STAFF PICK: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Title: Broken Things
Author: Lauren Oliver
Narrators: Sarah DrewSaskia Maarleveld, and Erin Spencer

Five years ago, when Summer Marks was found stabbed to death in a ritualistic killing, suspicion immediately fell on her two best friends, Mia and Brynn, who had described the exact crime in a co-written sequel to a book all three girls were obsessed with, The Way into Lovelorn. Although there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, the town nevertheless pointed fingers at Mia and Brynn, who consequently became ostracized from the community.

In the aftermath, Mia transferred to another school in hopes of outrunning her classmates’ vicious remarks, while Brynn deliberately prolonged her stint in rehab to avoid rejoining society. However, when Mia makes a strange discovery about Summer, she resurrects the mystery of Summer’s death and begins her hunt for answers alongside Brynn, Owen Waldmann—an old friend and Summer’s then-boyfriend, and Abby—a teenage YouTube sensation whose need for homeschooling brought her and Mia together.

Lauren Oliver unfolds her story through alternating chapters from Mia and Brynn’s perspectives that shuffle between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ Slowly, snippets from the past coalesce with the present narrative to form a story of two young girls brought together by the enigmatic Summer Marks, who had always seemed undeniably perfect to Mia and Brynn—until they begin to examine her life in retrospect.

The characters leap off the page with excellent narration from Sarah Drew, Saskia Maarleveld, and Erin Spencer, whose passionate performances kept me captivated and utterly unable to press pause.

Shortly after the novel opens, Mia and Brynn’s hometown, Twin Lakes—a name that conjures the shadowy, atmospheric intensity of Twin Peaks—is ravaged by a hurricane. As the girls meet for the first time since Summer’s murder—in a community on the precipice of chaos and recovery, no less—old wounds and dark memories are dredged up. Before they can begin to heal and stitch their lives back together, Mia and Brynn must unravel the mysterious circumstances of Summer’s murder so they can close this chapter of their lives and clear their names.

The heart of the mystery revolves around fictional author Georgia C. Wells’ The Way into Lovelorn, which inexplicably ends mid-sentence, and its unofficial sequel Return to Lovelorn, which spawned from the girls’ obsession with the original text. In excerpts peppered between chapters, The Way into Lovelorn and Return to Lovelorn unfold like Narnia-esque tales with a sinister undercurrent. As Wells’ fiction creeps into reality, gripping the minds of three young, impressionable girls, I can’t help but recall the Slender Man stabbing in 2014 wherein two girls lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her to impress the fictional Slender Man.

The mystery will keep you hooked, but Broken Things is much more than that. It’s about the complexities of friendship, the meaningful bonds stories can forge, and how long and complicated the road to healing can be. Broken Things is an unmissable entry from one of today’s most prolific voices.

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STAFF PICK: The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Bus on Thursday
Author: Shirley Barrett
Narrator: Katherine Littrell

The tagline of The Bus on Thursday, “Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist,” didn’t just grab my attention — it had me hitting download the moment it was available. Balancing snappy comedic diaries with one of my all-time favorite horror movies was something I needed to get in my headphones immediately.

That, and I was also curious to see if it was actually doable.

I was really pleased that The Bus on Thursday was able to combine the fast paced, comedic timing and humility I was looking for and the dark, demonic mystery that has me dying for cooler weather, sweaters, and all things Halloween. In this hilariously evil audiobook from author and screenwriter Shirley Barrett, we meet Eleanor Mellett, a primary school teacher whose life is turned upside down after a bad breakup and a breast cancer diagnosis in her early 30s.

Eleanor finds herself out of work and being sliced, diced, and reconstructed, all while trying to figure out her love life and what comes next. Once she receives a clean bill of health, Eleanor knows she needs a fresh start — one that doesn’t involve her old job, ex, and best frenemy. That’s when she finds Talbingo, a small town in immediate need of a new teacher.

At first glance, Talbingo seems perfect. Nestled near the mountains with learning-hungry kids and friendly neighbors is exactly what Eleanor had in mind. But things aren’t exactly what they seem in this quaint Australian town. The last teacher has been declared missing, and the kids aren’t the biggest fans of their new teacher. There’s also a local priest who is convinced that Eleanor’s cancer isn’t a medical issue, but a demonic one.

