📚 The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Reviewed Aug. 2019

Narrator: Emily Rankin
Length: 9 hours 3 minutes
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2019

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Summary

“Abbi Waxman is both irreverent and thoughtful.” (number one New York Times best-selling author Emily Giffin)

The author of Other People’s Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone's radar.

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own...shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all - or mostly all - excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I've never been so offended. Abbi Waxman had the nerve to write an entire book about my life and didn't even warn me about it. Can you believe that?!

I knew I was going to love The Bookish Life of Nina Hill before I even started it. I mean, it has the word "bookish" in it. That's a guaranteed win. What I wasn't expecting was how much I would relate to Nina. No joke- Reading this felt like reading my own diary (I don't keep one, but still...). Why yes, I have canceled plans in order to stay home with a good book. And yes, I do pretend that my cat speaks with a British accent. And...Wait a minute, has Abbi Waxman and spying on me?!

Seriously, though. I don't think I've ever related to a character in a book this hard. It upped my enjoyment of the book tenfold, but it also increased my anxiety (something else Nina and I share) because I was worried someone or something would hurt Nina and I would feel it even more deeply. I don't know how to logically explain that, but such is the nature of anxiety.

Don't pick this up expecting a lot of fast-paced action, though. Nina doesn't roll that way. It takes a little while to even see where the story is going, but I was happily along for the ride, like a Sunday drive. Self-proclaimed "Book Nerds" will adore The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, no doubt. The only thing I felt was missing what is Nina's opinion on audiobooks. I have to wonder what she thinks of them. There was a little throwaway comment about turning the bookstore she works at into an all audiobook store, but that was [unfortunately] in jest.

The romance was minimal and adorable. I liked Tom, but not necessarily his response to Nina's panic attack. He seems more of the "smothering with love" type and that's not what Nina needed in that moment. His butthurt response to her telling him that was childish and I don't think she should've had to apologize for it, but whatever. I do think that Tom will ultimately be a good thing for Nina.

I really do hope Waxman writes a sequel, perhaps one involving Nina's mother. I feel like there's a lot left to be explored there and they have an interesting dynamic. I also really loved how under dramatized Nina's family drama was. It made it feel so much more realistic and not overly-sensationalized. Lydia, in particular, grew on me.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is the perfect book for book lovers. It's filled with bookish references and fantasies (wall-to-wall bookshelves, anyone?). Plus, as a trivia buff, Nina throws around fantastic pieces of trivia like confetti and I learned so many neat factoids from her I have already begun tossing around myself. This really was the most bookish story imaginable and I fell head over heels for it from the beginning because it was so stinking cute.

Narration review: I have heard Emily Rankin narrate before, but not for a while. Her performance in The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was excellent. Her pacing and comedic timing were both en pointe and she hit all the right notes to make Nina come alive, not only in my head, but in my heart as well. The tone of her voice was warm and soothing, perfect for characterizing Bookish Nina. I could just picture her curled up in a nook with a book or planning her day out while sipping a cup of tea. Rankin's performance was so moving that I overwhelmingly recommend this audiobook to all book lovers and audiobook listeners alike. ♣︎

📚 You’ve Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman

Reviewed Jul. 2019

Narrator: Laurie Gelman
Length: 6 hours 35 minutes
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2019

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Summary

In the eagerly anticipated follow-up to Laurie Gelman’s "irreverent and hilarious" (The New York Post) hit Class Mom, brash, lovable Jen Dixon is back with a new class and her work cut out for her.

If you’ve ever been a room parent or school volunteer, Jen Dixon is your hero. She says what every class mom is really thinking, whether in her notoriously frank emails or standup-worthy interactions with the micromanaging PTA President and the gamut of difficult parents. Luckily, she has the charm and wit to get away with it - most of the time. Jen is sassier than ever but dealing with a whole new set of challenges in the world of parental politics and at home.

She’s been roped into room-parenting yet again for her son Max’s third grade class, but as her husband buries himself in work, her older daughters navigate adulthood, and Jen’s own aging parents start to need some parenting themselves, Jen gets pulled in more directions than any one mom, or superhero, can handle.

Refreshingly down-to-earth and brimming with warmth, Dixon’s next chapter will keep you wondering what’s really going on under the veneer of polite parent interactions and have you laughing along with her the whole way.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Well, it looks like Laurie Gelman heard my plea in 2017 for a follow up book to Class Mom. I was so excited to see that You've Been Volunteered had been released recently. It wasn't even on my radar until I discovered it had already been released. This was an instant purchase for me. As soon as I knew it existed, I paused everything else I was listening to and immediately started You've Been Volunteered.

