Staff Pick: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Title: The Hunting Party
Author: Lucy Foley
Narrators: Moira Quirk, Imogen Church, Elle Newlands, Morag Sims, Gary Furlong

When I was 12, my mum and I used to go to the library every week, and I would get four Agatha Christie novels, read them all in a couple of days, return them, and then pick out another four the following week. This was my first introduction to the mystery genre, and it lead me into becoming a big fan of everything mystery, thriller, and suspense.

I was intrigued by this book, because the premise seemed very like And Then There Were None, but apart from the idea of a group of people going to a remote house in the country, this psychological suspense thriller is quite different.

A group of old college friends spend every New Year’s Eve together. Now in their thirties, they have grown apart but still continue to plan this event (even though you get the feeling that for many of them, it’s not something that they want to be a part of). This year, they have chosen to stay in a secluded Scottish hunting lodge, which is the perfect place for them to unwind and reconnect with each other…in theory.

They arrive on December 30th, but within a day, a blizzard has trapped them inside the lodge, and by New Year’s Day, one of them is found murdered. But who did it? One of the other guests? A lodge staff member? Or one of the friends themselves?

Lucy Foley does an amazing job of creating characters who, on one hand, are sympathetic enough for you to identify with, but on the other, have enough secrets and faults to make you dislike them, and think that they might be the murderer. The chapters are narrated by a series of narrators, so you can’t be entirely sure that the accounts you are listening to are at all accurate. Not only do you not find out who the murderer is till the very end, you also aren’t entirely sure of the victim until part way through, which is quite an interesting twist on the “whodunnit?” theme.

In an almost Breakfast Club way, each character is quite different, and at points, somewhat stereotypically so. Miranda is beautiful, but troubled. Katie is seen as quiet and plain, but is hiding a secret. Emma seems like the perfect girlfriend and friend, but is she? Emma’s boyfriend, Mark, seems calm, but has a wicked temper, and Miranda’s husband Julien is certainly hiding something, but what is it? And what about the staff at the lodge? Heather, Doug and Iain? Who would choose to live in the middle of nowhere, unless they had something to hide or were running away from something?

The multi-narrator format of this book really lends itself to the audiobook format. It feels like a group of people are narrating an account of what really happened – which makes it even more spooky.

I truly loved this book. I went through the whole thing in one day, and didn’t want to stop listening. If you’re a fan of Ruth Ware or Gillian Flynn, this is definitely the listen for you. So far my favorite listen of the year!

Publisher Summary:

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

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7 Audiobooks to Listen to On Your Winter Getaway

The holiday season is very much over, and it’s a loooongg time till spring (Boo!). So what better way to beat the winter blues than to go on a vacation, a weekend trip, or even just take some time off work to stay at home? Why not enjoy those times by bringing an audiobook or two along for the ride?

 

Something to listen to on a road trip
An Anonymous Girl
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, narrated by Julia Whelan, Barrie Kreinik

Depending on where you are driving to, the journey can be more exciting than the destination. Make that trip even more thrilling by listening to An Anonymous Girl, which is by the authors of The Wife Between Us.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. However, before long, the questions grow more and more invasive and Dr. Shields begins to get more and more controlling. The twists and turns will add some excitement to your long drive!

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Something to listen to at the ski lodge
Bite the Biscuit: A Barkery & Biscuits Mystery by Linda O. Johnston, narrated by Carla Mercer-Meyer

You’ve been skiing all day, now you’re nice and snug, curled up with a boozy hot chocolate and wrapped up in a nice warm blanket. What better to listen to than a cozy mystery?

Carrie Kennersly is a veterinary technician and owner of “The Barkery” where she sells dog cookies and treats. Myra and Harris Ethman, who own a rival store selling pet products, publicly badmouth Carrie and her business. Suddenly, Myra is found dead with a Barkery cookie beside her, and Carrie, with help from her dog, Biscuit, must prove she wasn’t involved in the crime.

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Something for your cruise
Embrace Yourself by Taryn Brumfitt, narrated by Taryn Brumfitt

Is there anything better than being on a cruise, sitting in the sunshine, eating delicious food, and being safe in the knowledge that everyone else you know is at home in the snow, rain, and cold? I don’t think so. 

