turns out that they were both really good. I liked this story and found the whole book to be really interesting - until the very end when I felt like the culprit was from left field with no real ties to the story. But anyway, it focuses on several different characters, and the central one is a girl who disappeared without a trace a year ago after being seen with her best friend and 2 ex-cons on a train. 3 stars.
Choose Me by Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver – At the beginning of this book, a beautiful college coed has committed suicide, and the brilliant police detective believes that foul play was involved. She (the detective) tracks down evidence that proves it was a murder, and I spent most of the book thinking I knew who the murderer was - only to find myself way wrong in the end. 4 stars.
Watching You by Lisa Jewell – This one was recommended by a book loving coworker. It's basically about a whole town in England. The story is quite complicated, but there is a young married couple, and the wife is infatuated with a handsome older man (the school principal) who lives a few doors down. Her husband is doing some home renovations for his wife, and his son basically observes everyone in town through his telescope. There's another townie, a slightly goofy mom who believes she's been stalked and harassed. Eventually, you learn that there's been a murder, and the story develops from there. 4 stars.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – My manager recommended this to me. It's about a group of friends who rent out a hunting lodge for New Year's Eve. Of course, there is a murder, but you don't find out until the very very end who is dead. Most of the rest of the book is a flashback or sorts as it talks about what happened the week before the murder, from the perspective of several different of the friends as well as the handsome and mysterious groundskeeper and the manager of the lodge. Honestly, this wasn't my favorite book ever, but it was a decent story that kept my interest the whole way through. I just wasn't crazy about how everything got tied up in the end. It seemed a little farfetched. (That's saying a lot coming from me.) 3 stars.
Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult – I know she's a hugely successful author, but this was the first book I ever read by Jodie Picoult. And believe me, it was a doozy. The end had maybe the biggest twist I've seen since Gone Girl. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story is about a 13-year-old girl who is investigating her own mother's disappearance 10 years ago. She enlists the help of a psychic and a down on his luck police detective turned private investigator, and together, they travel all over the east coast looking for clues. The mother had been a scientist who studied elephants, so there's lots and lots of fascinating information about elephants woven through the story. 5 stars.
Life's Too Short by Abby Jimenez – This story was about a successful lawyer who falls madly in love with a hugely successful YouTuber who was convinced she had early onset ALS. She puts him off and puts him off and puts him off because she feels it would be unfair of her to begin a relationship knowing that she's going to be dead very soon. She does consent to be friends though, and the chemistry between them is electric. I enjoyed every minute of this light and fun book. 5 stars.
Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane – This is another original story that I couldn't put down. Very early on, the main character murders her abusive husband, but his body disappears and she goes half crazy trying to find out whether he's still alive (did she mess it up?) or if someone took his body, and if so, who and why? I am dying to tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the surprises. I would never have guessed who dunnit. So good. 5 stars.
Anxious People by Frederik Backman – This story is crazy and completely original. It's about a bunch of weirdos who get taken hostage by a bank robber who is actually not a bad person. Every chapter presents a new surprise, and you will may not understand who is who and what is happening until the story is nearly finished. It's a little confusing in how it's written, but it is so good and it will all come together in the end. Definitely worth reading. 5 stars.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – This book was recommended to me on Twitter. It is a very light romance between a broken, lonely girl and an awkward, complicated boy. It's very predictable, although there is a twist that comes out of nowhere and complicates their lives a bit. It's worth listening to but not that memorable. 4 stars.
Where the Light Enters by Dr. Jill Biden – This is Dr. Jill Biden's memoir, in which she talks about how she grew up, met and married her husband, and raised their family, all while being a working mom. She tells lots of family stories and gives beautiful advice on parenting the way only a kind and seasoned grandma can do. It was a lovely story and very nice to listen to, but it didn't grip me the way that fiction does. 4 stars.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – This is Matthew McConaughey's memoir. He is a fantastic writer with very funny stories which makes this book flow easily. The only thing I didn't like about it is that his bellybutton-gazing sometimes borders on pretentious. I still like him, and I will probably buy his next book when it comes out because I like the way he tells his stories. 4 stars.
You by Caroline Kepnes & Hidden Bodies & You Love Me & For You and Only You – There is a Netflix series called You which is (very loosely) based on this series and, while You and the first season are sort of similar, season two and Hidden Bodies are as different as different can be. There are some of the same characters, but the story is all different. This series has a lot of very very vulgar language (going way beyond "normal" swear words), but it makes sense within the story. If you haven't seen the series, this is about a man who stalks a woman and ends up getting her to be his girlfriend. But he kills people and does all manner of horrible things to get her.
And then in the second book, he follows a girl who's broken his heart in an attempt to get revenge, and he ends up falling in love with someone else and trying to be a better man for her. And he fails a lot. 5 stars for all four.
The Last Affair by Margot Hunt – This was about two married people who have an extramarital affair and fall in love, but they can't be together. They eventually get found out, someone gets murdered, and in the end, another murder is being planned. The story is very twisty, and I did not predict who the killer was until it happened. The ending was totally crazy. 4 stars.
Troubled Blood by Roberth Galbraith – This is the 5th book in Roberth Galbraith's (J.K. Rowling using a pseudonym) Cormoran Strike detective series. Cormoran is a private investigator who, in this book, is trying to discover what happened to a woman who disappeared without a trace in 1972. I found the romantic tension in this book to be a bit tedious (I feel like they just need to get together already!!!), but overall it is a good story. 4 stars.