I remember thoroughly enjoying Class Mom but I didn't realize it had been nearly 2 years since I heard it. I love hearing funny books, but not all humor strikes a chord with me. My brand of humor largely revolves around snark and sarcasm (make of that what you will), but that makes me the perfect listener for Laurie Gelman's work, even if I am probably not the target audience for her Class Mom books. But Gelman writes in a way that allows you to enjoy her characters and appreciate their experiences, even if you don't have first-hand experience with them. I'm sure that parents will probably have a more intimate connection to these books and therefor a greater appreciation of them, but they aren't written in a way that excludes anyone. It's not as if they are an inside joke between parents that flies over the heads of those without children.

My only complaint with You've Been Volunteered was that it wasn't long enough. It was even shorter than Class Mom. Unlike Class Mom, I do feel that You've Been Volunteered could have been an hour or two longer, allowing for further development of the secondary storylines. I get it that the Class Mom books are supposed to be short and sweet, which they definitely are, but they still leave me wanting more!

I was [selfishly] a little bummed that You've Been Volunteered jumped forward a couple of years and put Max in third grade. I felt that we missed out on so much in first and second grade, because you know the action didn't stop in the Dixon household. After finishing Class Mom, I was hoping that Gelman would pick up the next book with Max in first grade. I definitely had a moment of "Aw, he grew up so fast!" when learning that Max was already a third grader. It may have been an unrealistic of me to hope that Gelman would write a book for every grade, but can you blame me for wanting more of this series?!

You've Been Volunteered is lighthearted and fun. Listening to it felt like catching up with a friend I haven't seen in a while. Technically, I guess it can be heard without having heard Class Mom, but I definitely recommend binging both books one after the other for the best experience.

Narration review: Unlike last time, I was aware that Laurie Gelman (the author) was narrating this audiobook from the get-go and I was still blown away by her performance. It makes me wonder how much of Jen Dixon's life is inspired by Gelman's own, because she definitely connects with the material in a way that makes me think she may have lived it. That's absolutely one of the silver linings of having an author narrate her own audiobook. If all authors were able to pull off a performance like Gelman, I would have very little hesitancy regarding author narration. ♣︎

📚 The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn

Reviewed Jul. 2019

Witches of New Orleans, Book 1

Narrator: Sophie Amoss
Length: 12 hours 11 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2018

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Summary

From the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series comes the story of a young witch's quest to uncover her family's terrifying history...

Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who've relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness - willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic's waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too - caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family's troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother's reach while determining the future of all witches.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

I like reading Southern Gothic fiction during the dog days of summer. In North Carolina, it's hard to breathe outside due to all of the humidity at this time of year and something about the heaviness of the air and the stillness it brings draws me to the Southern Gothic genre. It's unlike the beginning of summer when everyone is setting off for fun vacations and reading light, frivolous beach reads (à la Nicholas Sparks). As you near the end of July, everyone is terribly aware that the school season is right around the corner, along with crisp Fall air and eventual holidays. Maybe it's the promise of Halloween looming in the distance, but I always search for something witchy to read at this time of year. Last year it was Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and a couple of years before that it was J.D. Horn's Witching Savannah series.

I love J.D Horn. I do. I devoured his Witching Savannah series and, even though the ending left me frustrated and confused, my enjoyment of the first 2/3 of the series was enough to cement Horn as a winner in my book. And he did eventually redeem himself with the release of Jilo, which I enjoyed more than the original series that spawned it. So I guess I was hoping The King of Bones and Ashes would be more of the same. The ingredients were all there. I was excited for the New Orleans setting, which lends itself to "witchy-woo" even better than Savannah, Georgia (again, see the Mayfair Witches). And it could have been so good. It was good, for the most part, but it may be that my high expectations were impossible to reach.

The King of Bones and Ashes was so very different from the Witching Savannah series. For starters, Witching Savannah had a clearly identifiable main character. I identified her as the protagonist and related to her as someone to root for. She was our main guide through the series and, even though there were alternating POVs, she was still our "North Star". I can't with 100% certainty say that The King of Bones and Ashes had a main protagonist. I want to say that it was Alice, but she wasn't present in enough of the story to be sure. Horn changed POVs with increasing rapidity in this book and seemingly lost me along the way. There was no one for the reader/listener to cling to as a guiding force. The interchanging cast of characters left me feeling lost in a storm, with little to no orientation. To put it simply, there was too much crammed into the first installment of this series. Too many people, too much world building, etc. He could have easily (and probably should have) divvied this up into at least two or three installments in order for it to be more easily digested. Following along with a story should not be this hard. Sorry, not sorry.

