📚 Royally Matched by Emma Chase

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Royally #2

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrators: Andi Arndt, Shane East
Length: 8h 53m
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2017

4.25★ Audiobook⎮ When I finished Royally Screwed, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue on with the Royally series. I enjoyed Royally Screwed,  but it was still outside of my typical interests. I decided to give Royally Matched  a shot when I saw that it was centered around two completely different characters. My curiosity was piqued.

Even in Royally Screwed,  I found Prince Henry to be a much more interesting character than his brother. Emma Chase has taken a side character from Royally Screwed  and developed him into a protagonist.  I love it when authors fully developed their minor characters into main characters. The end of Royally Screwed  left Prince Henry in a surprising predicament. I’m glad that Chase allowed her readers to witness part of Henry’s journey from that point.

Henry’s romance with Sarah was definitely more insta-love than Nicholas and Olivia’s and a lot more cheesy. There wasn’t enough resistance to make Henry’s transformation seem plausible. But I still enjoyed him as an independent character and found him very funny.

However, I never quite warmed to Sarah. Her character didn’t feel as fully formed as Olivia’s, possibly because she wasn’t as relatable (being of noble birth). We are only ever told of Sarah’s family and don’t meet them as we did with Olivia. And this entire story takes place in one setting, the palace, and it was a setting that didn’t exactly bring out the best side of Sarah. She is always on Henry’s turf.

It felt like Sarah’s disabilities were used as convenient ways to make her stand out as an even more “unlikely” choice for Henry, when the emphasis on her shyness, love of books, and relationship inexperience already did that. In my opinion, Sarah’s abusive background and her disabilities should have been given more weight (further development) or left out altogether, not treated as convenient character “traits”. There’s a deepness there that wasn’t realized.

Again, I found myself drawn to a sibling in the story. In this case, it was Penelope, Sarah’s younger sister. Penelope’s character felt full of potential and I’m hoping Chase will explore it at some point. I know the next installment is centered around Olivia’s younger sister, but maybe there will be a Penelope story somewhere down the road.

Royally Matched was basically a naughtier version of Keira Cass’ The Selection. It was romantic, sexy, and funny, but it still didn’t pack the emotional punch of Royally Screwed. Even though Royally Matched  has a slight case of the “second book slumps”, it’s still an easy and worthwhile read (or listen), especially for those committed to the series.

Narration review: What is there left to say about Andi Arndt and Shane East that I haven’t already said in my review for Royally Screwed? They were excellent. Although I did initially have slight problem removing Shane East as Prince Nicholas from my head in order to wrap it around Shane East as Prince Henry. But that was nothing that a few weeks in between installments didn’t fix. I think Shane may have out-edged Andi in this one, but only because Andi’s prolonged accent sounded slightly strained the more I listened. But honestly, I shouldn’t even complain. This production was very well done with two top narrators. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository (paperback)

📚 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling)

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrator: Eddie Redmayne
Length: 1h 40m
Publisher: Pottermore from J.K. Rowling⎮2017

4.5★ Audiobook You know how eating something sweet is a delightful but short-lived treat for your tastebuds? Listening to the audiobook of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a similarly delightful but short-lived treat for my ears.

After seeing that it was only one hour and 40 minutes long, I almost didn’t buy it, especially because I read the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  when it was first published in 2001. But the temptation of having Eddie Redmayne read to me for a period of time (no matter how short) was too much to bear. I gave in, paid the $10 and immediately thanked myself after pressing play.

Another contributing factor in my decision to purchase this audiobook was my new-found love for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  film, starring Eddie Redmayne. Not to go off on a tangent, but I actually think I enjoyed that film more than all of the other Harry Potter movies. Everything in it was new to me because it wasn’t based on a pre-existing novel, unlike the Harry Potter movies. There is a screenplay of the movie available for purchase, with the same title and written by J.K. Rowling, but it isn’t yet available on audiobook (*fingers crossed*).

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is formatted as a Hogwarts textbook. Hogwarts is the wizarding school Harry Potter attends in Rowling’s seven Harry Potter novels. It alphabetically lists magical creatures and gives a brief description of each of them. In that respect, it wasn’t very different from the originally published version. New to this edition, was an extended forward and more in-depth background information about wizarding legislation regarding magical creatures. I found those bits of history most interesting.