Two Reasons to Run by Colleen Coble – This is part two of the Pelican Harbor series by Colleen Coble. It's about a small town police chief with a very interesting history, and her father and long lost son and husband. In the first story (way down the list), we learn about Chief Hardy's childhood growing up in a cult. In this story, she is investigating a domestic terrorist who is threatening her son to keep her from getting involved. 3 stars.
Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini – This was a very long book (more than 20 hours) about four women in the resistance in Nazi Germany who worked together and separately to defeat Hitler's regime. Most of the women in the story are based on real people, so the ending is not happy for all the characters. The story doesn't get tied up neatly; it's real life. 4 stars.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – I loved this book and ignored my whole life for four days while I devoured it. It is about a little girl named Wavy who is 8 when her grandma dies and she gets foisted off on her drug addicted recently released from prison deadbeat of a mom together with her infant brother. The mom has really messed Wavy up in many ways. Wavy doesn't eat in front of anyone and refuses to speak and considers herself to be dirty. Before too long, she witnesses a horrible motorcycle crash, and she helps the driver, Kellen, to get help. They become friends, and he looks out for her and her baby brother when their parents don't or won't or can't because they're too strung out (the mom) or too busy cooking and selling meth (the dad).
I feel the need to give you a warning here. Eventually, Wavy pursues Kellen in a romantic way and they embark on a sexual relationship when he is 28 and she is 13. I think this may turn many readers off from the book. However, I was drawn in to the story and identified with Wavy because she grew up way too fast and went after exactly what she wanted and didn't give up until she had it. Kellen tried to push her away over and over, but he felt compelled to help her and got sucked into her version of the way life should be.
Like I said, I loved this story and wholeheartedly give it 5 big stars.
Her Last Word by Mary Burton – This was about a woman who was obsessed with finding her cousin who had been abducted fourteen years earlier at age 18. It was also about a man (not the abductor) who was killing the witnesses to the crime and the homicide detective who was investigating the first killing. The woman was recording a podcast about her cousin with the hopes that it would bring her case to a closure, and in doing so, started this murder spree. I liked this story, even if it was a little predictable. 4 stars.
Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster – In the very beginning of this book, Grace's husband disappears without a trace, leaving their infant daughter on the doorstep of the cottage they just moved into. Grace comes back one year later to try to find some answers, and a lot of spooky things happen. She also begins to have feelings for the mysterious handyman she's hired to renovate the cottage. The whole book was slow and suspenseful, but I didn't love how it hurried up and closed out. It was like Grace figured out all this stuff, but I didn't follow her thought process and didn't really understand what made her say and do what she said and did. Still a solid mystery. 3 stars.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown – This book is about a con woman and her boyfriend/partner in crime. Her mother has cancer, and the experimental treatments are both very expensive and not covered by insurance, so the woman is thieving to pay for the care. Partway through, another woman enters the story. She is a super rich but lonely woman about the same age as the con woman and her boyfriend. She becomes their mark. Lots of twists and turns at the end. 4 stars.
The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman – This book is about a troop of five old college friends seventeen years after they graduated. They've mostly grown apart and have very little in common. One of the five, a very rich and famous author, invites them all to her palatial estate for a girls weekend. Someone turns up missing the night after some drunken antics, and the mystery unfolds from there. 3 ½ stars.
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – I loved this twisty turny book. The first lines are: "My name is Amber Reynolds. I'm in a coma. Sometimes I lie." and you question every single statement the whole way through the book. Except that you get sucked into the story and forget to question it, and then you're left in the end with your mouth agape, wondering what exactly is happening. I thought I knew what happened after finishing, but then I went back and listened to the second half a second time. I thought I knew what happened even then, but then after convincing a coworker to listen to it, I heard a completely different perspective that left me questioning what I thought. This book is nuanced with great character development. So good. 5 stars.
A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight – This one starts out slow but turns out to be so good. It's got two parallel storylines. In the first, a man is accused of murdering his wife, and his lawyer (an old law school friend) tries to find evidence that he didn't do it. The second storyline tells his now dead wife's story starting a couple of weeks before the murder. Every time it seemed like there was an answer to the question of the crime, the story pivoted and left me totally surprised. 5 stars.
The Half Sister by Sandie Jones – Imagine you're having dinner at your mother's house with your sister and her family when a stranger walks in and says she's your dead father's child. Wait, what? That's what happens in the very beginning of this story. One sister immediately trusts her, and the other remains skeptical and accusatory. I went through all kinds of theories as to the identity of the interloper, and they all proved to be wrong. 4 stars.
Safe by S. K. Barnett – This book was c.r.a.z.y. It's about an 18-year-old girl who shows up claiming to be the 6-year-old who had been abducted from her front lawn twelve years earlier. She is interrogated by the police to make sure she's legit, and she goes to trauma counseling. Her brother is openly hostile toward her, and she can't understand why. The end was so good and explained everything all the way around. I don't want to tell you more because it will ruin the surprise for you, but I really liked this book. 4 stars.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark – This was about an abused wife who is found out by her husband just before her making an escape using a fake identity. She was talking to her best friend on the phone at the airport when a stranger offers to exchange tickets with her, effectively trading identities. They do, and you don't know whether the mysterious other woman got on the flight or not until the very end. That flight goes down, killing everyone aboard. The wife goes on to Berkeley, California, where the other woman lived, and assumes most of the other woman's life. As she discovers more of the other woman's life, she learns that she may be in danger. It was a great story. Really liked this one. 5 stars.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson – Prior to reading this book, I did not know that there were people in the United States whose skin was as blue as a sapphire. But there used to be, and this story is about one of the last of them. It's fiction but based on a real family in the Kentucky hills in the 1930s. The main character is a book woman with the traveling pack horse library, and she faces all sorts of dangers in her job. Her father marries her off to a white man against her wishes, and that does not go well at all. The story is one of hardship and tragedy but ultimately hope. It's got some sad parts (but not so sad that I cried), but it is uplifting and wonderful. 5 stars.