While you’re working on your tan, why not work on your wellness and self-esteem? Taryn Brumfitt, the director of the award-winning documentary Embrace has helped people all over the world embrace their bodies and reject the destructive images we are bombarded with every day. Taryn Brumfitt narrates the book herself, which means it feels like a friend is telling you how great you are. So start now — love your body, and be an all-round more “sparkly” person. 

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Something for your tropical beach getaway
The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson, narrated by Marisa Calin

Ah, when you’re relaxing on that beach, you finally have time to sit and listen to a really good book. If you’re a fan of The Crown, you’ll love this. While there have been a number of novels set in the 40s and 50s, this takes a fresh angle — written from the perspective of the dressmakers of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Jennifer Robson balances behind-the-scenes details with an in-depth portrait of British post-war society and introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines: embroiderers Ann and Miriam, and Ann’s granddaughter, Heather. 

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Something for your staycation
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last month or so, you’ve heard about Marie Kondo, her Netflix series, and her amazing techniques for decluttering and organizing. My husband and I have already managed to watch the show and read the book, but the bit where we have to actually declutter hasn’t really happened yet. We are all about the KonMari Method…once we get off the couch.

If you’ve decided to take some time off work to hang out at home, what better way to take advantage of your time off than to start cleaning and tidying! With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy,” this international bestseller will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home.

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Something for your boys’ weekend
Positively Unstoppable: The Art of Owning It by Diamond Dallas Page, narrated by Joe Barrett, Diamond Dallas Page

Gearing up for a boys’ weekend? Do you need some motivation to get you ready for your trip? World-renowned WWE Hall of Famer turned fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page will totally get you pumped! 

In Positively Unstoppable, he breaks down his understanding of what really motivates people to change their lives. Full of tips, goal setting guides, and more, there’s a whole lot of humor and fun that’ll keep you listening.  

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Something for your girls’ weekend
Love Me Tinder by Nicola May, narrated by Penny Scott Andrews

Off with the ladies for parties and prosecco? This is a fun, bawdy listen that you’ll enjoy from the start. I was initially attracted to this book because there’s a foul-mouthed (or should I say fowl-mouthed — hahaha) parrot called Lady P, and since I have my own overly vocal parrot, I thought this would be a fun listen. I was not disappointed!

With her marriage in pieces, Cali Summers hits the world of fast love on an internet dating app. With a charming F1 engineer, a handsome army officer, and her adulterous ex all on the scene, a predictable love match is far from on the cards!

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STAFF PICK: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendriks and Sarah Pekkanen

Title: An Anonymous Girl
Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Narrator: Julia Whelan and Barrie Kreinik

After getting pulled into the deep end of The Wife Between Us fan base, I was ecstatic to hear that Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen were coming out with a new thriller, An Anonymous Girl (and devastated that I had to wait an entire year before I could listen to it). I always get anxious with anticipation whenever an author I love (or in this case, authors) comes out with a new audiobook. Will it live up to my expectations after being blown away by their first work? In the case of thrillers, will it follow a similar climax be too predictable? Of course, the very best suspense audiobooks are the ones we think we have figured out before being knocked off our feet and high horses.

When Jessica, a struggling makeup artist signs up for a psychology study conducted by Dr. Shields, she thinks she’s in for answering a few questions and collecting an easy check. But the questions are uncomfortably intense, and Dr. Shields is more interested in Jessica than she ever could’ve imagined.

The more Dr. Shields is inserted into Jessica’s life, the more paranoid she grows — but so does the money she’s being offered. A wicked game of cat and mouse is played throughout the book, which had me hooked right from the beginning. I was so pleased that Julia Whelan performed, as she did a fabulous job narrating The Wife Between Us. She speaks fluidly in a low, tantalizingly suspenseful tone. Having her paired with Barrie Kreinik made me extra glad I listened to the audio version of this book.

Each time I thought I had things figured out, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen threw me for a loop. Just as their last one did, this book kept me up into the wee hours of the night so I could finally get to the end. I was sad when I did, but one can hope that this powerful duo will return with another delicious thriller.

An Anonymous Girl.

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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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