With that out-of-the-way, there were several shining glimpses that gave me hope, reminded me why I loved Horn in the first place, and kept me listening. His system of magic in The King of Bones and Ashes is among my favorites. I like the thought of magic as a finite resource. And, as gruesome as it may sound, I really dug the idea that surviving witches carve up the remains of a powerful deceased witch and each take (or fight over) those body parts as magical "relics" to increase their own power. To me, this was a new spin on blood magic and one that I was surprisingly into.

As always, Horn's interpretation and inclusion of Voodoo is a major selling point of his books for me. I appreciate that he presents it primarily as a religion. The primary practitioner in The King of Bones and Ashes is someone who adheres to the practice of magic and the Voodoo religion out of deference to her deceased mother's faith, rather than any sort of personal belief. This depiction of Voodoo as an ancestral religion, coupled with its evolution into modern day mercantilism was striking. It made Lisette the most relatable character in the story and therefore ultimately my favorite. The magical cat didn't hurt, either.

The conclusion, when it came, was a total flub. Big revelations toward the end of books are supposed to provide "A-ha!" moments, epiphanies, and clarity. All this one did was confuse and anger me. Instead of unraveling the knot, Horn tightened it. For every question that was answered, five more were raised. It was alarmingly reminiscent of The Source, which made me feel as if I had wasted my time on an entire series for an "it was all a dream"-type ending. The King of Bones and Ashes had so many great things going for it. The ingredients were all there, but it was executed as if someone were cooking blindfolded.

I've already started the second installment with hopes of at least obtaining some clarity as to what I heard at the end of the first book. It's possible that Horn will do a U-turn and redeem himself the way he did with Jilo. And if not, there are enough enjoyable independent elements ("ingredients") here to convince me to at least attempt to finish the series. Because, after all, sometimes you just want to eat the cookie dough.

Narration review: Sophie Amoss did a well enough job narrating The King of Bones and Ashes. Her character distinctions weren't strong enough for my tastes, which did somewhat impede my ability to stay oriented with in the story. She did fine with the more extreme characterizations, i.e. someone very old or someone with a strong accent, but the majority of the characters did not have any significant identifying factors for her to cling to enough to make them stand apart from anyone else. I would have appreciated a bit more tonal range and I think that would have helped with distinguishing the characters vocally. Other than that, I had no problem listening to Amoss for 12 hours. Her natural tone is pleasant and soothing, without being shrill. She provided adequate southern accents for the setting. I would be willing to hear other work voiced by Amoss, although hopefully with less characters. The King of Bones and Ashes was a tall order for her. ♣︎

📚 Recursion by Blake Crouch

Reviewed Jul. 2019

Narrator: Jon Lindstrom, Abby Craden
Length: 10 hours 47 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2019

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Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines trilogy comes a relentless thriller about time, identity, and memory - his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date.

“An action-packed, brilliantly unique ride that had me up late and shirking responsibilities until I had devoured the last page...a fantastic read.” (Andy Weir, number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Martian)

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome - a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease - a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

What. A. Whirlwind.

I heard and devoured Dark Matter by Blake Crouch two years ago, so I didn't wait very long after the release of Recursion to begin listening. Blake Crouch tackles science fiction in such a tactile manner, that it becomes extremely easy for novices such as myself to digest and appreciate all the science fiction-y goodness, or as Doctor Who would put it "Timey Wimey" stuff.

Also Recursion doesn't exactly deal with time travel, it's more of an alternate universe (AU) deal, similar to Dark Matter. Even so, it's enough to make your head hurt. I'd be willing to bet a hefty amount that no one on this planet fully understands the concept of time travel or alternate universe theory and all the intricacies that accompany it. Yet, Crouch does a well enough job of keeping the reader/listener up to speed on his spin on the concept. Is it flawless? No. Do I have more questions than answers? Probably.

Crouch does something a lot of other science fiction authors missed the memo on: He includes his audience in the explorations. He doesn't assume that we all have a certain level of knowledge about these things. His novels are extremely digestible for the average partaker and I say this as an average partaker (and someone who watches Doctor Who, for whatever that's worth). I was able to breeze through the first 3/4 of Recursion with minimal head scratching and while my focus was divided most of the time (because what audio listener doesn't multitask?). As far as science-fiction goes, this is among the most reader-friendly stuff I've come across.