This newest addition was also updated with a few magical creatures who were not included in the original publication, but were featured in the recent film. It was particularly interesting to learn about the Horned Serpent, Thunderbird and Wampus, whom provide three of the four house names for Ilvermorny (the North American wizarding school). This information corresponds with fairly recent information given on Pottermore regarding Ilvermorny and the American wizarding community.

One of my favorite things about this book is the lengths to which Rowling went to preserve the reader’s suspension of disbelief. For a prime example, take a look at Audible’s page for this title. Newt Scamander is credited as the author (alongside Rowling). Within the book, there is an even more consistent effort to represent it as a work of the wizarding world. It is written as if the reader is part of that world and it’s assumed that we are all in on the secret. This is done with unwavering aplomb and gives the reader the wonderful feeling of “being in on” something very special (almost like an inside joke).

The only reason I’m not giving Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them five stars is because I greedily wish there had been more of it. The beast descriptions seemed a little on the short side, especially considering the entire audiobook only ran for 100 minutes. I’m still grateful that this edition was expanded from the original, but I’m a greedy and selfish Potterhead who always wants more from Rowling.

Narration review: Before I begin fangirling over Eddie Redmayne, let me mention that there were sound effects. So many sound effects. I laid down one night listening to this, closed my eyes and the material absolutely came alive inside my head. This type of audiobook is fuel for an active imagination. Coupled with the beasts’ vivid descriptions, the sound effects created a movie in my mind.

Because it is a work of fiction being masqueraded as a work of nonfiction, this type of book didn’t require Eddie to provide vocal distinction between characters. However, that’s not to say that there wasn’t a character present. The sheer brilliance of having Eddie Redmayne, who portrays Newt Scamander in the film, read out loud Newt’s best-selling work blows my mind. That’s some intricate mind manipulation right there. To feel the full impact of it, I suggest watching the movie before listening to this audiobook (to cement the Eddie = Newt association in your brain). And I definitely recommend listening to the audiobook. Although, it would be neat if you had the print version to follow along with while listening. Layers upon layers of awesomeness. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository (paperback)

📚 Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Length: 16h 21m
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2017

4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I should hire heralds to sing this: The Others will go down in history as one of my favorite urban fantasy series ever. That realization was made a couple of books before Etched in Bone, but this was a satisfying and resolute ending to an impeccably written series.

Anne Bishop has found a diehard fan in me. Throughout this series, Bishop’s authorial skills have consistently blown my mind. On few occasions have I been so utterly consumed and immersed in a fictional world as I was in that of The Others.  Bishop left no detail untouched. She created such a consuming fictitious climate that I became wrapped up in the politics of Lakeside and beyond, finding startling parallels between Bishop’s world and my own.

In specific regards to Etched in Bone, the story arc felt very similar to previous installments, albeit with a different villain. But I definitely can’t accuse Bishop’s writing of being formulaic. Her world is far too intricate for that accusation to stick. At any given point, Bishop could have taken the story in a number of directions and the reader would have never been sure of what to expect. I’ve noticed that Bishop is fond of “red herrings” which often start to lead the reader down one path before quickly making a dramatic turn. I was hardly ever able to guess where the story was truly headed.

The vividness of Anne Bishop’s writing does not only extend to world development, but also to character development. In Etched in Bone,  Bishop introduced a new antagonist and one for whom I had an immediate loathing. Cyrus Montgomery was mentioned in Marked In Flesh and I already knew I would dislike him, but I had no idea how much. No other antagonist in recent memory has produced such strong negative reactions in me. There were a handful of times when I actually had to momentarily stop listening to the story in order to bring my heart rate down after becoming so angry at Cyrus Montgomery. To be able to produce such a physiological reaction in a reader is a testament to Bishop’s abilities as a storyteller.

