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: 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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7 Chilling Summer Listens

If the air conditioner doesn’t give you goosebumps this summer, these thrillers will.

 

1. A Blood Thing by James Hankins, narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon

A Blood Thing.

Governor Andrew Kane, is at a public meet-and-greet when a stranger slips him a phone and whispers, “Keep this… you’re going to need it after the arrest.” Hours later, Andrew’s brother is framed for murder, and discovers there is only one way to free him: answer the phone and agree to a blackmailer’s demands. He complies, but the stranger isn’t done. He has another little condition. Then another. And another…
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2. Unwelcome Guests by Anna Willett, narrated by Cat Gould

Unwelcome Guests

A weekend getaway in an isolated country house is just what Caitlin needs to fix her relationship with husband Eli. Her spirits are up as they enter the retreat and cool off in the nearby lake. But her husband is cold and dismissive so Caitlin decides to drown her sorrows, and heads into the wine cellar. What she finds there will change their lives forever.
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3. Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding, narrated by Kirby HeyborneCassandra CampbellRebekkah Ross

Her Pretty Face

Frances Metcalfe thought her troubled son getting accepted into an elite school would change their lives. But after an incident that ostracizes the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever. Until she meets Kate Randolph. Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. As they bond, a secret erupts. One of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunik. And she’s a murderer.
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4. The Cabin At The End Of The World by Paul Tremblay, narrated by Amy Landon

The Cabin At The End Of The World.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet lake. As Wen catches bugs, a stranger appears. Leonard is the large, young, and friendly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and says, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault.” Three more strangers arrive, beginning a gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival.
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5. Half Moon Bay by Alice Laplante, narrated by Gabra Zackman

Half Moon Bay

Jane loses everything when her teenage daughter is killed in an accident. Devastated, she makes one tiny stab at a new life: she moves to the tiny seaside town of Half Moon Bay. She is able to cobble together some version of a job, friends, and peace. And then, children begin to disappear. As the disappearances continue, her neighbors wonder is if it is Jane herself who has unleashed the horror of loss.
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6. The Fifth To Die by J.D. Barker, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Graham Winton

The Fifth To Die

Detective Porter has been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath frozen waters, she is identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. 
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7. Last Girl by J. G. Hetherton, narrated by Laura Jennings

Last Girl Gone

Fired from the Boston Globe, Laura Chambers takes a job with the local paper. The work is boring – at least until a missing girl turns up dead. Years earlier, child after child disappeared, a reign of terror the town desperately wants to forget. Now that terror has returned to seize another girl. And another. And another. She dives deeper into a case, only to discover the truth may be far closer to home than she could have imagined.
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STAFF PICK: Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: Her Pretty Face
Author: Robyn Harding
Narrator: Kirby HeyborneCassandra CampbellRebekkah Ross

Frances Metcalfe has a secret; a secret that could tear apart her home, her family, and the one real friendship she has managed to forge. But in Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face, Frances isn’t the only one holding on to a dark secret that lies in waiting just below the surface of her life.

Between her distant husband, her difficult son, and the gossiping mothers at her son’s school, Frances finds solace in Kate Randolph. Kate is everything Frances is not – confident, beautiful, successful, and happy. It’s with her that Frances finds motivation to come out of her shell and move past the pain that haunts her. Unfortunately for Frances, Kate isn’t everything she seems. Darkness looms in Frances’s new friend, one that might be worse than anything Frances herself has to hide away from the world.

Told from three perspectives, Frances herself, Kate’s rebellious teenage daughter Daisy, and DJ, a young man with a haunting past of his own, Her Pretty Face is a perfect pick for fans of domestic dramas and thrillers alike.  Each perspective is read by its own narrator, with Kirby Heyborne (Gone Girl), Cassandra Campbell (Small Great Things), and Rebekkah Ross (All The Missing Girlsall giving amazing performances. They bring Frances, Daisy, and DJ to life with the passion and desperation that each character radiates.

Full of twists and turns, Her Pretty Face was an audiobook I just couldn’t press pause on. Each chapter brought the characters deeper down their own dizzying rabbit holes, which twisted together as the story progressed. Fans of true crime will love this one too, with its subtle influences from famous crimes that were interesting to pick up on. Her Pretty Face is the perfect listen for those long summer nights.

Her Pretty Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Spymaster by Brad Thor

Title: Spymaster
Author: Brad Thor
Narrator: Armand Schultz

It’s summertime, and to me, that means road trips, poolside lounging, twilight walks, and breezy, easy reads. Brad Thor’s new thriller, Spymaster, is just what I’ve been looking for.

It’s a classic political thriller romp through Scandinavia, Europe and the Baltics as special agent Scot Harvath leads a team of elite operatives on a mission: thwart the Russians’ plan to sabotage NATO, destabilize the Western world, and invade and conquer unsuspecting countries (Hitler-pre-WWII-style).

Told in short chapters that jump between Washington, Russia, and Harvath’s current location, Spymaster’s pacing is quick and never drags. Brad Thor sprinkles plenty of cliffhangers throughout, and the question of “what’s going to happen next?” reverberated around my head for the whole 10 hour listening experience.

The whirlwind settings and a cast of interesting characters make for a fun listen. We meet Jasinski, the Pole who may-or-may-not have a thing for Harvath; Oleg, the Russian terror orchestrator; Ryan, the gorgeous and well-connected Washington ex-CIA director; and we learn more about Scot Horvath, the Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operative who has been around the block, to say the least.

With a long list of major characters – each with unique accents, veteran Brad Thor narrator Armand Schultz really has the opportunity to shine. He’s a familiar voice to fans of the Scot Harvath series, having narrated the past 10 or so titles. Spymaster is number 17. For a newbie like me, Spymaster was an easy entry point into Thor’s colorful world, and I never felt that I was missing out on any of the action because I didn’t have a background in the series.

Whether you’re a stalwart fan of the author or just looking for something new, Spymaster is a great accessory to summer – especially when paired with a cold beer and your feet in the sand.

Spymaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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