Although I think I enjoyed Dark Matter just a tad bit more, I can see how Crouch's style has slightly changed since his last release. My largest complaint with Dark Matter was that I felt like Crouch had written himself into a literary corner and the climax was a little underwhelming. With Recursion, Crouch seemed to over correct. He again found himself in that literary corner (which George RR Martin knows all about), but this time the ending was overly dramatic and unnecessarily prolonged.

He had me until the last quarter of the book. Part Four got weird. It was a redundant pattern of disaster after disaster and I got tired of it pretty quickly. It actually seemed to slow the book down, even though the pacing was the same. The repetition of events, à la Groundhog Day, got quickly became old and exhausting and I was just ready for a resolution and the end of the book by then. The resolution, when it came, it was definitely underwhelming. There hadn't been a lot of explanatory build up for it, so it kind of came out of left field. No matter, I was glad that it came at all. Crouch's imaginings of various apocalyptic resolutions were inventive and intriguing, I just think he had too many of them.

I enjoyed the first 3/4 enough that the slogging last quarter can be filed away as irrelevant. I'll definitely still be picking up any Blake Crouch novels to come. I enjoy the way he writes science fiction and I'm hoping he's still figuring out how to untangle these seeming "plot knots" he creates. He writes some of the most digestible science fiction out there, so I definitely recommend Recursion and Dark Matter to SciFi newbies and anyone else who doesn't critique the genre too seriously.

Narration review: Recursion was a dual narration from Jon Lindstrom and Abby Craden. Although I've never heard anything from either of them before, I wouldn't hesitate to listen to either of them again. Both narrators did an excellent job. I would've listened to it even if Recursion was single narration, but having two narrators was a perfect fit. It made the alternating chapters, POVs, and simultaneous timelines much easier to follow. That can't be emphasized enough. Anything narrators and audiobook producers can do to make this sort of plot easier on the listener is always appreciated. For that reason alone, I 100% recommend Recursion on audiobook. ♣︎

📚 Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury

The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII

Reviewed Jun. 2019

Narrator: Veida Dehmlow
Length: 15 hours 22 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2015

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Summary

The personal lives of the British royals were successfully kept out of the public eye by mutual agreement of the press and royal family, but this all changed in 1936, when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne and spurned his responsibility for the sake of the glamorous American socialite and divorcee, Wallis Simpson. In Princes at War, Deborah Cadbury reveals evidence that the duke and duchess of Windsor colluded with Hitler to take back the British throne from Edward's younger brother, King George VI, should Germany prevail in the war.

Drawing on new research and recently released files, Deborah Cadbury shows that not only did George VI have to battle to lead his country but he had to battle constantly to keep his brothers, and especially his older brother, in check.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed Princes at War. I don't often hear nonfiction titles, so it surprised me to become so enraptured by the picture Cadbury was painting before me. She truly is a phenomenally talented author to have been able to make this history come so alive in my mind. I have heard other titles on the subject, but none captured my interest the way Princes at War did.

Princes at War takes us step-by-step through the abdication crisis and World War II. I know that World War II is of particularly great interest to many historians and history enthusiasts, but it has never been my jam. I much prefer the Edwardian and Victorian eras. This was the first audiobook I've heard that so heavily dealt with the subject of the second world war. Of course, I'm familiar with the major events from school, but what made Princes at War so intriguing was that the events were told from a royal perspective. As an avid royal history enthusiast, I ate it up and asked for more.

I began listening under the impression that the book would focus on The Duke of Windsor and George VI. That's where most authors tend to focus, given the drama surrounding the abdication crisis. But I was delighted upon realizing that Deborah Cadbury had devoted significant chunks of her book to the other two brothers, The Duke of Gloucester and The Duke of Kent. Last year, I heard another audiobook centering on The Duke and Duchess of Kent, but I have yet to find one that provides so much information on Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. He must seem a bit of a bore to biographers since he was not involved in the abdication crisis and did not die a tragically young death. It was enlightening to learn how much George VI leaned on The Duke of Gloucester, with the latter often serving as regent during Princess Elizabeth's minority, and of the effect that had on their relationship.

Having already read titles focusing on George V and Queen Mary, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Princes at War filled in a lot of the gaps where The Duke of Gloucester was concerned. It also provided a more inflammatory view of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor's activities during that time. I have found that works centering around that particular couple tend to be bipolar, either romanticized or scandalized, with very little overlap. Princes at War didn't pull any punches. There were hard-hitting allegations of treason on the part of The Duke of Windsor and Wallis was basically called a Nazi spy. I've never read anything so direct with its implications. Like I said, most material on the matter either falls into the "greatest love story ever told" category or the "gold-digging Nazi spy" category. This was the definitely latter, so if you're one of those who likes to romanticize the Windsor's relationship, you'll definitely want to stay away from Princes at War. 