As you can tell, I’m totally in love with this series. It’s a sociological experiment in the form of urban fantasy literature. However, that does not mean it’s for everyone. There is material throughout the series that would definitely be rightfully disturbing to a number of folks. Parts of it were upsetting to me and I don’t consider myself to have very many reading sensitivities. Self-harm is a key theme in The Others. It also occasionally features several types of abuse and I especially don’t recommend it to anyone sensitive to reading about sexual abuse. I strongly suggest knowing what are you are/aren’t comfortable reading before giving The Others a try.

Narration review: When I first started this series, I was a bit put off by Alexandra Harris’ style of narration. Since then, I have come to regard her as one of the top characterization specialists I’ve ever heard. Her ability to provide vocal distinction between characters is the number one reason I recommend the audio version of The Others  over the traditional book format. Harris puts on a one-woman play in the minds of listeners. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository (hardback)

 

📚 Replica by Lauren Oliver

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Replica #1

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrator: Sarah DrewErin Spencer
Length: 12h 56m
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2016

4.25★ Audiobook⎮ I feel pretty good about giving this book 4.25 stars and rounding down to 4 stars on Goodreads. Replica is a perfect example of a story that is “good, but not great”. It was perfectly enjoyable and there was nothing wrong with it, per se. But I didn’t find it quite as “epic” as the cover suggests.

I think that may be at least partially due to the audiobook translation. In traditional form, the idea of splitting this novel into two parts and allowing it to be read from either direction is a lot more appealing than it comes across as an audiobook. For one thing, the listener loses the option of hearing the latter story first because you have no idea where it begins. Without that element, a lot of Replica’s novelty and marketability are lost. For that reason, Replica felt more generic than I believe it was intended to be.

With that said, Replica was still intriguing story. The pacing was enjoyable and I appreciate Lauren Oliver biding her time while divulging information instead of unloading it in concentrated doses. There was a good amount of action, which was methodically spaced throughout the novel.

The Science Fiction elements were adjusted appropriately to fit the Young Adult age group. There was nothing overly technical or complicated about its SciFi aspects and it also wasn’t your stereotypical YA gush-fest. It somewhat reminded me of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, if a little more simplistic.

Replica  was an easy listen, especially considering its Science Fiction elements. I would not be opposed to hearing its sequel, which debuts this upcoming October, but I also won’t be itching to get my hands on it. Replica  was more of a “take it or leave it” kind of story for me, although I did enjoy the fact that it was partially set near my hometown in North Carolina. I think this series has potential to grow and evolve (as do its characters) with each installment, so I am a bit curious to see how Oliver develops it.

Narration review: The dual narration definitely helped convey the “two stories” approach Oliver took when writing Replica.  Sarah Drew (April Kepner from Grey’s Anatomy, FYI) voiced Lyra in the first half of the book and Erin Spencer voiced Gemma in the second half. Sarah Drew also narrated Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. I always seem to struggle while listening to Drew’s narration because I so strongly associate her voice with her Grey’s Anatomy character. Strangely enough, even though I have heard Erin Spencer narrate several other titles, I didn’t seem to have the same problem with her.

Not only was it the right call to have two narrators for this audiobook, but having two narrators with such distinctly different vocal tones made the listening experience that much easier. This distinction cemented the “two girls, two stories” concept in my mind in a way that the book couldn’t have. In the case of Replica, I cannot make a recommendation between the book and the audiobook, as I feel that they both provide something to the story that the other cannot. So if you have a chance, why not try them both? ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository (paperback)

📚 Royally Screwed by Emma Chase

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2017

Narrators: Andi Arndt, Shane East
Length: 9h 39m
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2016

4.5★ AudiobookRoyally Screwed wasn’t my normal type of listen. In fact, I had no idea what I was getting into when I began listening to it. But if it’s about royalty, real or fiction, I’ll probably give it a shot. That was the case with my first Emma Chase novel.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was able to enjoy this romance novel. I largely credit that to the inclusion of fictitious royal characters. Royally Screwed  reminded me of a grown up version of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries or The Prince and Me. A decent amount of suspended disbelief was required, but not so much that the story seemed fantastical.

