Every Step She Takes by K.L. Armstrong #AudioBookReview

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Sometimes there’s no use running from your past. . . .

Genevieve has secrets that no one knows. In Rome she can be whoever she wants to be. Her neighbours aren’t nosy; her Italian is passable; the shopkeepers and restaurant owners now see her as a local, and they let her be. It’s exactly what she wants.

One morning, after getting groceries, she returns to her 500-year-old Trastevere apartment. She climbs to the very top of the staircase, the stairs narrowing the higher she goes. When she gets to her door, she puts down her bags and pushes the key into the lock . . .

. . . and the door swings open.

It’s unlocked. Sometimes she doesn’t lock it because break-ins aren’t common in Rome. But Genevieve knows she locked the door behind her this morning. She has no doubt.

She should leave, call the police. What if someone is in her apartment, waiting for her? But she doesn’t.

The apartment is empty, and exactly as she left it, perfectly tidy and not a thing out of place . . . except for the small box on her kitchen table. A box that definitely wasn’t there this morning. A box postmarked from the US. A box that is addressed to “Lucy Callahan.”

A name that she hasn’t used in ten years.

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I’m giving an audiobook a new try and the results are… well somewhere in the middle ground. After finishing Every Step She Takes I realise that the blurb is more of a teaser but doesn’t really say what the book is about. There is no big mystery who sent the box, the mystery lies in what happens after sender and receiver meet and let’s just say the encounter won’t go exactly as planned.

Goodreads announces Every Step She Takes to be edge-of-your-seat riveting but frankly, it was hard to get into it at first. The build up was slow and at the pivotal moment where the story kicks off, I knew I was headed for a mystery/drama more than a thriller. Lucy/Genevieve Callahan is the character who it’s all about. In a past plotline she shares how, aged 18, she starts a summer job babysitting the two children of a celebrity couple (movie star Colt Gordon and his wife and violinist Isabella Morales) and how it went so wrong one day that she ended up as a musical teacher in Italy, keeping her head down and trying not to be recognized. In the present day she finally has a chance to set the record straight and tell what happened, or didn’t happen, on one fateful night. I thought it would be something major, something worth moving several countries for but it was not as excessive as I presumed. I know the media is not to be underestimated and they can break people but still, I felt it was a little overplayed. Anyway, Lucy has learned from her past experience with the media so she’s not taking any chances this time and decides to take the matter in her own hands and find out who really should be in the media’s eye now instead.

One of the things I liked in this novel was the fact that Lucy (aka llamagirl) received help from someone called PC Tracy via text messages. She and I had the same idea who this PC Tracy was but we were both wrong and it was one of the best twists in the novel. The final chapters also made me happy I persevered with most of the action and revelations revealed in the last part of the novel.

Finally, I don’t want to end this without telling that I really had fun listening to the narrator’s Italian accent for Isabella Morales and Lucy’s lover Marco, she did this brilliantly and I wanted them to talk as much as possible.

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher #AudiobookReview #Netgalley @HFisherAuthor

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They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad.
Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

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I never had a space hopper (or skippyball as some might call it) myself when I was young but I do remember going to a certain birthday party in the late ’80s where every child was crazy to try it out, including me. It brings back memories and Space Hopper is all about revisiting the past and finding an answer to that burning question: would you go back in time if you had the chance? Maybe you better think twice before you say yes.

The novel should have been slightly out of my comfort zone since it’s about time travel but I never had a strange or uncomfortable feeling about it. One of the reasons I did like it so much is probably because it had the feeling of a contemporary novel dealing with a mother/daughter relationship more then it was about time travel. It all felt quite natural and of course it helped that Faye, the person subjected to time travel, was quite skeptic about it herself. The process of travelling isn’t glossed over and it was never just accepted as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. The fact is that it really is a big deal and more painful then you think. There are a lot of questions to ask oneself about the safety but on the other hand, aren’t all the risks, the bruises and cuts along the way, worth it if you can see your dead mother again?

Faye lost her mother when she was 8. She doesn’t remember much about it or what her mother died of exactly. She ended up with the neighbours who she called Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and she had a great childhood but they didn’t talked much about her mother or what happened to her. Faye’s a mother herself now of two young daughters and she feels that hole in her heart is still there. She wants to know what happened and who her mother was. Then a miracle happens, she finds an old space hopper box and reenacting an old picture of herself where she’s posing in the box, she suddenly falls through it and ends up in the year 1977. She only ever saw her mother through the eyes of a child so she grabs this opportunity to get to know her mother as an adult, without revealing she’s her daughter coming from the future. I loved that warm feeling of friendship between Faye and her mother Jeannie but I was in conflict sooner than Faye was… what if she didn’t get back to the present, or if she couldn’t let go of her mother, and what if she inadvertedly altered the past, would that change her life in the present?

Space Hopper was a delightful whimsical and warm novel but it doesn’t shy away exploring also bigger topics at times like having faith and living a life without fear for what is coming. I adored Faye’s blind friend Louis and his blindness brought a great perspective to the story. Albeit in a totally different context (he speaks of a very colourful emerald egg that he displays at his house) he says at one moment that you don’t need to see a thing to know it’s true.

The rollerskates that are displayed on the cover also are a wonderful reference in the story. In fact, I enjoyed many many different little scenes that played out. The ending of the novel was very touching, it wasn’t entirely unpredictable but it still gave me a sense of exhilaration (ok and a tiny bit of horror) to see how it played out in the end.

Finally, I loved the narration of this audiobook and Sophie Roberts is the best narrator I ever listened to so far, she really brings the story to life!

