STAFF PICK: Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Title: Girls with Sharp Sticks
Author: Suzanne Young
Narrator: Caitlin Davies

Girls With Sharp Sticks, by Suzanne Young, New York Times bestselling author of The Program was an exciting new addition to Audiobooks.com in March. I have to admit, it was the intriguing cover of this book that drew me in and then with a description likening it to Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale, I was ready to dive right in. This comparison made me wonder if Girls with Sharp Sticks could go toe-to-toe with such hard-hitters, but it definitely held its own!

Girls with Sharp Sticks is set at Innovations Academy, an old technology factory turned finishing school for girls. From the moment the story opens, there is the looming feeling that there’s more to this academy and these girls than meets the eye.

The protagonist, Philomena (Mena for short), is a model student at Innovations Academy, but begins to question certain practices and suspects that there’s something that they aren’t telling the students. This leads to lots of shocking revelations and twists and turns that keep you hooked.

I saw myself in Mena with the way she was vulnerable yet strong and her unfaltering dedication to her friends was what drew the strongest connection for me. Listening to this book was exciting, suspenseful and it made me want to yell “GIRL POWER!” from the rooftops.

It helps that the narrator, Caitlin Davies, portrays the characters distinctly, so that you are immersed in the shut off academy in the mountains. There are definite times where I got lost in Mena’s world so much so, that I didn’t even realize it was one single person narrating each one of the characters. This is especially true for the creepy feeling I got every time Davies would read the lines from the Guardian, one of the staff at Innovations Academy.

If you’re a fan of The Program series from Suzanne Young, then this listen is right up your alley. Girls with Sharp Sticks has many of the same themes throughout it and a similar dark, dystopian-type setting to it that you will find all too familiar.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, mystery/thriller that will have your ears glued to your headphones, Girls with Sharp Sticks is the perfect next listen for you. I think there’s definitely more to this story, so I’m looking forward to the next installment from Young to see what other twists she can throw into the mix.

Publisher’s Summary:

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this start to a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be.

Some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardian, they receive a well-rounded education that promises to make them better. Obedient girls, free from arrogance or defiance. Free from troublesome opinions or individual interests.

But the girls’ carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears. As Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations Academy will learn to fight back.

Bringing the trademark plot twists and high-octane drama that made The Program a bestselling and award-winning series, Suzanne Young launches a new series that confronts some of today’s most pressing ethical questions.

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Staff Pick: #IMOMSOHARD by Jen Smedley and Kristin Hensley

Title: #IMOMSOHARD
Authors: Jen Smedley, Kristin Hensley
Narrators: Jen Smedley, Kristin Hensley

Becoming a parent is one of the most wonderful experiences. I am very lucky and privileged to be a stepmom to two wonderful young women (I’m SO OLD), and a mom to an incredibly awesome little boy. However, it’s also the most difficult, exhausting, and frustrating experience ever.
One of the hardest things about becoming a new parent for me was the pressure I put on myself. There are a plethora of parenting books, blogs, and of course, online mommy groups who give you conflicting information on what’s best. I had a whole bunch of ideas of how I was going to be the best parent ever…until I had my kids.

If you’re a parent who isn’t 100% perfect, then #IMOMSOHARD is the listen for you! Much like the popular web series, #IMOMSOHARD offers advice and sympathy in a non-judgmental way. Jen Smedley and Kristin Hensley have been friends forever – and their friendship has transcended everything, growing even closer since having their children. These women DO NOT sugarcoat motherhood at any time. They are truthful about everything, including childbirth, post-baby body, self care, relationships, toddler tantrums, and more!

Some of my favorite parts of this book are the parts that really resonated with my own parenting experiences, which were things like:

Mom friends: Because your other friends DO NOT want to hear about your toddler’s potty training escapades.

Post-Partum depression: Very few mothering books talk about what PPD really feels like, even though SO many women go through it. Their honesty on this topic was inspiring.

Feeding your kids: Before I had a kid I was always of the opinion that my children should “Eat what I eat or they’ll go hungry.” Jen and Kristin’s reply to this? “Eat what they eat, or I’ll go crazy.” As the mother of a three year old, I agree this is now my motto. Show me a parent of a toddler who doesn’t routinely eat crackers, chicken nuggets, and grilled cheese sandwiches, and I’ll show you someone who’s a liar 😀

Jen and Kristin narrate this audiobook, which means the book is so much like their podcast (a good thing!). It’s like your mom friends sharing their stories, which is so much more relaxing than many “self-help” parenting books, which Jen and Kristin are adamant that #IMOMSOHARD is not.

I recommend this book to anyone who’s a parent. Whether you’re a bio-parent, step-parent, foster-parent or anyone who has a parental role, you’ll recognize a lot of the tales in the book, and feel better about some of the non-perfect things you’ve done. The audiobook version is especially parent-friendly, since you can listen while you do housework, while the kids are napping, or while you’re hiding in the bathroom FOR ONE SECOND OF PEACE.