Emma Chase managed to reinvent the modern Cinderella story, infusing it with realistic elements and fairy tale fun. I decided early on that Chase’s writing was good enough to warrant an emotional investment from me. After that, I was able to become fully immersed in the story and allowed myself to be willingly swept away by the romance. That isn’t an easy concession for me, which is why I seldom read romance. But again, royalty is my weakness, so allowances were made.

I don’t think that would have been possible if I hadn’t seen such potential in Chase’s characters. They were well-developed, distinctive, relatable and endearing.  I was really intrigued with the way Chase developed Nicholas and Olivia’s world. Olivia’s world is essentially our own. She was born and raised in New York City. Nicholas, however, hails from the fictitious country of Wessco (which sounds like an oil company). It is briefly noted that Wessco shares roots with the UK, but branched off centuries ago. I’m not sure if that qualifies as Alternate Universe, but that’s neither here nor there. Royally Screwed  blends reality with fiction, which creates the perfect setting for a light hearted, happily-ever-after romance.

Royally Screwed  was fun, fresh and extremely sexy. The “prince falls for commoner” storyline may be an oldie, but it’s also a goodie. Chase didn’t do anything monumentally different with it, she just told it in an incredibly enticing way. If you’re one of the estimated 300 million who stopped what you were doing on April 29, 2011 to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton, then Royally Screwed is definitely for you!

Narration review: Emma Chase struck gold twice over with Andi Arndt and Shane West. I was beyond impressed with both of their performances. First of all, kudos to Shane for nailing the sexy British accent on the head. There’s a fine line between sounding sexy and sleazy, and Shane definitely fell on the better side of that line. But more than that, I was blown away by his ability to voice female characters. Characters, as in multiple. He performed multiple female character voices. And they were all distinct. I’m still pinching myself.

Andi Arndt is someone I’m itching to look up. I enjoyed her performance, especially as Olivia, enough that I’m already dying to hear more of her work. With this one performance, Arndt has proven herself to be a quality narrator, capable of appropriately conveying emotion and vocal diversity. Dual narration was definitely the right call for Royally Screwed.  West and Arndt livened the story through the alternating POV chapters and embodied Nicholas and Olivia. That’s all a listener can ever really ask for.

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository (paperback)

 

✏️ Wednesday Resource Review: TuneIn Premium

The purpose of Wednesday Resource Reviews is to help listeners and potential listeners compare and contrast the many audiobook listening resources available to them.

I will test as many of these resources as possible and relay my first-hand experiences in an effort to help you find an audiobook resource/service that best fits you.

Wednesday Resource Reviews are purely based on my subjective experience and information available on the web, from other listeners, or from someone representing the resource (i.e. customer service).

All types of resources will be reviewed, including those from free audiobook sources. However, illegal sources (such as those violating copyright laws) will not be reviewed.

 

Basic Info:
•Format: Streaming
•Type of Service: Subscription
•Selection: 40,000+ titles

Possibly the best kept secret in the audiobook listening world right now is TuneIn Radio’s unlimited audiobook service. Of course, it’s only available to TuneIn Premium subscribers, but at $7.99 per month, it’s more than worth it! I stumbled upon TuneIn’s delectable audiobook selection a couple of months ago and instantly fell in love.

After all, Scribd once had an unlimited service and so did Audiobooks.com, before being forced to convert to a credit-based system like Audible‘s. But after two months of sheer bliss, I can tell you that TuneIn is the real deal and it is by far the best deal you’re bound to get on audiobooks for a while. But if I learned anything from Scribd and Audiobooks.com, it’s to enjoy it while it lasts, because it probably won’t last long.

TuneIn may be in a slightly different boat than Scribd and Audiobooks.com were, however. TuneIn was operating long before they introduced an audiobook selection in August 2015. TuneIn’s audiobook service is merely one out of several profitable features offered by TuneIn Radio. Through TuneIn, you can hear podcasts, news shows, music playlists, sports programs, language lessons, and audiobooks all for $7.99 per month. Even if you never use any of the other features, $7.99 for unlimited audiobooks is an out of this world deal.