I received a free audiobook copy of this novel from the publisher Simon & Schuster via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham #AudiobookReview

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It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent there six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering on a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand….

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if means befriending the enemy….

But when Eva realises she is pregnant, she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

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I’m delighted to grant my first five stars to an audiobook. It’s not surprising really, I have a strong interest in what happened during the Holocaust so that was a good reason for picking this audiobook and the narrator in this instance, Katy Sobey, told the story in a softly spoken voice. Where this might put me off in another story, making the main character sound perhaps too fragile or weak for my liking, it fitted the story here perfectly. Eva and Sofie, the two main characters, weren’t weak though, they both show resilience and they tried to lift each other up but they were also subjected to the tempers of the guards. Sofie caught the eye of a guard who takes pleasure in taunting her and Eva has to do laborious work that completely wears her out. They struggle to survive, like so many others, but their friendship and loyalty to each other shine like a little ray of light in a dark world. All is not lost. 

The author is an excellent story-teller and it was easy to get and to hold my attention listening to The Child of Auschwitz. Sofie’s will to survive was driven by her hope to find her son Tomas and Eva knew her husband Michal was sent to the camps so she deliberately came to find him. Sadness but also joy were part of the rollercoaster of emotions from the moment she saw him but I was most moved when I reached the part that I had wondered about before I even read the first page. You’d think it is impossible that in a place this horrid there could be new life, or a chance at new life even but The Child of Auschwitz gave me hope from the start that something good could happen even in the darkest of times. I couldn’t imagine how a baby could survive though with a malnourished mother who didn’t even have enough food for herself and it broke my heart more than once reading about the trials she was faced.

The Child of Auschwitz was a very moving story and although it was tragic and sad, it is also a story of friendship and of love as Eva and Sofie love their children so much that they would do anything for them. Even if they don’t all survive, there’s enough to be found in the story to act as a balm to my heart.

This is a story of fiction but the book was inspired by the true story of Vera Bein who gave birth to her daughter in the top bunk of camp C at Auschwitz-Birkenau in December 1944. I highly recommend this novel – the camp life seems well researched and detailed – if you enjoy this type of historical fiction. Truly unforgettable.

Mini #AudioBookReviews – liar, liar, tongue on fire!

The Last Wife audio

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Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

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star three and a half

I read Karen Hamilton’s debut novel The Perfect Girlfriend in 2017 as one of the first and I couldn’t shut up about it at the time so it went without saying that I had to read – or listen to – her next novel. It did take me a while to get into the story but it was worth pushing through. I like revenge stories but sometimes it grows old to read about an obsessive jealous protagonist. Marie, the main character, seems calculated, wanting nothing else than Nina’s life who seems to have all her ducks in order. Nina has a wonderful relationship with Stuart and two children, a boy Felix and a girl Emily, until she dies. Cue Marie who sees an opportunity there… but while I thought I knew how this story was going to go it veered into a completely different direction and the past that I had overlooked at first, plays a much more important role than I initially thought and I saw literally everyone in another light by the end of the novel.

The narration of Marie’s and Camilla’s (the other woman in the picture who Marie rather want to see going than coming) voices were quite pleasant to listen to but I didn’t really like Stuart’s. The narrator (Michelle Ford) made his voice croak and he sounded much older than he should be in my head, he also spoke rather slowly, making me feel that he was a bit simple minded. It’s a small qualm but still. I know I was wrong about him though, he’s not a dumb ass and neither is Marie. My opinions about her changed greatly and I even felt sorry for her (the one I called the bitch in my head I have to admit) at a given point. She tries so hard to have Nina’s life and when she finally almost has it, only then does she realize that Nina had quite a few secrets and now she’ll have to make her own decisions if she wants to keep the secrets too. Personally, I think I’d give this 4 stars if I had read it, it had quite a few suspects and twists involved in the second part of the novel, there’s only a teensy bit more love for this author’s debut that had me hooked right away.  

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HowNotToDieAlone audio

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Andrew’s been feeling stuck.

For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.

Could there be more to life than this?

But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start.

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First of all, the narration was performed by Simon Vance and we hit it off right away, I loved the fast tempo in which he told the story. He sounded a bit on speed, going a hundred words an hour, but I liked it. You had no choice but to pay attention, there’s not a single chance that you risk a wandering mind when listening to this one. Peggy’s accent was rather special to my ears, I don’t know where she was from. It was still understandable so there were no worries but let’s just say Andrew’s voice was easier.

Secondly, I really liked Andrew’s job. He works for the city council and he has to investigate dead people’s homes, looking for evidence of next of kin in the form of letters, cards, any contact details, and also see if there are any financial statements or official documents lying around that can shed a light on their finances. I was intrigued and interested in witnessing what he came across when entering someone’s home.

I know this might sound weird but I had already thought about this before this audiobook and I actually think this could happen to me when I’m old. I think that’s why I also connected quite well with Andrew, we are actually pretty much alike. For one, he’s also in the same situation as the people of the houses he visits, he lives a very solitary life and he also happened to have told a little white lie about having a family. A white lie that is hard to keep up and is going to get him into trouble, especially as his boss is insisting at organizing dinner’s at everyone’s homes. Where is he going to find a wife and two kids in a fortnight so to speak? 

I found the story itself rather slow and not all of the characters were equally interesting or fleshed out enough. I liked the friends Andrew had online and the plotlines revolving around them, and I liked how understanding Peggy was but I didn’t care for his other colleagues or his boss at all. In the end you know how this is going to end and while the journey towards the end is just as important, I felt was just not quite so memorable as I would have liked and for once I liked the narration more than the story itself.