For me, the directness of such claims was hard to swallow at first, but Princes at War frequently sites official military intelligence and letters of the time as sources, so it seems pretty legit. It's looking more and more likely that some sort of revisionary cover up happened, so I'm planning on hearing 17 Carnations soon to compare accounts. The only other Wallis Simpson biography I've heard downplays the whole ordeal, which piques my interest further.

I was expecting Princes at War to be a rehashing of a story I've heard 1000 times, but it ended up giving me a lot more new information than I expected. Not only was there new information given, but it left me with new questions I'm eager to have answered.

Narration review: Veida Dehmlow did a fine job of narrating princes at war. Her performance was engaging enough to easily hold my attention, while still lending an air of seriousness and respectability to the work. She offered a few accents here and there, which seemed appropriate considering the multitude of countries and characters involved. But I did notice that she never attempted an American accent. It would have been especially appropriate, given the dominating presence of Wallis Simpson in the narrative, but it may have been that Dehmlow did not feel comfortable attempting such an accent, in which case I applaud her judgment. ♣︎

📚 The Wonkiest Witch by Jeannie Wycherley

Wonky Inn, Book 1

Reviewed Jun. 2019

Narrator: Kim Bretton
Length: 4 hour 20 minutes
Publisher: Jeannie Wycherley⎮2019

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Summary

Alfhild Daemonne has inherited an inn.

And a dead body.

Estranged from her witch mother, and having committed to little in her 30 years, Alf surprises herself when she decides to start a new life.

She heads deep into the English countryside, intent on making a success of the once popular inn. However, discovering the murder throws her a curve ball. Especially when she suspects dark magick.

Additionally, a less than warm welcome from several locals persuades her that a variety of folk - of both the mortal and magickal persuasions - have it in for her.

The dilapidated inn presents a huge challenge for Alf. Uncertain who to trust, she considers calling time on the venture.

Should she pack her bags and head back to London?

Don’t be daft.

Alf’s magickal powers may be as wonky as the inn, but she’s dead set on finding the murderer.

Once a witch, always a witch - and this one is fighting back.

A clean and cozy witch mystery.

Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in this fantastic new witch mystery series, from the author of the award-winning novel, Crone.

Listen to The Wonkiest Witch now!

This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its author, Jeannie Wycherley, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Jeannie!

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I started The Wonkiest Witch on a complete spur-of-the-moment whim and I'm so glad that I did! I've been listening to a lot of intense, action packed, even dark stuff lately and it's been taking its toll on me. I knew I needed something light and fun, but had no idea what. The Wonkiest Witch was right under my nose and it was just what I needed.

I've just finished organizing an audiobook blog tour for The Wonkiest Witch, but wasn't planning on listening to it myself. However, when I began reading the tour reviews and hearing how much everyone was loving it, I knew it was something I had to try. I was teetering on the edge of a listening slump and The Wonkiest Witch was like a splash of cold water to my face. It was a quick, light, and fun listen, as expected. But what I wasn't expecting was how involved I would become in the story.

The premise may seem slightly familiar at first: A witch who has shunned her powers and magical ancestry suddenly finds herself in a situation where she must face her magic- and her past- head on. But what sets The Wonkiest Witch a part is the absolute brilliance of the writing. Cozy mysteries are something that I want to love, but unfortunately, I've been spurned by juvenile writing too many times to keep returning to the genre that I could so easily adore. If all cozies were written this well, wouldn't life be lovely?!

The Wonkiest Witch combines magical world building with the coziness of a British murder mystery set in a small English Village. Think Midsomer Murders, if inspector Barnaby was a witch. Bizzarre, I know, but that's what kept popping into my mind as I was listening. It's an atmospheric story and the setting perfectly complements the protagonist.

What surprised me most about The Wonkiest Witch was how well Wycherley was able to pace the story. It's just over four hours long, but I don't exactly feel short changed by the short runtime. Of course, I would have loved it to have been longer, but it didn't need to be. Wycherley told a complete story and probably provided more background information and well-developed characters than do most 8-hour stories.

The Wonkiest Witch was a solid, well-rounded, and satisfying tale. I will 110% be listening to the next installment, which I'm told is only weeks away from being released on audio! I would binge this series in a heartbeat if it were already available. It's heartwarming and adorable, yet substantive at the same time. The Wonkiest Witch is the perfect little witchy cozy mystery and a magical start to a series.