Mobile listening makes more sense cents

But hold on— If you think $7.99/month is an unbelievable price, you’d better sit down for this one. Here’s a first-hand tip from The Audiobookworm: Subscribe to TuneIn Premium from the mobile app, not the website. TuneIn’s website advertises their premium service as a monthly subscription of $7.99. That comes to $95.88 a year, plus a one week free trial. However, if you download the TuneIn app on your mobile device and then subscribe to premium, you’ll get an offer for a 30-day free trial and a $69.99 annual subscription plan! Please, please. Hold your applause until the end of the post.

Note: This worked for me using an iPhone. I’m assuming the experience would be the same for Android users. If it’s not, let me know.

Still think it’s too good to be true?

There has to be a catch, right? If there is, it has nothing to do with the selection. After scanning the audiobook selection for the first time, I almost had to pick myself up from the floor. At 40,000 audiobooks, the selection may not be as large as that of some other services, but the quality is astounding. TuneIn has titles from major publishing houses like HarperCollins and Penguin Random House. I’m still working my way through them all.

 

What I love:

The Price: As a frugal listener, this is naturally the first thing on my list. $7.99/month is an unbeatable price, unless you subscribe through the app. In that case, it’s totally beatable.

The Unlimited-ness: I haven’t seen an unlimited audiobook service since September 2014 (when Scribd canceled theirs) and it has been one heck of a dry spell! No credits, no waiting, no extra fees, just all-you-can-hear audiobooks. What’s that? Do you hear angels singing? 

• The selection quality: TuneIn’s title selection is phe-nom-enal,  especially for the price. I was particularly pleased with their selection of YA titles. I don’t think you can view the selection until signing up, so this is the point where you decide whether or not to trust me (and use the free trial).

The additional features: You’re guaranteed to get more than your money’s worth with all that being a premium TuneIn subscriber offers.

What I don’t:

The website: Using the TuneIn website has been a cumbersome experience for me, to say the least. Many of TuneIn’s navigational features are uncooperative when using the website. It seems that the TuneIn service is primarily geared towards mobile app use.

The app: Although I much prefer using the mobile app instead of the website, some fine tuning is needed, especially for audiobook listening. The mobile app is peppered with minor annoyances such as not displaying the total runtime of an audiobook, not having a manual bookmarking feature, occasional crashes, and a few other small things.

Streaming only: This makes sense, given the originally intended nature of TuneIn Radio, but it may be a deal breaker to some. Luckily, I do most of my listening via WiFi. But on-the-go listeners will have to keep a close eye on their data usage.

The things I love about TuneIn’s premium service FAR outweigh the things I don’t. If you have plenty of access to WiFi or unlimited cellular data, you’d be silly not to give this a try!

* This post will be amended and updated as necessary.

📚 Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2017

Narrator: David Levithan
Length: 6h 15m
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2013

4.75★ Audiobook⎮I started and finished Two Boys Kissing in one day. That’s very rare for me, but this was an extraordinary story.

Two Boys Kissing was intriguing on multiple levels, most notably in the way that it was told. Levithan used a Greek chorus to narrate his tale. The Greek chorus consisted of the generation of gay men lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. After recently having read this article about the impact of AIDS on the original San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, I was particularly interested in Levithan’s unique approach.

If you haven’t already deduced from the title, Two Boys Kissing features gay male characters. The fact that Levithan told these boys’ stories through the eyes of their predecessors was hauntingly beautiful. It gave the story an “otherworldly” quality, especially when combined with Levithan’s ethereal writing style. I wasn’t expecting to be so emotionally engaged in this story. But there were numerous times when I was given chills or brought to the brink of tears. The moment that finally did me in was when Levithan described the lost generation as the role models who would-have-been and the current generation as the role models who will-be.

Two Boys Kissing  was such a captivating story to hear. A perfect balance was struck between the heaviness of the underlying subject matter and the light heartedness of the story’s current events. Harry and Craig are too high schoolers trying to break the Guinness world record for longest kiss (32 hours). Much of the story takes place within that timeframe, but the omniscient Greek chorus narrator(s) actually follow a few other boys in addition to Harry and Craig. In that sense, the story is told through multiple points-of-view, though always in third person via the Greek chorus. I apologize if that is difficult to understand (it’s difficult to describe!). But trust me, you have to experience it. I’m surprised at how easy it was to follow each of the boys’ stories.

