STOLEN BEAUTY by Laurie Lico Albanese (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


From the dawn of the 20th century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer – young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish – meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly 40 years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria – and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family – and their history – alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, number-one New York Times best-selling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and, above all, to endure.


I’m a longtime fan of Gustav Klimt’s works, so I knew I had to give STOLEN BEAUTY a listen when it came across my audiobook radar. The title refers to Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, one of Klimt’s most famous paintings during his “Golden Phase.” (Take a look at the painting HERE.) At the heart of STOLEN BEAUTY are two remarkable women: Adele Bloch-Bauer and Maria Altmann.

At the turn of the last century, Adele Bloch-Bauer was a wealthy Austrian woman, a patron of the arts, and Gustav Klimt’s muse. In her adulthood, she studied and hosted salons on philosophy, science, and art, all the subjects that were forbidden to her as a girl. She was a strong, intelligent, and passionate woman who fought to break through the limitations that society placed on her.

Decades later, Adele’s niece, Maria, is living in Vienna when the Nazis invade Austria, and her strength is put to the test. She must find a way to save herself, her family, and ultimately Adele’s legacy.

I enjoyed STOLEN BEAUTY very much. It was compelling, heartbreaking, and completely absorbing. It was also a well-researched account of the Viennese art world during Klimt’s time. This book would appeal to art lovers as well as historical fiction buffs.

Books about Nazis and their atrocities are not easy to read, especially since there are things going on today that mirror what happened during Hitler’s rise, like blaming immigrants or a religious group for society’s problems. But, it’s important to keep reading these books and stay in the know. Stay angry and aware.

(Side note: I wasn’t aware of this before, but there’s a movie called WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann. I requested it from the library. Looking forward to viewing!)


Audiobook • 9 hrs, 25 mins • Narrators: Gabra Zackman , Madeleine Maby , Gibson Frazier

Listening to the audiobook of STOLEN BEAUTY was wonderful. Gabra Zackman performed the part of Adele, while Madeleine Maby was the voice of Maria. Gibson Frazier took more of a narrator’s role with short snippets between the women’s characters’ parts. Zackman and Maby, in particular, had to tackle several characters and different accents, and both handled it beautifully.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

DISTRESS SIGNALS by Catherine Ryan Howard (Audiobook)


Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: February 2, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads, “I’m sorry—S” sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate—and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…


As I was listening to Catherine Ryan Howard’s nerve-racking debut thriller, I kept wondering if the book was sold in cruise ship gift shops. If so — eek! Nothing like adding some paranoia to your vacation! Seriously though, DISTRESS SIGNALS was an amazing read. There are many layers to this complex mystery, and the characters really stand out.

When Adam Dunne’s girlfriend Sarah doesn’t return from a business trip, he manages to track her last whereabouts to a Mediterranean cruise ship called the Celebrate. Was she the victim of foul play, or did she decide to disappear on her own? The cruise ship company is less than helpful, and Adam soon discovers that these ships are like their own little cutoff worlds. Maritime law can be a tricky and frustrating thing. When Adam learns of another woman’s disappearance on the same ship a year earlier, he ends up on the Celebrate himself to search for answers.

I enjoyed this book very much. It felt realistic as to what someone would go through to find a missing loved one. Nice build up of tension watching Adam goes through the steps, and trying to figure out how the other characters connect with Sarah’s disappearance. I loved as the layers unfolded, leading up to a surprising twist that changed everything. DISTRESS SIGNALS is going on my 2017 favorites list!


Audiobook • 11 hrs, 42 mins • Narrators: Alan Smyth, Bronson Pinchot, Suzanne Toren

Wonderful performances all-around for the audio version of DISTRESS SIGNALS. Alan Smyth was the voice of Adam, and he did a great job conveying Adam’s desperation and confusion during his search for Sarah. To avoid spoilers, I don’t want to go into detail about Bronson Pinchot’s and Suzanne Toren’s characters, but I will say that their performances were spot-on too, capturing their characters’ nuances. I’d highly recommend giving this book a listen!


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE by Mindy Mejia

everythingyouwant
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger? 

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery — or destruction?


Fantastic! I’ve read many books in the suspense/thriller genre, and this is one of the best. EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE is an engrossing, character-driven mystery that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

The story is about the murder of a Minnesota farm girl named Hattie, who dreamed of a career on the stage in New York after high school. Her acting talent allowed her to be all things to everyone. Was she a heartless manipulator, or simply a teenager searching for identity? Hattie tells us her story in the months leading up to her killing, and the chapters alternate with two other characters’ POVs, including the town’s sheriff investigating the shocking crime.

This was such a great book! I loved the complicated characters and suspenseful plot. The twisty ending was amazing. Even as unsettling as its subject matter was, the book’s last lines were haunting and lovely, and they got me choked up. Gah! I’m eagerly anticipating Mindy Mejia’s next book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.