Publisher Summary:

In their highly-anticipated first book, the hilarious mom duo with millions of followers explores all the ridiculous shit you’re expected to do to keep multiple humans alive and happy-ish, and celebrates the love for the friends who get you through it.

Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, the creators of #IMomSoHard, are just like you and your best mom friend, only funnier and with more wine. Perhaps you’ve seen one of their insanely popular videos musing on everything from impractical swimsuit fashions to “Things I Found in My Bra.” Or maybe you’ve gone to one of the shows on their sold-out tour, hailed as “monster truck rallies for moms.” Or you might have just taken a break from mom-ing so hard yourself and decided to read some adult words for a few minutes. Did you pour yourself some wine? 
This is not a self-help book. Kristin and Jen know that you probably didn’t get to shower today and that the last thing you need is advice on all the stuff you’re doing wrong. Instead, Kristin and Jen talk nipple hair, sex after marriage, Mom-bods, and their unhealthy obsession with Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones. #IMomSoHard is packed with the back-and-forth laugh-out-loud best-friend banter that Kristin and Jen are known for, with plenty of real talk about post-partum depression, bullying, and the dark thoughts that plague every mom. Throughout it all, they know the ups and downs of motherhood often have nothing to do with your kids—it’s the female friendships and solidarity you have with other moms that makes it all worthwhile.
#IMomSoHard is like a long, funny, gab session with your best mom friends. Kristin and Jen know 6:00–8:00 pm is the worst time to call you. They know not to harass you when you show up to a playdate in a free t-shirt you got from the dentist. They won’t give pep talks, but they will talk you down from the motherhood ledge, because, congrats: you’re passing with a “C”—and that’s all any of us can hope for.

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Twin Sisters Pen an All-Too-Plausible Dystopian America

Did you know today is National Siblings Day?

National Siblings Day was first recognized in 1998 and celebrated on April 10 every year since. Today we celebrate the strong relationships and unique bonds between siblings, and what better way to do that than honoring siblings who have written a book together?

Today we are featuring a wonderful fantasy audiobook, The Rule of One, written by twin sisters, Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders, and narrated by Karissa Vacker. The book started as a screenplay and eventually evolved into a novel, with Leslie, the younger of the pair, writing Mira’s chapters, and Ashley writing Ava’s.

In The Rule of One, identical twins Ava and Mira are secretly and illegally residing in the United States, which has instituted a strict one-child policy. Ava and Mira are trying their best to masquerade as the same person so their secret remains undiscovered. Unfortunately, it only takes a moment for their cover to be blown and their whole world turned upside down. What, exactly, will the twins have to endure to stay safe?

The Saunders sisters are currently developing their book into a TV series with producer Ginger Sledge (Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Miss Congeniality). The sequel to this book, The Rule of Many, is slated for release in the spring of 2019, so make sure to keep an eye out for it!

Publisher Summary:

In their world, telling the truth has become the most dangerous crime of all.

In the near-future United States, a one-child policy is ruthlessly enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One. But Ava Goodwin, daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, has a secret—one her mother died to keep and her father has helped to hide for her entire life.
She has an identical twin sister, Mira.

For eighteen years Ava and Mira have lived as one, trading places day after day, maintaining an interchangeable existence down to the most telling detail. But when their charade is exposed, their worst nightmare begins. Now they must leave behind the father they love and fight for their lives.

Branded as traitors, hunted as fugitives, and pushed to discover just how far they’ll go in order to stay alive, Ava and Mira rush headlong into a terrifying unknown.

Read more and sample the audio →

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March’s Top 10 Audiobook.com Member Downloads

Listen to last month’s roundup of the top fiction and non-fiction titles downloaded by Audiobooks.com members.

Fiction:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, narrated by Jack HawkinsLouise Brealey

Publisher Summary:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations-a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.

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The Lost Girls Of Paris by Pam Jenoff, narrated by Candace ThaxtonHenrietta MeireElizabeth Knowelden

Publisher Summary:

One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

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Cemetery Road by Greg Iles, narrated by Scott Brick

Publisher Summary:

When Marshall McEwan left his hometown at age eighteen, he vowed never to return. The trauma that drove him away ultimately spurred him to become one of the most successful journalists in Washington D.C. But just as the political chaos in the nation’s capital lifts him to new heights, Marshall is forced to return home in spite of his boyhood vow.

His father is dying, his mother is struggling to keep the family newspaper from failing, and the town is in the midst of an economic rebirth that might be built upon crimes that reach into the state capitol—and perhaps even to Washington. More disturbing still, Marshall’s high school sweetheart, Jet, has married into the family of Max Matheson, patriarch of one of the families that rule Bienville through a shadow organization called the Bienville Poker Club.