Two Boys Kissing is the type of novel that affects each reader differently. I started listening to it because I was in the mood to hear something different. I finished it with an entirely new outlook on the history of AIDS in America and the crossgenerational impact that it has had. That wasn’t the entire focus of Two Boys Kissing,  but it was the aspect of the story that had the most profound impact on me. I’ve already started to look into Levithan’s other work.

Narration review: Around the 75% completion mark, I was so impressed with the narration of this audiobook so much that I had to find out the narrator’s name. I was stunned to discover that David Levithan himself narrated this audiobook. Author narration can be a polarizing topic and I thought I knew where I stood until hearing Two Boys Kissing.  Levithan’s jaw-dropping narration skills left me in absolute amazement. His performance was delivered with the kind of feeling and hush-toned reverence that could cause some professional narrators to reevaluate their work. It makes sense that he would have an emotional connection to his own work, but the most impressive part is that he was able to audibly convey that connection to the listener. That is the feat that many professional narrators attempt, but only some are able to achieve. Levithan should be extremely proud of this performance.  ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository

📚 If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2017

Narrator: Samia Mounts
Length: 7h
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2016

4.75★ Audiobook⎮ Listening to If I Was Your Girl  was an incredibly emotional experience. Meredith Russo did an amazing job of creating an empathic character in Amanda. Russo expanded on that creation in the author’s note, explaining the liberties she felt it necessary to take in order to allow a larger audience to more easily connect with Amanda. Side note: It feels odd to refer to the people in this novel as “characters” because they all felt so realistic.

From a psychological standpoint, those liberties make perfect sense. Russo’s message is one of commonality. She appeals to the universally humanistic qualities in every reader. There were times when I would forget that Amanda was trans and just become immersed in the details of her life.

From the very beginning, I felt for Amanda. I felt her highs, her lows and everything in between. In that respect, I connected with Amanda’s father more than any one else. I got where he was coming from with wanting to protect Amanda, but not knowing how. I imagine that is a feeling that every parent or guardian experiences at some point.

In a broader sense, I also felt extremely protective of Amanda. Gosh, she was just such a beautiful and pure character that I couldn’t help but want to protect her. As a reader, I was constantly on edge waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was wonderful to see her so happy and well-adjusted in her new life, but I could scarcely enjoy it for fear of what would come next. I imagine that to be a fraction of what her parents must have felt.

If I Was Your Girl  is not a story I will be forgetting soon, if ever. Russo’s writing is heartbreakingly poignant, emotive, and gripping. Not usually one to be overcome with emotion, I nearly succumbed to tears while listening to this in public. Nevertheless, If I Was Your Girl was still lighter than I had anticipated. Russo allows the reader to experience the many nuances of Amanda’s life, positive and negative. If I Was Your Girl  was as beautiful and hope-filled as it was heart-wrenching. It was very easy to follow along with and hard to put down. If I Was Your Girl  is the type of story that stays with you long after you’ve finished it.

Narration review: Samia Mounts deserves the slowest of claps for her performance in If I Was Your Girl. She had a beautiful southern accent that enhanced Amanda’s softness. Her narration was imbued with so much emotion that it evoked similar feelings in me as a listener. Sort of like how you can be so in tune with someone that you begin to tear up as soon as they do. During one of the most emotional passages in If I Was Your Girl,  I swear it sounded as if Samia was choking back tears while narrating. If so, I 100% do not blame her. Mounts was a huge asset to this audiobook. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository

📚 Game of Crowns by Christopher Andersen

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2017

Narrator: Simon Prebble
Length: 8h 52m
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2016

4.75★ AudiobookGame of Crowns was one of the more entertaining biographies of the British royal family that I’ve read. By selecting three members of the royal family as the central figures, Andersen set Game of Crowns  slightly apart from other works of royal nonfiction. Prince Charles, Prince William, and the late Princess of Wales (Diana) are also prominently featured, although primarily in relation to Elizabeth, Camilla, and Catherine.

