Over the last two weeks, I listened to several audiobooks of different genres. From Historical Fiction, to Domestic Drama, a Family Mystery as well as an Historical Crime Fiction story, all but one were enjoyed. Scroll down to see my thoughts.

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The French Gift by Kirsty Manning, Deidre Rubenstein (Narrator)

Published November 9th 2021 by HarperAudio

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I like to read about times that I might be familiar with, but highlight an event or characters that allows me to see things in a different light. The French Gift fits that bill nicely with an historical fiction story narrated over multiple timelines. In 1940s Paris we meet Margo Bisset, a french maid who is arrested and found guilty of a murder. She is innocent and was set up, but no one will believe her. In a cell in prison, she meets and becomes friends with Josephine Murant. Josephine is an author arrested for being part of the resistance. When Paris is occupied by the Germans, the women are sent to a German workcamp, where they work in a textile factory under horrendous conditions. The danger of working with the chemicals is terrible and the descriptions of some of the things that happened to their bodies as a result of working, was hard to read at times. One of the things that kept Margot going was Josephine’s attitude. She tried to remain upbeat as well as defiant and with her spirit and determination, she kept Margot from giving in. In present day Paris we meet Evie Black and her teenaged son Hugo. They are mourning the death of their beloved husband and father, agreeing to assist in the collection of information and artifacts to go into an exhibition to honour the legacy of Josephine Murant. Josephine was her husband’s great aunt, who was an accomplished crime writer. There are also rumours of an unpublished manuscript which has Evie searching the villa. What they find amazes them.

Kirsty Manning has written a story set during WWII, but it is more a story of friendship, perseverance and acts of kindness. The chapters set in the German rayon factory were heartbreaking and just imagining the women who actually endured that job and time is hard to stomach. We often read about Jewish persons being sent to these camps, but others were as well, as highlighted in this book. I enjoyed the mysteries of the false murder charge and the search for the manuscript as it added to the secrets that are revealed later in the story. I enjoyed the past timeline more than the present, and don’t think they meshed well. I would have preferred the story being told in the past with a sandwiching of the present story at the beginning and end. This is the first book I have read by Kirsty Manning and I enjoyed her style. She was descriptive, but not overly so, which gave me a feeling of being in the moment. I listened to this audiobook narrated by Deidre Rubenstein, a new voice actress to me. I enjoyed her narration very much. Her accents, tone and voice gave the characters their own identity which allowed me to enjoy the story even more. I recommend this one to those who enjoy historical Fiction, WWII stories, and stories of perseverance and friendship in the face of horror and war.

Secrets of Our House

Secrets of Our House by Rea Frey, Samantha Desz (Narrator)

Expected publication: February 8th 2022 by St. Martin’s Griffin, Macmillan Audio

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Desi and her family have a dream getaway house set in the mountains of North Carolina. They love to visit during the summer and have just arrived. Everyone in the family has secrets. Desi is in love with someone else from her past, Carter. It turns out he is a friend of her brother. Desi and Peter’s marriage is falling apart. Their daughter, Jules, has been accepted at Columbia, but she does not want to go, in fact, she never did, it is Desi’s dream for her. Jules is in love with local boy, Will and she wants to stay in North Carolina. She agrees to try one semester but she hates it and now she has a huge secret. When tragedy strikes, will they be able to pull together.

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This is a domestic drama, a story about a family with relatable problems and issues. Desi is an overbearing mom, who thinks she knows what is best for her daughter, Jules disagrees. She also has a secret, an old secret, that still causes issues for her. We gradually find out what it is as the story progresses. She is not the most likable character as she is bossy and wants everyone to do what she wants them to do. As we meet Will’s family, it is like everything that can go wrong will go wrong. There is a parent with cancer, a bear attack and Will being in love with a rich, summer girl. There are some surprises along the way, but this is a well written, family story with lots of questions, decisions and secrets that can pull a family apart, or push them together when tragedy strikes. I did a read/listen with story, with the audiobook narrated by Samantha Desz. She did a wonderful job with the story and added to the suspense and revelations as they happened. Her performance added to my enjoyment of this story. She did a good job with the voices and expression in the story. I will not hesitate to listen to other books narrated by this talented voice actress. I recommend you pick this one up if you enjoy stories of family and secrets in the domestic drama genre.

The Gray Chamber

The Gray Chamber (True Colors #4) by Grace Hitchcock, Stina Nielsen (Narrator)

Published January 1st 2020 by Barbour Books, Recorded Books

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Gray Chamber is part of the True Colors series. They are historical fiction based on events that are not well know or forgotten, all crimes. In this book, Grace Hitchcock highlights how men were able to get female family members committed to asylums for their own reasons, not because the women had mental health issues. Edyth Foster’s parents died when she was young and she was raised by her bachelor uncle. She is an heiress and will come into her fortune in a few months when she turns 25. Her uncle has recently married and little does Edyth know, but he has resented her all the years he has to take care of her. He and his wife concoct a plan to have her committed to Blackwell Island Asylum. With a clause in her father’s will that if she goes insane, her uncle will inherit everything. While in the asylum, she meets Nellie Brown (aka Nellie Bly) who also seems to be as sane as she is.

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I really liked this story. I had heard about the practice over the years and have read other stories where this happened to women. Men whose wives didn’t produce a male heir, or who suffered from post partum depression. Some just wanted to marry someone else, so had them committed, such a sad time for women. This story was well written and did have a romance story tied in as well. Edyth had been in love with a friend for years and just before she disappears, he realizes that he cares for her as more than just a friend. Can they mount a rescue before her uncle takes possession of everything that she owns. I liked the various characters, except for the villains of course, but would have liked to have more background on them. The Nellie Bly angle was interesting and I do want to see if I can find the book Ten Days in a Madhouse that she wrote that began reforms. There is a bit of a Christian undertone to this story, where Edyth prays for strength and support, but it does not overpower the story. The narrator is Stina Nielsen, one I have listened to many times. I enjoy her performances that use her expression, tone and inflection to portray emotion and the various characters. I recommend this one to those who enjoy historical fiction based on crimes committed over the years.

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Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, Caroline Lee (Narrator)

Published September 14th 2021 by Macmillan Audio

2.5 to 3 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐

I am going to start by saying that I am in the minority with this review. It is a story of family, feelings, secrets and mysteries. The Delaney family, led by Stan and Joy seem to be that family that everyone envies. They appear to be so happy, but they really aren’t. Marriages and relationships are breaking up, jobs and/or businesses are close to being bankrupt and then Joy, the matriarch, disappears. I enjoyed the mystery and learning about the family while trying to figure out what happened to Joy. Told in two timelines, we find out about the family secrets, the times Stan disappeared and the appearance of a young woman who lived with Stan and Joy for a period. But after that, it just fizzled for me. The ending was just meh, and the audiobook went on about two hours too long. Narrator, Caroline Lee, is a new narrator to me, but I was not impressed. Her voice was strident and very difficult to listen to at times. I was constantly changing the volume. Again, maybe it was just me. As I said, I am in the minority, so if you enjoy a family story, one with a mystery, pick this one up, you might enjoy it more than I did.