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo – At first, I was confused by this book because it's a very long letter from a woman to a man she used to be in a relationship with and still loves. She has moved on and married and had children, but she never really moved on at all. She tells about the life they had together and the life she had after their breakup, and it all comes together very neatly in the end. I had big feelings about the ending, but I don't want to tell you because spoilers. 4 stars.
A Serial Killer's Daughter by Kerri Rawson – I almost always listen to fiction, and this one is a real life memoir, but it reads almost like fiction. It’s written by the daughter of the notorious BTK serial murderer. (He called himself BTK because that’s how he attacked his victims - bind, torture, kill. Partway into this book, I felt compelled to research him and his crimes.) She does not describe his crimes at all; she only tells her story as she tries to reconcile her odd but loving father with the heinous criminal she heard about from the police and in the media. It’s a story of redemption and peace as she comes to terms with his double life and heals herself. 3 stars.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – I read this book in paperback form, but the audiobook is supposed to be really well done too. It is a love story about two Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The main character of the book is a man, Lale, who through a series of fortunate coincidences becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz, a cushy job that allows him considerably more freedom than the average prisoner. As he tattoos a prisoner number on her arm, he looks into the eyes of Gita and falls in love at first sight. The story is both about how they survived and how their love blossomed in the bleakest of circumstances. This novel is based on a true story, and I read it in under a day because it was so good and so compelling. Cilka's Journey, below, is the sequel. 5 stars.
Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris – Cilka is a minor character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz above, and that book ends with a one line note about how she was convicted as a conspirator of the Nazis and sent to a Soviet labor camp for 15 years after Auschwitz was liberated. This story was even more painful than the Tattooist for me, I think because she was imprisoned not once but twice for doing nothing wrong, just for living and surviving in the best way that she knew how. But like the Tattooist above, this is a story of hope and survival. Even though the subject and background are very heavy, I loved this story of survival in the worst of circumstances. I also learned a great deal from this novel which is based on the life of a real woman. I finished this book in a day. It was gripping. 5 stars.
The Summer House by Lauren K. Denton – This book is light even while dealing with the very real issues of love and loss. It centers around two women, one younger and one older, and the two men who pursue them and try to mend their broken hearts. Both women are mourning the loss of their marriages (one recently and one decades ago), and the two men are patient but insistent in their quests to show the women that good and faithful men really do exist. This one will renew your faith in the power of love and good men. It's in the Christian romance category, so no smut here but still a really nice story with good characters. 3 stars.
One Little Lie by Colleen Coble – This is about a woman who is appointed Chief of Police in a quiet Alabama town when her father retires. But then two murders rock the town, and she has to figure out what’s going on despite evidence that threatens and implicates her dad. Her sidekick through all of this is a male journalist who’s been given permission to make a documentary about her work. This book is the first of a trilogy that’s supposed to be released over the next year. I can’t wait for the other two because the ending of this one seems unfinished and was definitely not the resolution I wanted! (The next one comes out in September 2020 I believe.) 4 stars.
The Water Keeper by Charles Martin – This book is captivating, and once you start, you will NOT want to stop. It’s about a former priest who gathers a rag tag group of people and a dog as he tries to rescue a girl from the world of human trafficking. There’s the girl’s damaged but beautiful mother, a mysterious orphaned runaway, a convicted murder who’s now free but dying, and the ashes of the former priest’s best friend and mentor. It sounds heavy, but is a wonderful story with many lighthearted moments, and behind all the action of the rescue, there is a beautiful love story. I loved the book but hated the ending which was real and appropriate to the story and so very painful. 3 stars.
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez – I don't usually recommend books with a lot of bad language, and this one has tons of it, but I liked the characters and the story. It's a romance about a woman who has been told she can't have children and the man she's secretly in love with who has made it clear he wants a whole mess of them. He makes no secret of his feelings for her, and she spends the entire book rebuffing his advances. 4 stars.
The Happily Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez – As much as I liked The Friend Zone above, this book was even better. It's the sequel, so read Friend Zone first and then this one. It has just as much bad language, but it has an even better story and the same interesting and nuanced characters. This one is about Sloane, whose fiancée dies days before their wedding at the end of Friend Zone. She spends the next two years wallowing in her grief, until a stranger falls into her lap and they start a whirlwind romance by mid-book. But then a lot of complications happen, and it seems like their relationship can't possibly weather the storm. 5 stars.