Narration review: From the first sentence, Kim Bretton's narration had me hooked. Her voice was the first thing I noticed about this audiobook and it propelled this story from good to great.  Her narration was absolutely delightful and she is clearly a talented performer. Her voicing of Alf, the protagonist, was wonderful. But what really shook me was her voicing of the secondary characters. She switched between accents seamlessly, with each of them as authentic as the one before it. That actually had me wondering about her natural accent, which I will have to investigate, because I honestly could not tell which one was native to her. They all seemed so natural.

If you're planning on giving The Wonkiest Witch a try (which I suggest you do, since it's likely better than whatever cozy you've heard lately), try it on audiobook! Bretton's performance amplifies the magic of the story in a way you have to experience to believe. ♣︎

📚 The Lost Sisters by Holly Black

The Folk of the Air, Book 1.5

Reviewed Jun. 2019

Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2018

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

Summary

Sometimes the difference between a love story and a horror story is where the ending comes....

While Jude fought for power in the Court of Elfhame against the cruel Prince Cardan, her sister, Taryn, began to fall in love with the trickster Locke.

Half-apology and half-explanation, it turns out Taryn has some secrets of her own to reveal.

The Lost Sisters is a companion novella-length audiobook to the New York Times best-selling novel The Cruel Prince by master writer Holly Black.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Let me start by saying I freaking love this series. However, The Lost Sisters wasn't a huge hit with me. Not that I expected it to be, of course. Taryn has always been my least favorite character in the series, but I was open to giving her the benefit of the doubt by hearing her side of the story in this novella. I hoped that I would hear something that would help me to better understand her motives and respect her character more. Alas, I did not.

I guess I do understand her motives a little better now that she has explained them in this novella, but it doesn't make me like her any better. The Lost Sisters recounts the events of the first book, The Cruel Prince, from Taryn's perspective. It's told in first person as Taryn is rehearsing a speech she intends to give Jude in hopes of justifying her actions.

Taryn's actions did a somewhat surprise me toward the very end of this novella and I almost thought I could like her maybe a little, but that ended up being only a tiny glimmer of backbone and not a huge revelation or turning point. My main problem with Taryn throughout the series is that she is treated more like a plot device than a fully developed character. The Lost Sisters does help in fleshing out her character a bit more, if only by allowing her to tell her tale first hand. There really isn't any more depth added to the character, which was disappointing.

Basically, The Lost Sisters is an hour and a half of Taryn making excuses for herself and justifying her betrayal of her family. There are no groundbreaking revelations. There aren't even any noteworthy insights given. It's just more of the same from a character I already didn't like. 1.5 hours was more than enough time to further develop this character, but I have a feeling the author doesn't know how to make that happen (maybe because the character is extraneous?!). Taryn seems sort of like a deadend character to me, so I'm glad this novella ended rather quickly, but it was already becoming circular in nature.

If I remember correctly, I picked up this novella when it was on sale. I definitely wouldn't have been happy if I had paid full price for it ($5) or {gasp!} a $15 credit. If you're super into this series like I am, you may still be interested in giving this a listen. But if not, you're not missing anything spectacular. I'm still holding my breath for a prequel type of novella about Jude and Taryn's parents. That would be far more interesting than rehashing events that have already transpired within the series.

Narration review: The one thing I can't complain about is Caitlin Kelly's performance. I continue to be amazed at how she differentiates between the characters of Jude and Taryn. Even though this novella was using the singular voice of Taryn, I was never in doubt of whom I was hearing. Kelly captures Taryn's voice and personality so well that she does more to distinguish the character in my mind of than the writing does.♣︎

📚 Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine

Reviewed Jun. 2019

Stillhouse Lake, Book 3

Narrators: Lauren Ezzo, Will Ropp, Emily Sutton-Smith, Dan John Miller
Length: 11 hours 10 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2019

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

Summary

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.

But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead - her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.

But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.75 Stars

Full disclosure: I was a little apprehensive about beginning Wolfhunter River. As much as I loved this first two installments (Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek), part of me was scared to return to the series. For months, I've been anticipating its release, but when it was time to begin listening, I balked and ended up putting it off for a few weeks.

This series is thrilling, but it's also extremely intense, even dark at times. It's a very heavy series dealing with the court of public opinion. This series causes the reader/listener to ask uncomfortable questions and face uncomfortable truths about society today and our part in it. It doesn't overtly do so, but if you really process the material, it will naturally lead you to such introspection.

Once I did finally gather enough courage to start Wolfhunter River, I was immediately sucked in. I appreciate that Rachel Caine doesn't mind giving us a brief refresher on the events of the past two books. It reminded me of how much I love the character of Gwen Proctor. I'm drawn to fierce, protective maternal characters and Gwen fits that bill better than anyone I've ever read.