When archeologist Buck McKibben is murdered at a construction site, Bienville is thrown into chaos. The ensuing homicide investigation is soon derailed by a second crime that rocks the community to its core. Power broker Max Matheson’s wife has been shot dead in her own bed, and the only other person in it at the time was her husband, Max. Stranger still, Max demands that his daughter-on-law, Jet, defend him in court.

As a journalist, Marshall knows all too well how the corrosive power of money and politics can sabotage investigations. Without telling a soul, he joins forces with Jet, who has lived for fifteen years at the heart of Max Matheson’s family, and begins digging into both murders. With Jet walking the dangerous road of an inside informer, they soon uncover a web of criminal schemes that undergird the town’s recent success. But these crimes pale in comparison to the secret at the heart of the Matheson family. When those who have remained silent for years dare to speak to Marshall, pressure begins to build like water against a crumbling dam.

Marshall loses friends, family members, and finally even Jet, for no one in Bienville seems willing to endure the reckoning that the Poker Club has long deserved. And by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth, he would give almost anything not to have to face it.

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Run Away by Harlan Coben, narrated by Steven Weber

Publisher Summary:

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by Jennifer BealsJudy GreerBenjamin BrattPablo Schreiber

Publisher Summary:

Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

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Non-Fiction:

Becoming by Michelle Obama, narrated by Michelle Obama

Publisher Summary:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

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Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, narrated by Rachel Hollis

Publisher Summary:

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

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Educated by Tara Westover, narrated by Julia Whelan

Publisher Summary:

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University.

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

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The Morning Mind by Kirti Salwe Carter MBBS MPH, Dr. Robert Carter III, narrated by Wayne Campbell

Publisher Summary:

Unleash positive thinking and productive imagination, and flip negative thoughts and behaviors into a lifetime to improve every aspect of your life—each morning, one day at a time.

Bad habits. Bad feelings. Bad mornings that turn into regrettable days.
Banish them all with simple brain hacks that flip negative thoughts and behaviors into positive, productive ones. Instead of dragging through your day, learn to wake up refreshed, recharge regularly, and live better than ever.
The Morning Mind makes it easy. Based on findings from neuroscience and medicine, the book helps you tamp down on the fear-driven reptile brain and tap into the part linked to thinking and imagination.

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Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, narrated by Derek Perkins

Publisher Summary:

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

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STAFF PICK: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Title: The Perfect Girlfriend
Author: Karen Hamilton
Narrator: Anne Marie Lee

It’s funny how the genre of a novel can change the connotations of the title. If this was a cozy mystery, or a romance novel, I feel like The Perfect Girlfriend would be a delightful little tome involving baking and kittens. However, since this Karen Hamilton novel is a suspense-filled thriller, we know that there will probably not be a bunch of cozy cake puns.

In this novel, we meet Juliette. She talks at length about Nate, who we very quickly discover is not her current boyfriend, but her ex. While Juliette sees their relationship as being the great love of her life, Nate doesn’t feel that way, and requests “space.” Juliette develops one single purpose – to get Nate back by becoming a perfect match for him. She still has a key to his apartment, so she lets herself in and tidies up, leaves wine on the table, and moves things around. He’s a pilot, so she becomes a flight attendant on his airline, and begins befriending his coworkers. She also bugs his phone, monitors his movements, and reads his personal emails. A little extreme, methinks.

Karen Hamilton does a great job of making Juliette build up from someone who’s dealing badly with a break-up at the beginning, to an obsessively delusional person by the end, so it’s only partway through that you begin to think “oh, wait, this is madness.” Also, Nate and his friends and family are not particularly endearing characters either, so it’s hard to feel much sympathy for him, even when he’s experiencing the extreme consequences of Juliette’s obsessions.

Without giving anything away, (because I don’t want to spoil any of the twists and turns) there are two really cool ways in which the author gets you invested in Juliette’s story. The first is how you get facts about her background (is Juliette who she says she is? Is she even called Juliette?), so you repeatedly feel sorry for her, then angry with her, then sorry for her again. We don’t know if these are true, but they give us some idea of how she views herself. The second narrative device Hamilton employs is using the supporting characters’ perceptions of Juliette to help you understand who she really is. Juliette is such an unreliable narrator that you cannot trust anything she says, so it’s nice to have these moments of clarity through the eyes of others.

Anne Marie Lee’s narration is perfect for this book. I imagined that to manipulate so many people, Juliette would have to sound unassuming and calm, both of which are qualities that Lee brings to this listen.

If you’re a fan of thrillers with lots of twists and turns, this is definitely the listen for you!


Publisher Summary:
YOU’VE NEVER READ A LOVE STORY AS TWISTED AS THIS.
Juliette loves Nate.
She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.
They are meant to be.
The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.
She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.
True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

Read more and sample the audio →

New to Audiobooks.com? Get a free audiobook when you sign up for our one month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobook!


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