Through witty blog posts, Eleanor invites us into her life and the craziness that is Talbingo. Day by day, readers learn about the overly attached teen that is getting too close in class, the handsome neighbor who may know more about the previous teacher’s absence than he lets on, the petite woman from church who is crying over her decoupage, and the rest of Talbingo’s more interesting residents.

The Bus on Thursday is a clever, fast-paced listen that kept me guessing with each minute. Is Eleanor possessed by a demon? Or is she just losing her mind due to the isolation of Talbingo? Is her new paramour the devil? Or is he just not looking for a commitment? Either way, Eleanor is hilarious and going through this journey with her kept me laughing and spooked at the same time — just in time for Halloween.

Eleanor’s blog is brought to life with fiery sass by the amazing Katherine Littrell. Her inflection, attitude, and heart really added to the story in a way that made me feel like Eleanor was a friend pouring her heart out to me rather than being just a character in the book. Even as she’s breaking down, she kept me laughing and I dreaded having to hit pause.

The Bus on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Audiobooks For Books Lovers Day

Sans the pressure of chocolates and roses, Book Lovers Day is the Valentine’s Day for bookish people around the world. Celebrate with these great audiobooks (and tell us in the comments what listens you’ve been loving lately!).

 

1. Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware, narrated by Imogen Church

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person, but also that she may be able to claim the money. Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased… where it dawns on her that there is something very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.
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2. Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk, narrated by Gary VaynerchukRich RollAmy Schmittauer

Crushing It.

In this lively, practical, and inspiring audiobook, Gary dissects every current major social media platform so that anyone will know exactly how to amplify their personal brand. He offers both theoretical and tactical advice on old standbys and emerging platforms. For those with more experience, Crushing It! provides innovative tips and tweaks proven to enhance more common tried-and-true strategies.
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3. The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, narrated by Dennis Quaid

The President Is Missing

Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view… The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in years.
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4. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, narrated by Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face

With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com founder Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.
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5. Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, narrated by Catherine Steadman

Something in the Water.

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you? Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banked with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon in Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving, they find something in the water.
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6. Factfulness by Hans RoslingOla Rosling, and Anna Rosling, narrated by Richard Harries

Factfulness.

When asked simple questions about global trends, we get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess us. Factfulness reveals the instincts that distort our perspective. It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think.
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7. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, narrated by Gabra Zackman

I'll Be Gone In The Dark.

For more than 10 years, a mysterious and violent predator committed 50 sexual assaults in California before perpetrating 10 sadistic murders. Then he disappeared. Three decades later, true crime journalist Michelle McNamara was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer” by poring over police reports and interviewing victims.
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8. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown, narrated by John CurlessTim Gerard ReynoldsJulian Elfer, and Aedin Moloney

Iron Gold.

Honor and betrayal fuel a caste-shattering revolution. Ten years after the events of Morning Star, Darrow and the Rising are battling the remaining Gold loyalist forces and are closer than ever to abolishing the color-coded caste system of Society for good. But new foes will emerge from the shadows to threaten the imperfect victory Darrow and his friends have earned.
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STAFF PICK: The Woman In The Woods by John Connolly

Post by Miranda Winters-Sayle

Title: The Woman In The Woods
Author: John Connolly
Narrator: Jeff Harding

A young woman is found buried in the Maine woods, her body showing signs that she gave birth shortly before her death. Private detective Charlie Parker is hired to recover the missing child — but he isn’t the only one looking him. Someone else is interested in the whereabouts of the child, and they are leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

The latest installment to John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series has something for lovers of various genres: mystery, paranormal thriller, and horror. What makes the audiobook even more exciting is that it isn’t a typical “whodunit” mystery — in fact, the reader is made aware of the whereabouts of the child within the first few chapters. The question is: Who will find him first?

I was a little hesitant to listen to this book as a first time Connolly reader. Launching headfirst into the 16th title in a series can be intimidating. However, the author does a fantastic job of giving enough information that I felt like I knew Charlie Parker without being overwhelmed with exposition of the events from previous titles in the series.

Listeners are able to follow both Charlie Parker and his adversary Quayle as they search for the missing child. This was hands-down my favorite part of the novel, as many authors do not allow the reader inside the head of the antagonist. Quayle is the perfect villain: clever, cruel, and absolutely creepy.