One Day in December by Josie Silver – The subtitle of this book is "A Christmas Love Story" and so I almost didn't listen to it in the middle of May, but something prompted me to keep going. I'm so glad I did. It's about a man and a woman who spot each other through the window of a city bus. The woman searches for the man everywhere she can think of for the next year, and never finds him - until he shows up with her best friend as the BFF's new beau. The man and the woman then spend the next 10 years dancing around each other as friends, missing opportunity after opportunity to be together. This book seemed a lot like real life to me, full of hard choices and real, flawed but lovable people. I really liked this book a lot. 5 stars.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes – This is about a newlywed woman in an unsatisfying marriage in Tennessee in the 1930s. She volunteers to become a traveling librarian in the town as a way to get out of the house and escape her ever present boredom. She finds a community of wonderful people who challenge and then rescue her. It's a wonderful story that I didn't want to put down. Loved it. 5 stars.
This is Not How It Ends by Rochelle B. Weinstein – This is a love story, but perhaps the most heartbreaking one I've ever read. If you have ever lost someone you loved to cancer or a similarly traumatic and predictable illness, you will identify with every emotion the main character describes. I lost my mom in 2013, and I wept through the second half of this book. It validated emotions that I didn't know bothered me even after all these years. I listened to it straight through in just a couple of days because I couldn't wait to hear what happened next. I even stayed up until 2 in the morning listening and then got up early the next day to listen to the last hour before work. This Is Not How It Ends wrecked me in the best possible way and also made me feel like all those feelings I felt when my mom was dying were totally normal and okay. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book. Very powerful. 5 stars.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott – This was a solid book although not my favorite on the list. It's about a whole cast of characters, but primarily two women who were spies in the early days of the CIA. They were in the typing pool and then pulled out to go on missions. It was interesting to me to get a glimpse of how women were treated back then (even ones with Ivy League engineering degrees were in the typing pool - what an injustice!). Simultaneous to those two women were Boris Pasternack and his mistress and muse, Olga, trying and failing to live under the radar in Cold War Russia. He is the author of Doctor Zhivago, and Olga was imprisoned twice over his book, the first time for three years and the second time for ten years (I think). The women never meet the Russians, but they try to spread the book back to Russians (where it has been banned) after its publication. There is love and intrigue, but this book never really gripped me. I wanted to know what happened and listened dutifully, but it wasn't as compelling as some of the others on the list. 3 stars.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – I guess I have a thing for historical fiction. A coworker recommended this book to me, and once I started, I binged it until I was through. It's about two sisters in World War II in Nazi-occupied France. One starts out in Paris, and the other lives in the countryside outside of Tours. As with any war story, tragedies abound, but the women are not victims. One becomes famous for leading dozens of downed airmen to safety over the mountains into Spain, and the other adopts the son of her Jewish best friend in order to save him from extermination, all under the nose of Nazi officers living in her home. I don't want to tell you anything about the ending other than it gave me big, big feels. It was the perfect resolution to this beautiful and moving story. 5 stars.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I have two work friends with whom I frequently talk books. We swap recommendations all the time, although truthfully, it's usually ME telling THEM what to read next. One of them suggested I read this book; she had read it a few weeks earlier and loved it. I have to admit that I like it just fine, but I wasn't as in love with it as she was. It's about a gaggle of women who all have children in the kindergarten class at a fancy Australian public school. Jane is a single mom with a mysterious past. Celeste is super rich but has a troubling secret. Madeline is average but super feisty. And they're all in a big drama with Renata who believes that Jane's sweet son is bullying her gifted daughter. It's basic mama drama, but the writing is nuanced and interesting enough for me to stay engaged. There's also an HBO series that goes along with the book. I will tell you honestly that I liked the TV show better than I liked the book (for maybe the first time EVER), but I think having read the book made the TV show make more sense. Not a bad read but definitely not my favorite from the list. 3 stars.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – I devoured this book. It begins with a fire in a rich woman's home and three of her four children watch in awed horror. Then it rewinds a few months to explain how the rich woman had a tenant who was a single mom and struggling artist, and how the single mom and her daughter became entangled with the rich mom and her four children. I love love loved the ending. A hulu tv series has been made out of this book with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and the series is deliciously good, but it is so different from the book that the story is almost unrecognizable. Read the book, then watch the show. 5 stars.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg – On my first #coronavacation weekend, I watched this movie on Starz. I was surprised at how much really offensive racial content there was, but it is authentic for the time in Alabama in the 1930s. The book is really old, from the 1980s I think, but I read it once 20 years ago and loved it, and I loved the movie, so I was excited to dig into it again. As you might imagine, the book's story is so much richer than the movie's story, and I was surprised that there were so many huge differences. I liked the book better. 4 stars.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – This is a suspenseful story about a jealous ex-wife and her replacement. I don't want to say too much about it because it's got a lot of twists and turns, and I don't want to ruin it for you. It reminded me a lot of The Last Mrs. Parrish (which I really really liked), but because of that parallel, the overall arch of the story was a little predictable. But still, there were a lot of surprises and the epilogue left me saying, "Wait, what??" It was kind of crazy. If you like non-scary suspense stories, you will like this one, but I personally would only give it 3 stars.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – This audiobook had an interesting storyline that hooked me from the first couple of minutes. The narrator is a forensic psychotherapist who is obsessed with a convicted murderer who hasn't said a single word since committing her crime. His goal is to help her to speak again. The story is quick and interesting, and there are two different storylines: his work with the murderer and his crumbling marriage. The ending of this book left me with my mouth agape and my mind reeling. Not since Gone Girl have I sat in such disbelief at the end of a story. This book didn't end the way I wanted, but the ending was delicious and appropriate to the characters. 5 stars.