Although the majority of the book’s broad strokes were common knowledge, Andersen provided plenty of new details, seemingly derived from “insiders”. Game of Crowns  kept my interest far better than my most previous royal reads. No one subject was concentrated on for too long and a number of approaches were taken to tell the story. There were a number of personal quotes from and about members of the royal family that enhanced the underlying significance of what Andersen said.

He broached the subject of abdication (the queen stepping down) with more seriousness than most other royal commenters. Andersen purported that this is a very real possibility, especially if the Duke of Edinburgh passes before the queen. He pointed to the long list of “nevers” that Her Majesty has already overturned (paying taxes, opening her homes to tourists, decommissioning the Brittania, and so on) as evidence that an abdication is still possible, no matter the refusals.

I especially enjoyed Andersen’s projection into the future of the monarchy, beginning with Elizabeth II’s passing. He painted a realistic, if somewhat cynical, picture of a post-Elizabethan monarchy. Andersen made it clear that he believes Charles’ accession and Camilla’s subsequent crowning as queen could very well lead to the end of the British monarchy.

My largest criticism of other royal-themed works of nonfiction has been that they seemed glaringly propagandized. I learned long ago that all royal biographies are biased, albeit some more heavily than others. Game of Crowns maintained a façade of professional journalism longer than most, while including juicy tidbits one might find in a tabloid. It was initially hard to tell whom exactly Christopher Andersen was favoring, as nearly everyone seemed to be painted in an unflattering light at one point or another. Diana, the late Princess of Wales, was neither wholly romanticized, victimized or villainized. This was incredibly refreshing. Most royal biographies tend to harp on Diana for much too long, all the while offering an incredibly skewed viewpoint of her.

Unfortunately, any pretense of overall fairness or objectivity was abruptly dropped each time The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla) was mentioned. She was undeniably painted as the villain in Game of Crowns. So much that I found myself almost involuntarily empathizing with her. In that respect, Andersen’s plans seem to have backfired. To be clear, no one was exactly written as a “sympathetic figure”, but Andersen definitely came down on Camilla the hardest. His somewhat nasty attack on her caused me to question the reliability of Andersen’s other information. He was pushing the reader so hard in one direction (the anti-Camilla direction) that it came across as extremely imbalanced and nearly personal.

Most other figures were given a more balanced and seemingly fair covering, with the possible exception of Prince Harry. Harry was not mentioned very often, but when he was, it was mostly just to bring up a past indiscretion. The infrequency, at least, is understandable as Harry was not portrayed as a central figure (surrounding Elizabeth, Camilla, and Kate). He was unapologetically given the “Spare” treatment. Fans of Prince Harry, skip this one.

Narration review: Simon Prebble’s narration lent an air of respectability to what could have come off as another tabloid-fueled tale. His posh accent suited this audiobook perfectly and made the listening experience most enjoyable. Prebble caused the nearly 9 hours to fly by. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another of his works. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository

🎙 The Narration Nest: Caitlin Kelly

The Narration Nest on The Audiobookworm- Audiobook Reviews and More!

The Narration Nest segment is designed to give readers a way to connect with audiobook narrators, learn more about the process of recording an audiobook and get a better sense of the individual behind the voice.

Caitlin Kelly

Caitlin Kelly's voiceover experience is as diverse and interesting as her audiobook catalog. Kelly has voiced a number of popular audiobooks, including several Young Adult titles from Michelle Madow, J.L. Weil, and Kasie West.
The Audiobookworm Interviews Audiobook Narrator Caitlin Kelly- The Narration Nest

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Caitlin moved to New York City to pursue her theatrical training at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She has a BFA in Drama and studied musical theatre at CAP21. Caitlin has been working in voice over since 2009. She got started in VO while living in Tokyo, Japan. Caitlin toured Japan with Disney's World of English and World Family Club as a performer and a puppeteer. Caitlin currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and can be heard on TIME for Kids, Forbes.com, and Slate.com. For more info, check out www.CaitlinKellyVO.com.

 

Caitlin has graciously agreed to visit The Narration Nest for a little Q&A session discussing her adventures in audiobook narration.
Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?