Fans of previous Charlie Parker audiobooks will be pleased to know that Jeff Harding continues narrating the series. His tone matches what you would expect from the protagonist in a gritty detective novel that doesn’t disappoint.

The Woman in the Woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dynamic Duos: 7 Literary Collaborations that You Didn’t Know About

The stars have aligned and it is Gemini’s time to shine! In honour of the sign’s representative twins, Castor and Pollux, here are some reads penned by authors who are actually duos writing collaboratively in disguise.

1. Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, narrated by Erin Mallon
Duo: Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, friends who met over fanfiction

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away. But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

2. The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel by Liv Constantine, narrated by Suzanne Elise FreemanMeghan Wolf
Duo: Sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. Amber’s envy could eat her alive…if she didn’t have a plan. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

3. Wildcat by Max Monroe, narrated by Jeremy YorkAva Erickson
Duo: Secretive friends Max and Monroe

Wildcat: a football formation in which the ball is snapped, not to the quarterback, but to another player lined up in the quarterback position.
Wild, Cat: a beautiful woman from the sky, who hooked me against the rails, and has me on the ropes. Sweet like honey, with a hint of sass burning behind her pretty brown eyes, she took over my heart without warning.
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4. Sunday Silence: A Novel by Nicci French, narrated by Beth Chalmers
Duo: Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, an English husband-and-wife team

After a body is discovered beneath the floorboards of Frieda’s house, Frieda finds herself a person of interest in a murder case. The corpse is only months old, but the chief suspect appears to have died more than seven years ago. Except as Frieda knows all too well, he’s alive and well and living in secret. And it seems he’s inspired a copycat…Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

5. A Casualty of War by Charles Todd, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Duo: Mother-and-son writing team, Charles and Caroline Todd

Though the Great War is nearing its end, the fighting rages on. While waiting for transport back to her post, Bess Crawford meets Captain Alan Travis and later becomes entangled in the mysterious relationship between Alan and his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis. Bessie’s search for answers will lead her into unexpected danger and bring her face to face with the wounds of war that not even peace can heal. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

6. The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich, narrated by Ann Marie Lee
Duo: Established authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment

The duo paired up for this book, which their dying friend Katherine Russell Rich didn’t have time to write. When Morgan Prager’s fiancée, Bennett, is mauled to death, Morgan attempts to locate Bennett’s parents. In the search, she finds that he has several fiancées, and fits the clinical definition of a sociopath. When these other women are murdered one by one, Morgan’s research into Bennett suddenly takes on the urgency of survival. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

7. A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley, narrated by Nyambi Nyambi
Duo: South African writing team, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip

Faced with the violent death of his own father, Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? Kubu’s frustration grows as his boss bans him from being involved in the investigation. When Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

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STAFF PICK: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Post by Pam Campbell

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Narrator: Imogen Church

How am I so late to jumping on the Ruth Ware bandwagon? My lateness to discovering her work aside, I am so glad my introduction to Ruth Ware was with The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

We meet Hal Westaway – a struggling Brighton Pier tarot card reader – late one night at the end of a typical day. It’s clear she is struggling; struggling with paying her bills, struggling to keep the loan shark at bay, struggling to keep warm in her tiny flat and struggling with the recent death of her mother. But tonight won’t be a typical night for Hal. Because tonight she receives a letter notifying her of the death of a grandmother and that she’s been named a beneficiary in the will.

Hal immediately knows there’s been some mistake. She is not related to this woman. There’s no way she would be beneficiary of a large estate. Or is there? Can she use her skills of cold reading people to fool the family and lawyers into believing she is the correct descendent? Does she have any choice? She could really use the money.

Using the last few pounds in her bank account, she decides to board a train and travel to the funeral to make her claim on the inheritance. When she finally meets the family and the grand estate house, Hal finds herself questioning whether or not she can go through with her deception. But like all families and old grand houses, things are not as they seem.

With hints of gothic mystery, intrigues, secrets and distrust, The Death of Mrs. Westaway will have you hypnotised from the start. It is apparent with this book that Ruth Ware is a brilliant storyteller. She slowly and meticulously brings about the twists and turns that make this story so engrossing. Add to that, the brilliant narration of Imogen Church and the listener is left with a wonderfully eerie listening experience.

Since this was my first Ruth Ware book, I can’t compare it to her previous novels. But if you were a fan of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, you will thoroughly enjoy The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more and sample the audio.

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