The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley – This one wasn't as gripping as some of the others on the list, but I think that's sort of the point of it. It's about a middle-aged funeral director who is secretly in love with a married floral designer who gets sick and dies. Her husband finds her journal and discovers that she was secretly in love with Oliver, too, and he confronts Oliver with the truth. The rest of the book is about his coming into himself independent of his domineering mother and breaking free from the memory of the woman he loved (but not really) and lost. 3 stars.
The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne – This was an interesting book that reminded me both of Educated and Where the Crawdads Sing (both reviewed below). It's about a woman whose mother was kidnapped by her father at 14. They live as husband and wife on Michigan's Upper Peninsula in a remote cabin in a marsh. Helena's father covers her in tattoos - even her face - and he raises her to be a wild woman, knowing about how to hunt, track, and live off the land. She eventually escapes, changes her name, gets married, and has 2 daughters of her own, never having told the truth of her childhood to her husband. Then her father breaks out of prison and comes after her and her children. This story is suspenseful and interesting. It has two simultaneous storylines, one of present day as Helena pursues her dad who is pursuing her, and the other as she flashes back to her childhood and all the things that built up to her and her mother escaping the cabin. I finished this one in three days, and it was not short. 4 stars.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp – I read this book when it first came out, almost ten years ago. I love Ann Voskamp's wordy prose, and to have her read the book with her own inflection and voice was beautiful. I was putting the finishing touches on the Bible study I wrote on gratitude when I listened to this book, and I wanted to pause and highlight pretty much everything I heard. Now, having said that, I thought the first half of this book was amazing and the second half was just so-so. It's like she said everything that was important in the first half, and then the second half was just rehashing the first half for the sake of making a longer book. I don't want to deter you from listening to this one, because the first half is just so so so good, but know that you might be underwhelmed by the second half. 4 stars.
The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere – This book was solid, although a bit heavy in parts. It deals early on with the sodomy and physical abuse of a young boy, but from there, it goes on to a love story between a 30-year-old "Old Maid" who is lonely after both of her parents die and a youngish and equally lonely widower. But the two of them getting together isn't the end of the story as this mysterious little boy threatens to tear them apart again. I'll be honest. I had a really hard time listening to the beginning of this book because of the way the little boy (who was either 6 or 8, I don't remember and didn't write that detail down) was treated. He was small and so badly abused, and my heart hurt for him. But then, he is taken in by the main character, and his life does a 180. It was a really nice story in the end, and I'm glad I stuck it out and listened to it. 4 stars.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – I have loved most of the books on this list, but this one ruined me for all other books. It is by far and away my favorite on the entire list. I binged it and listened to the entire book in under four days because I. just. couldn't. get. enough. I needed with my whole heart to know what would happen next. The story is about a girl who is six when her mother walks away from the family, and then all her brothers and sisters fade away, too, leaving her with an abusive, alcoholic father in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. She treasures the marsh and all its inhabitants, and she squirrels away treasures from her explorations which become important later in the story. Despite all odds, she grows up into a beautiful but backward and highly intelligent woman. Then simultaneous to her coming of age story is a murder mystery in which she is the chief suspect. Knowing the end, I listened a second time just for the fun of noticing more details. This book is so good. So so good. My new all time favorite book. 5+++ stars.
The Accident by Natalie Barelli – This book is also chilling. I mean, I could see how it could happen in real life, and it would be anyone's worst nightmare. The story starts with a woman and her new friend killing a man in a drunk driving accident. The driver's life quickly goes to hell, and the twists and turns just keep coming and coming and coming. At one point, I wanted to shake the main character and say, "Just go to the police already and end all this drama!" But I couldn't, of course, and it just kept going. This story is on the shorter side, under 7 hours, and like the one below, my mouth was left agape at the end. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I won't tell you another word because I don't want to ruin any of the surprises for you. Lots and lots and lots of bad language in this one which somewhat detracts from the story, but I still really liked it. 3 stars.
A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson – This is a chilling book about a teen who is accused of murder, and her parents - a pastor and a lawyer - who attempt to prove her innocence. Through the course of the book, both parents do things they never imagined they would do, violating their morals in justifiable ways. The book, like many in the suspense genre, moved a little slow in some parts, but I really enjoyed the story overall. The ending left me with my mouth agape. 4 stars.
Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen – I am still (!!!) struggling with food issues and still (!!!) determined to get them under control. Binge eating is definitely one of several issues I'm dealing with, and I thought this book might help. It is incredibly motivating and uplifting, and together with the Recovery Guide (paperback workbook) written several years later, I think it has the power to help me. I really enjoy listening to the author's story, and her explanation of the brain and eating disorders is both in-depth and easy to understand. Highly recommend this one if you know someone who struggles with binge eating. 5 stars.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson – I thought this book was a romance, but it isn't. Or at least, not like some of the other books on the list. It's a wonderful story of two people who are unlikely friends but develop a friendship all the same. Major Pettigrew has the full life of a retired Army widower, and Mrs. Ali has the full life of a shopkeeper's widow. There is drama and conflict, and there are beautiful kindnesses and lovely relationships. This book was so refreshing, and I sent it to Old Grandma who also loved it. 5 stars.