The beginning of the story was uncomfortable. Gwen is once again faced with public scrutiny and is seemingly in a no-win situation, but that's what makes this series so unpredictable. I can't see a way out of her predicament because there isn't really a way out of it. Yet Gwen somehow finds a way to go on. I'm telling you, if I were in her situation, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago and just given up. But Gwen doesn't do that, primarily because of her children, and that's why I love her character so much. She's Cersei Lannister, but without the cruelty.

I saw the most character growth in this installment from Connor. In Killman Creek, I found his character annoyingly childish (...that's possibly unfair since he is a child). In Wolfhunter River, his growth is obvious and I was so proud! He has clearly learned from his mistakes and he seems to have learned a thing or two from his kickass Mom as well. I love seeing how Connor and Lanny are growing up and becoming more savvy. I can't wait to see the type of adults they will become.

Not only are the kids learning from Gwen, but they are also finding out that they are stronger together, as a family unit. This installment saw them stick together and fight common enemies, rather than fighting amongst themselves. They have also welcomed Sam into the family. Every time Sam referred to the children as his children I got totally lost in my feelings. Wolfhunter River showed all four of them working as a cohesive family unit, having each other's backs, and forgiving each other's faults. Bless.

I usually prefer larger series arcs to the more episodic plots of individual installments, but this time was different. The over arching plot of Gwen's life is so tragic that it was nice to lose myself in the details of Ellie White's kidnapping and the other mysterious goings on of Wolfhunter. The end of Wolfhunter River seems to be opening a new door in Gwen's life and I think it paves the way for future installments to resemble this one.

Now that there are three installments out, it's the perfect time for you to hear this series while waiting for the fourth. I overwhelmingly recommend the series, but I do understand if it's not exactly binge-able, due to the high intensity. The writing is incredible and it's not exactly graphic, but it does deal with some pretty heavy stuff. Don't worry if you need to take a break and hear something ligher in between installments.

Narration review: The number one reason I recommend this series is the narration. Starting with the second book, three new narrators are introduced to voice Sam, Lanny, and Connor. The fact that they brought in four narrators for the audiobooks, when they could have easily had the primary narrator continue to voice all of the characters, shows the confidence the publishers have in this series and it is not without reason. Going the extra mile to ensure a well produced and excellently narrated audiobook has vastly improved the listening experience.  The cast of narrators do a wonderful job of handling the POV switch offs and this series is proof that multiple POVs should be handled by multiple narrators. If you are going to give this series a try, do so on audio!♣︎

📚 Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Reviewed Mar. 2019

Narrator: Lisa Flanagan
Length: 17 hours 56 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2018

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

Summary

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold. But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I adored Spinning Silver. Fairytale retellings are always sort of hit or miss with me. Most of them stick to closely to the source material and become predictable. However, Spinning Silver found the perfect balance. It paired fantasy with alternate reality to create something unique, yet subtly familiar.

It's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin-- sort of. Perhaps retelling isn't the right word. It's about a young girl who can change pennies into gold, but not with magic. She is simply a good businesswoman capable of investing and turning a profit. I found Miryem extremely likable and I was most invested in her story. I appreciate resourcefulness so I found Miryem relatable and easy to root for.

Honestly, I would have been fine if there was nothing more to Miryem's story than this. I thought it was the ultimate swerve. A story that has been told so many times that it has been imbued with fantastical elements over the centuries to give it flair. It reminded me of the Drew Barrymore film Ever After, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. In Ever After, we learn the true story of Cinderella and that she really existed in 18th century France (sans magic). I thought Naomi Novik was going for a similar twist by making Miryem's family Jewish and incorporating real-world elements into her story and I was eating it up.

For the longest time, this was a five star audiobook for me. By the time the secondary POV character, Wanda, was introduced, I was already committed to this story. I didn't dislike Wanda, but she was no Miryem. As the story went on I did warm to her, but still preferred Miryem's chapters. However, I never got the point of Margareta's character or her POV. Not only did she seem useless to the overall story, I think she actually hurt it. Her inclusion did nothing but confuse me. Margareta is the main reason I can't give this five stars, even though I really want to! At a certain point, I decided to just ignore her all together and focus on Miryem and Wanda.

Then, Bam! Novik threw fantastical elements into the mix à la Once Upon A Time and I was swerved again. Luckily, I was able to hang onto my seat. The fantastical elements definitely complicated the story, but I didn't mind them too much. Novik's writing was so incredible that she could have thrown almost anything at me and I would've gone along with it. That's the mark of an amazing storyteller.

