MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE by Matthew J. Sullivan (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore’s upper room, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu and will keep you guessing until the very last page.​


Poor Lydia, she’s had a difficult life. As a child, she was the lone survivor of a murderer – the “Hammerman” – who was never caught. Estranged from her father, she now spends her days as a clerk in a Denver bookstore hiding from her past. When Joey, one of her favorite young patrons, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia is shaken. Things get weirder when she finds out Joey has left his meager worldly possessions to her, and that they hold clues to why he committed suicide.

Quirky characters, a couple of twisty mysteries, devoted bibliophiles, and a bookshop, MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE had all the right elements to pull me in. While not a fast-paced read, this book is well worth waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to come together. Lydia’s search for the truth about the Hammerman and Joey’s death kept me guessing.

The audiobook was narrated by Madeleine Maby, whom I always love listening to. She did a wonderful job capturing Lydia’s disposition as well as the accents of other female characters, while the male characters were read a bit too slowly. Still, listening to the audio format was an entertaining experience.

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

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.

ROSES AND ROT by Kat Howard (Audiobook)

Roses and Rot
ROSES AND ROT by Kat Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I had to label this book, I’d call it a New Adult Fairy Tale, which I know some readers will devour. For me, ROSES AND ROT was an okay story, though not as “Gothic” as I was expecting.

Two sisters, Imogen and Marin, are accepted into an exclusive artists’ colony called Melete. Only the best of the best are invited to join. It seems wonderful in theory, especially since the sisters have different talents and wouldn’t be in competition with each other. Well, not everything is as it seems at Melete.

I had a hard time connecting with the characters – they weren’t that interesting to me, though the crazy fairy tale their lives became was entertaining. What really kept me listening was the narration by Madeleine Maby. I love her voice, and she knows how to expertly tell a story.

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