The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy – After listening to the light and breezy romances below, this story was pretty heavy, but it was also wonderful. It's primarily about three young seamstresses in Nazi-occupied Paris. They all fight with the Résistance, each in her own way, and each with her own consequences. Then at the same time, one of the women's granddaughter is in Paris decades later looking for clues to her family history, and the story is told as she discovers bits and pieces of the past. This story is beautiful and very well put together. I really loved it. 5 stars.
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom – This is sort of out of order because I read this book after The Dressmaker's Gift above, but it makes more sense listed below. I have been interested in reading more about Corrie ten Boom ever since hearing a quote attributed to her, "If Satan can't make you bad, he'll make you busy." I still don't know if she really said that, but I am glad I read her memoir. In short, she lived a very plain and mundane life as a spinster living with her sister and father, but then the Nazis invaded Denmark (where she lived), and her family built a secret room to hide Jews. They ended up getting caught and the entire family except for Corrie died in prison or concentration camps. The story is powerful and moving and a testament to God's wisdom and might in even the most evil of situations. 4 stars.
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren – As I mentioned below, my brain and emotions were wrecked after I finished the third book in the Tale of Ancient Rome series. I couldn't bear to read anything with any significant drama or emotion. So, I dived into my Audible library and found My Favorite Half-Night Stand, a light and breezy romance about anonymous online dating complicated by IRL friendship. There was conflict and passion and smut but it was all predictably wrapped up in the end. 5 stars.
Roomies by Christina Lauren – I liked My Favorite Half-Night Stand so much that I went looking for some others by the same author and found Roomies. Roomies is about a man and a woman who get married for green card status. Like Half-Night Stand, it is light and breezy with some conflict and smut but it is all wrapped up predictably in the end. Both were fun reads that really captivated my attention but likely won't stick with me for a long time. 5 stars.
I also listened to The Unhoneymooners by the same authors, but I didn't love it. I spent ¾ of the book disliking the main character which wasn't pleasant. I loved the ending, but the whole of the book wasn't good enough to recommend.
The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs – The Wedding Shroud (4 stars) is the first in a trilogy about a woman in ancient Rome. I say woman because she's treated like a woman, but she's really a teenager. Anyway, she is a wealthy orphan who is married off to the wealthiest man in a rival city in order to broker a peace treaty. The book follows her as she adjusts to her new life and yearns to go back home. The first two books are really good, but the third one (while also really really good) is tragic and left me haunted. In fact, the only thing I could bear to listen to after finishing Call to Juno (4 stars except for the last bit) was a smutty romance. I just couldn't with anything with any substance.
This series is loosely based on real events in the years between 406 and 396 BC between Rome and Veii, but still, I would not have listened to Call to Juno if I had known how it would turn out ahead of time. So do yourself a favor and read only the first two and email me if you want to know how the author intended the series to end.
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold – This book is really well written. The author is Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters in 1999. I don't know what I expected, but hers is a sad story of a boy who was beloved and cherished and yet went astray in a horrendous and enormous way. By the end of the book, you will wonder whether you can ever really know your kids, and I promise that you will pay way more attention to their mental well-being and inner selves than you ever thought you could. It's not an easy read, but I highly recommend this one for any parent. 3 stars.
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen – This book is slow and plodding, a lot like The Girl on the Train below. I bought it because Audible recommended it to me, and I'm glad I did. It's a psychological thriller but not at all scary. The story goes like this: Jessica lies her way into a study on morality, and the researcher decides to pursue her for a tangential study that needles its way into her real life outside the study. It's crazy and full of plot twists up to the very last minute. Some I saw coming, but most were total shockers. In all honesty, this wasn't my favorite book of the year, but it was good and I am glad I read it. I finished it yesterday, and I'm still haunted by the ending. 3 stars.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood – The main character in The Cactus is prickly and not all together likable, but despite wanting to grab her shoulders and shake her, I really liked the book. There were several times when I thought, "You are positively never going to be happy, and it's your own fault!" And I really disliked her. But then something else would happen, and I'd come around and feel sorry for or even like her a little bit. By the end of the book, I had lots of warm fuzzies. I saw the end coming a mile away, but the author made me second guess myself because the conflict wasn't resolved until the very last minute. This was a nice, light summer read from Reese's Book Club. 2 stars.
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith – The Cuckoo's Calling is formally written by Robert Galbraith, but that's just a pseudonym adopted by the mega author JK Rowling. It's a mystery in which private detective Cormoran Strike investigates the presumed suicide of a famous model. I don't usually listen to mysteries, but I really liked this one. It's full of twists and turns and incredibly detailed characters and situations. The Silkworm is the second in the CB Strike series, and it's just as good as the first. 5 stars.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell – This was a little slow for the first half hour or so, but then it gripped me tightly and I listened to it practically 24 hours a day until I was done. It's about a mother whose favorite youngest daughter disappears at age 15 without a trace. 10 years later, the mother meets a man and discovers that his 9-year-old daughter looks just like her vanished one. The mystery unfolds with all kinds of twists and turns and the end left me saying "WOW. Just wow." I hung on every word and couldn't stop. So so so good.