Narration review: I've had Naomi Novik's previous novel Uprooted on my TBR list for a while now, but I can never get into it because the narrator's accent is hard for me to understand. I was worried I might face a similar problem with Spinning Silver. Fortunately, that was not the case. Lisa Flanagan does an amazing Russian accent that is authentic, yet still intelligible. The more I listened, the easier it became to understand.

However, her narration did contribute to my confusion regarding the POV characters. There wasn't a lot of vocal distinction made between Miryem, Wanda, and Margareta. Additionally, there were no indicators given when the POV characters were being switched. The most frustrating thing about listening to Spinning Silver was that I was constantly confused about which POV character I was hearing. I'm torn about recommending this audiobook for that reason. In all other respects, Flanagan gave a wonderful performance and one that I genuinely enjoyed. However, reading the physical book would eliminate much of the POV confusion. ♣︎

📚 A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

Reviewed May 2019

Narrator: Harry Lloud
Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2015

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Summary

Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin's ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.

Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there were Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve, but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals - in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg - whose true name (hidden from all he and Dunk encounter) is Aegon Targaryen. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lie ahead for these two...as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn't dead - yet.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers...

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a single audiobook comprised of three previously individually published tales from the Dunk and Egg "spinoff series" (or whatever you want to call it). The events in these stories take place approximately 90 years before the start of the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I read all three of the Dunk and Egg tales between 2010 and 2015, but I've never heard them on audio. As soon as I discovered Harry Lloyd was narrating, I knew I had to listen. Lloyd plays Prince Viserys Targaryen in the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones.

The three tales are as follows: The Hedge Knight (D&E #1), The Sworn Sword (D&E #2), and The Mystery Knight (D&E #3). I appreciated that A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms packaged all three of these tales in one audiobook, instead of having to purchase three different anthologies, as I did with the books.

I always knew this series would be something that I would revisit in the future. Each of the stories is around four or five hours long, so it wasn't a huge undertaking, unlike A Song of Ice and Fire. Going into this audiobook, I could still vaguely recall the plots of the first two stories. I knew the first one was about the tourney at Harrenhal and the second was about two smaller warring houses. My opinions about those two didn't really change after hearing this audiobook. I remember originally loving The Hedge Night, the first tale. Baelor Breakspear was the breakout character for me. I loved him so much that I actually named a foster dog after him back in 2010. I still really enjoyed it this time around.

I enjoyed The Sworn Sword a little more this time, maybe because I understood it slightly better, but it still my least favorite of the three. I understood it even more after hearing the tale that comes after it, though. The primary plot of The Sworn Sword isn't necessarily what should be focused on. The big takeaway for me was all the mention of the Blackfyre rebellion, treason, and so on, because that carries us into the next tale, where such themes are more prominent. If you go into The Sworn Sword knowing its tension is framed by the first Blackfyre rebellion, it really sets the scene for you and highlights your priorities as a reader/listener. I wish I had known that the first time and I even sort of wish I had heard The Sworn Sword after the third tale.

The Mystery Knight is my second favorite. It doesn't top The Hedge Knight for me (because Baelor!), but I had the best experience with it this time around. I remembered practically nothing from my initial reading for years ago and I actually kept questioning if I had read The Mystery Knight at all. After about 75%, I knew that I had. Even so, I was still swerved by the identity of The Mystery Knight. Out of all of the Dunk and Egg tales, this is probably the one that I will revisit soonest. I feel like I wasn't able to fully digest everything in it and I hope to be able to hear it as a refresher before beginning #4 (whenever that may be…).

On that note, I really loved the little author's note George left us at the end of the audiobook. He says that Dunk and Egg's adventures have only just begun and they will travel to Winterfell, Dorne, everywhere in between, and even to Essos and beyond. Talk about exciting! That's the way to hype a series. I'm so pumped for it. I can't wait to see Dunk hook up with a lass and start his line that will eventually lead to Brienne of Tarth (He's her ancestor- George confirmed). I wonder how far into their lifespans George will take us and if we will see Egg on the throne or even the tragedy at Summerhall! I have so many questions...

Narration review: I flipping love Harry Lloyd. I mean, my love for him pre-dates my listening to this audiobook, but this has only strengthened it. He is so immensely talented that it's unfair. It's actually unfair to other people. His narration of this audiobook was out of this world! They were so many characters in these stories and he gave them all distinct voices and accents, even those who didn't significantly impact the stories. Lloyd is a brilliant actor and he brings every bit of that into the recording booth for this audiobook. Do yourself a favor and listen. It's the perfect "hair of the dog" cure for the hot mess that was the HBO finale. ♣︎