It was definitely a challenge but I don’t want to use the word difficult. I came to audiobooks having already had a career in voiceover while I lived abroad in Tokyo, Japan. When I moved to NY, I needed to start over and rebuild my career. My experience and the knowledge I had already been successful in voiceover helped me to keep persevering every time it felt “difficult”. I took a commercial voice over class with prolific audiobook narrator, Johnny Heller. He encouraged me to take an audiobooks class and the rest is history.

What type of training have you undergone?

I attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts where I received a BFA in drama. I had conservatory training while I was in school. I’m a trained singer and also studied voice and speech. Learning about anatomy and how our bodies produce sound have helped me find and test the range of my voice. I also studied IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and tongue placement and mouth shape for different vowel and consonant sounds. This training has been especially important to be able to drop my midwestern accent or put on a different accent.

Your bio says you’re proficient in performing several accents. Which is the most fun to perform and which is the most difficult?

I love accent work. I had a great time with Irish in the Raven Series by JL Weil. The most difficult accent for me is Australian. It morphs into a Waco, Texas and Russian hybrid! But I’m getting better. 

Is there a particular genre you feel unsuited for?

I have a very youthful voice but I don’t believe it keeps me from narrating specific genres. As long as the main character is in the age range of my voice, the sky's the limit.

How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you've done?

Audiobooks are incredible as an actor. I get to play ALL the parts. Parts that I would never be cast in based on appearance. So while performing audiobooks is really fun, they are the marathon on voiceover. I have to make sure I take care of myself physically so I have the energy and focus to sustain my performance.

What types of things are harmful to your voice?

Yelling! Americans are loud when we socialize in bars and restaurants. In NY, the music gets cranked way up and I find I have to shout at the person sitting next to me to carry a conversation. In the short term, yelling causes my vocal folds to swell. In the long term, it can cause nodes or polyps.

Has anyone ever recognized you from your voice?

There was one time I was shopping at Don Quijote in Tokyo, Japan. I had just finished playing Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors with Tokyo International Players. I was talking to my friend while shopping and two high school girls approached me and asked if I had been in the show. I said I had and they said they didn’t recognize me without the platinum wig and all the makeup but recognized my voice. They were so sweet and it made me feel really good.

How closely do you prefer to work with authors?

It depends on the author and the book. I love when authors share incites about characters, especially revelations that may inform my performance in a series.

Have there been any characters that you really connected with?

Absolutely! I empathize with all my characters to be as truthful to their stories as possible. But I feel particularly invested in ones that have anxiety disorders, like Autumn in By Your Side by Kasie West, or Molly in Saving Red by Sonya Sones. I became overwhelmed by my anxiety when I started college. And while I’m able to manage it now, it affects me every day. I had always been embarrassed to talk about my anxiety. But anxiety affects a lot of people and talking about it helps. Stories with protagonists dealing with anxiety contribute to dialogue about the issue.

What type of review comments do you find most constructive?

When I’m shopping for my next listen, I prefer audiobook reviews that explore how the narrator added to or detracted from the story. If the reviewer felt they got more or less out of the story based on the performance. One of my favorite examples of this is RC Bray reading The Martian by Andy Weir. He fleshed out characters and contributed to dialogue in his performance. In my opinion, Bray’s narration is the best way to enjoy The Martian, better than print and better than the film. (Sorry Matt Damon!)

Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?

Most studios have a window in the booth so the actor can see the director and engineer. My most high profile job at the time was recorded in a booth that did not have a window. The job was to dub Japanese with a strong American accent for a national commercial. I was read the line, butchering the Japanese pronunciations, and waited for further direction in my headphones from the director. There were really long pauses between takes and I started getting nervous. What was going on out there? Was I bombing? Were they calling another actor and replacing me in the middle of the session? It was awful. When they called me out of the booth, the director, engineer, client representative, marketing representative, studio manager, and my manager were all in tears laughing so hard. The long pauses between takes weren’t because my delivery wasn’t working, it was because they needed time to compose themselves because they were laughing so hard. Making that moment simultaneously my most stressful and most gratifying in my voiceover career.

That's too funny! Thank you so much, Caitlin, for allowing me to pick your brain. This has been very insightful and it will make listening to your work all the more interesting. 
 

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