I also want to say that I saw the major plot twist in this book coming, and I think the author intended me to. It's pretty predictable in that sense, but the story that got to that point was well worth listening to. I never would have imagined what happened and how this person died and what happened to that person. The story left me reeling. 5 stars.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn – Like The Only Woman in the Room (below), The Huntress captivated me from the first 5 minutes. It tells 3 stories in the late 1940s and early 1950s - a teenage daughter of a single dad with a mysterious new love interest who quickly becomes her step-mother, an English Nazi hunter determined to make people pay for their crimes, and a decorated female fighter pilot from Russia. As you might have imagined, their stories eventually intersect in very interesting ways. The ending is perhaps a wee bit predictable, but the ride to get there is so entertaining and enjoyable and full of twists and turns that you won't mind at all. Loved every minute of this one from the very first to the very last.
Also, this is the newest from Kate Quinn who also wrote The Alice Network (also below), and the main character (Eve) appeared in The Huntress for about three minutes which was a nice touch. The Huntress is also narrated by the same actress who narrated The Alice Network. 5 stars.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict – This book grabbed me from the first five minutes. It's historical fiction based on the real life of Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-born Hollywood film star from the World War II era. I. couldn't. stop. listening. It was so so so good and so juicy a story that I am totally obsessed (but no smut). In the beginning, Hedy was the Jewish star of a famous theater in Austria when she is wooed by the richest man in the nation, a Catholic munitions dealer who is in cahoots with its dictator in the shadow of Hitler's Germany. She takes charge of her own life at a time when women just didn't do that. Feminism for the win! 4 stars.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl might be my new favorite, but I don't want to tell you much about it because I don't want to ruin the surprises for you. It's a twisty turny story about a man and his wife. At the very beginning of the story, the wife disappears. That's all I want to tell you, except that several times during the story, my eyes went wide, and I thought, "What the heck?!?" and the ending left me gaping and wholly unsatisfied in the best possible way. It was NOT the ending I wanted or expected, but it was so so good.
Oh, one more thing. This book has A LOT of colorful language, so if you are upset or offended by that, or if you can only listen in earshot of your kids, you may not want to listen. 5 stars.
Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Sarah Barrows – I loved the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. This story of a single, youngish writer in London immediately after World War II who becomes penpals with a large group of friends on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. The story is rather complicated, and involves two broken engagements and a lot of backstory, but it is absolutely wonderful in the way it weaves the tale through a series of letters, all letters, no prose at all. There is a Netflix movie of the book, and I liked it a lot, too, but it lost the letter nature of the book that made it so endearing. This one is not to be missed. Oh, and it is narrated by a full cast of about fifteen different people, as each letter writer has his or her own voice. That made it very interesting. 5+ stars.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – I loved Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows so much, I sent a hard copy to Old Grandma. And Old Grandma finished it in less than 12 hours and then passed it on to my cousin who read it in three days and passed it on to someone else. It's a delicious comedy about a twenty-something Punjabi girl in London who answers an advertisement for a creative writing teacher, except the course to be taught was really a basic English literacy course and the ad was a misunderstanding. And then, the widows in the course find a book of erotic stories in her bag. There's a little bit of mystery and a human interest story that rivals any fiction I've read. Love love loved this one. 5 stars.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – The Alice Network is historical fiction, based on some events that really happened. As I understand it, the Alice Network really existed as a network of female spies in France during WWI. This story started out a little slow but turned into one of my favorites of the whole year. There were times when I simply couldn't turn it off, and I may have ignored my family a time or four because I just couldn't bear to leave the characters in the place where they were when I should have turned it off. 5 stars.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – The Storied Life of AJ Fikry started a little slow, like a lot of the books on my list, but once it got going, it was a really nice story. It wasn't exactly my normal kind of book because it wasn't much about feelings and romance, but it was a solid story about flawed people. It starts out about a book shop owner who is in his early thirties but a widower and determined to drink himself to death. A teen mom leaves her baby in his shop with a note that she wants him to raise her, and that baby changes his entire life in a way that no one would ever have predicted. It's a lovely story with a surprise ending. 5 stars.
Becoming by Michelle Obama – Michelle Obama. Need I say more? I preordered this one but was so engrossed in my fiction selections that I didn't get around to listening to it for months and months. I had heard wonderful things about it, though, and wanted to jump in. I'm so glad I did. M.O. is an amazing writer who can twist words into the most beautiful, though provoking, and inspiring thoughts. I was hooked within the first ten minutes. She talks about her childhood as a poor, black kid in Chicago in an area that's now become the slums. She spent most of that time living on the upper floor of an aunt's house. It's fascinating to think that the kid she describes grows up to live in the White House. Only in America.
The audiobook is read by M.O. herself which makes it even richer and more wonderful. Get this one. You won't regret it. But be warned - it is LONG. I ended up listening to it in bits and pieces, like 10 hours here and then fiction and then another 10 hours and then more fiction. I prefer fiction to non-fiction and needed to break up the reality, even though this was a really really excellent book. 4 stars.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton – I loved Next Year in Havana, too. The characters were interesting and there's a little spark of romance which I love to read, but there's also a mystery and even some history of American-Cuban relations and what it was like to live in Cuba just before and during the revolution there. Great story with a perfect ending that's all tied up and happy. 4 stars.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I loved Eleanor Oliphant because she's a lot like me. She is awkward and not very social. She doesn't get people, and she doesn't really mind that she doesn't. People don't get her, either, until she is thrown together with a coworker as they help an elderly man who collapses on the sidewalk. Very very good. Loved this one. 5 stars.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – The Last Mrs. Parrish was a delicious mystery about a con woman, Amber Patterson, whose mark is an ultra rich married man with the perfect life. She weasels her way into the inner circle of his current wife, Daphne Parrish, a wonderful and kind and trusting woman. The first third of the book is from Amber's perspective, the second third from Daphne's, and the final third are a mix of the two. Loved this one. 5 stars.
Love Does by Bob Goff – Love Does was the first audiobook I ever listened to more than once. Bob Goff's books don't read like Christian commentary or even Christian anything because he's writing essays (stories really) about life and living and loving and being. He's talking about living love and being like Jesus because Jesus was love. I absolutely adored this book - it is positive, optimistic, and full of charm. I want Bob Goff to be my uncle or next door neighbor. 5 stars.
Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren – Waterfall is a young adult book, but don't hold that against it! It's like the Christian version of Outlander complete with a girl who goes through time and a handsome prince from the past. It's well written and interesting, and I completely got into the story very quickly. I breezed right through the whole series, although books 4 and 5 aren't available in audio (but they're worth reading). 5 stars.
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle – Y'all. (I have never said y'all in my life, but Melanie Shankle says it, so it must be right.) Melanie Shankle will feel like your best friend after you listen to her read her books to you. They're all memoirs of a sort, series of vignettes about her life and loves, and she weaves them together in a hysterical way that will totally make you feel normal. I have loved every one of her books (except not really Church of the Small Things which I found a little odd), and I have even listened to some of them with Joe in the car. The Antelope in the Living Room is her book about marriage, and it was my favorite of all of them. 5 stars.
Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker – Surprised by Motherhood is the memoir of a woman who lost her own mother in her late teens, and then she had to learn to become a mother sort of on her own. I didn't expect to love it, but I did. It made me laugh and cry and appreciate what my own mother did and did not do for me. I identified with the author in a lot of ways because my mom passed away, but also because I did a lot of things very differently from the way my own mother did them, so I was sort of making my own way all along. It's complicated, but I really loved the book. 5 stars.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – I used to read John Grisham and watch Law & Order and lived and breathed crime dramas. I also had nightmares and irrational fears. A few years ago, I stopped all that nonsense and felt almost instantly better. I'm not sure what made me pick up Sharp Objects - I don't think I really knew what it was about. It is about a Chicago journalist who goes back to her podunk small town to investigate two child murders. But it didn't give me nightmares because the ending is so satisfying. There are twists and turns all through, and the ending will leave you with mouth agape. Loved it and recommended to a coworker who also loved it.
Also, there is an 8 episode HBO series produced by the author which is haunting, follows the story very closely, and is so so good. You'll love it. Find it on Amazon. 4 stars.
Everybody Always by Bob Goff – I would listen to Bob Goff read the phone book. His voice makes me smile, and it's always pleasant and optimistic and upbeat, even when he's talking about a devastating housefire or the loss of his original book manuscript in a break-in. While I love his writing too, the audio version of his books are amazing, and his words match the tone of his voice. In Everybody Always, he talks about how Christians are called to love everybody, always, and how that can plan out in our lives. Full disclosure: I didn't love this one as much as Love Does, but it was still very good and worth listening to. See also, the note about Bob Goff reading the phone book. 4 stars.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling – I would be remiss to leave this one off. I never got into Harry Potter when the books first came out because I'm not really into the whole fantasy genre. But I did think my kids at least needed to know something about HP, and I purchased the first book on a lark a few months ago. Well, they dived headfirst into all things HP and we have flown through all the rest of the books. And, I have to admit that I like them, too. They're very good and I want to listen even when the kids aren't around. I don't, but I want to. 5+++ stars.
Educated by Tara Westover – Educated was disturbing, but in a car wreck that you can't keep your eyes off way. When I finished, I researched Tara Westover all over the internet because I wanted to know more about her and her wacko family. The book was good if a little slow. I just wanted her to break free from her dad's influence, and it kept almost happening and then, oops! Not really. But it was good, very thoughtful, and a book I would recommend. 4 stars.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – I bought The Girl on the Train on the recommendation of a coworker who had just finished it and said it was awesome. I can't say that I loved it like she did, but it was pretty good. It's about a girl who sees a woman she knows is married, kissing another man, all from the safety of the metro. She doesn't really know the woman, the husband, or the lover, but she inserts herself into their lives, all while her own is falling apart. It's really interesting and has lots of plot twists, but the plot moved a little slowly for me which is why it's in the "just okay" section of my list. The end, however, was entirely satisfying and made the whole book worthwhile. Read it just for the ending. Seriously. 4 stars.
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth – Call the Midwife is a memoir, but it's really just a series of vignettes about various midwifery clients the author saw over a period of years in a very poor district of London immediately after World War II. It's very well written, and the audiobook is excellently narrated. The only thing I didn't love about it was that I missed the overarching story that most of the other books on my list have. I missed a compelling start, middle, and end. For what it is, Call the Midwife does have lovely characters and stories, and I found myself both laughing and crying at different times. I think there's also a tv show, maybe on Netflix?, based on this book and the others in the series. 3 stars.
Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generout Love by Sally Clarkson – I love Sally Clarkson, and the only thing that would make Own Your Life better is if she were the narrator. As it is, this is a non-fiction book about life, about doing it the right way with God's help and living out your purpose with honor, integrity, and conviction. Sally is a popular Christian author and speaker, and she writes from a place of deep peace and contentment. I never miss anything she writes. 3 stars.
Have you listened to any good audiobooks recently? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
For more self care recommendations (including book reviews), check out the Self Care Index.