📚 The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

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Graveyard Queen #2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Nov. 2017

Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 11 hrs and 13 mins
Publisher: Harlequin Books S.A.⎮2012

Synopsis: Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town….

My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town – this withering kingdom – and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.


3.75 ★ Audiobook⎮ A little bit of my October listening list carried over into November. The Kingdom was the second installment in the Graveyard Queen series that I started in early October. But if I didn’t already know that The Kingdom and The Restorer were in the same series, I would have never guessed it. The deeper I got into the story, the further it seemed to drift from the world and characters Stevens created in The Restorer

Things started off really great. Amelia was off to a new town to restore another cemetery. I was interested to see what secrets this cemetery would hold and how Amelia would become dragged into trouble because of it. I ended up getting more than I bargained for. Amelia’s job as a cemetery restorer wound up having little to do with the story. In this installment, it seemed like Amanda Stevens abandoned her originally presented idea for the series, in favor of taking it, Amelia, and the reader down a completely new and dark path. In doing so, she also seemed to have bitten off more than she could chew, so to speak.

The Kingdom’s main issue, in my opinion, was an overly abundant storyline. I barely had enough time to process one shocking soap opera-style reveal before another was thrown at me (and another, and another…). The thing was, I had already figured out a couple of the big twists early on. So it wasn’t the twists themselves that were too much to comprehend, but the amount of twists. It made the story seem messy. Stevens pulled out all the stops, with little development in between, and it was just too much. Quantity does not equal quality. As a result, this audiobook seemed almost double its length.

I will say that The Kingdom was way creepier than I expected. I was pleased with the richly atmospheric elements of the story. I had to stop listening several times because the story became so intense. At one point, I was absolutely livid. These villains were pushing all the wrong (or right?) buttons. It’s been a while since a story has managed to evoke such a visceral response from me. By the end, I was 50% weirded out and 50% freaked out. In other words, it was perfect for Halloween night.

I’m undecided about when, or even if, I’ll be listening to the third installment. I am curious to know if Stevens will return to the way things were in the first book or continue down the very different path she started in The Kingdom. I hope it’s the former. I’m ready for both Amelia and me to leave Asher Falls behind.

Narration review: I adore Khristine Hvam as a narrator, but this wasn’t my favorite performance from her. The longer the audiobook went on, the more her southern accent began to annoy the heck out of me. Other than that, I have zero complaints about her performance. She always provides brilliant character distinction; heads and tails above the rest. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon

📚 Star Witch by Helen Harper

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The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic #2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Tanya Eby

Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2017

SynopsisLights. Camera. Inaction. 

Ivy Wilde, the laziest witch in the West, is still entangled with the Hallowed Order of Magical Enlightenment. That’s not a bad thing, however, because it gives her plenty of excuses to spend more time with sapphire eyed Raphael Winter, her supposed nemesis. And when he comes knocking because he needs her to spy on the latest series of Enchantment, she jumps at the chance. Hanging around a film set can’t be hard … or dangerous … right?


4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮I’m a little ticked off that my audiobook listening seems to be in an upswing just as the month of October, a.k.a. my favorite listening month, is coming to a close. I’m trying to pack in as many paranormal listens as I can before the 31st. And as this seems to be the month for reviewing second installments, I decided to return to a series I started earlier in the month.

Something weird must be going on with me because I almost never review second installments. Since they tend to be extensions of the first installment in a series, I hardly ever find them worthy of a separate review. Star Witch not only had a different setting and premise than Slouch Witch, but I wound up slightly preferring it over its predecessor. Considering these two things, I decided it was worth gushing about once more.

While the romance is progressing nicely in this volume, it was the mystery plot that had me more intrigued this time. Don’t get me wrong, Raphael Winter still has me swooning all over the place. Just his name is swoon-worthy. Say it with me: Raphael Winter.

Star Witch combined fun with fright. Take the setting of a hit reality TV show, combine it with a necromancer on the loose and my ears are at full attention. Plus, there’s Ivy… just being Ivy. That’s entertainment enough! Ivy is showing slight signs of character growth, as is Raphael, but she’s still humorously (and relatably) lazy and indulgent. In other words, she’s broken the mold for female protagonists! I’m so glad that Helen Harper is allowing Ivy to remain true to character. She’s the main reason I’m falling fast for this series.

The other reason is Helen Harper, herself. I love that each of these installments picks up right where its predecessor left off. It’s extremely conducive to the type of binge listening I’m doing right now! Harper’s style of writing is irreverent, funny, and down-to-earth. I can’t remember the last time I said an author’s writing sounded “down-to-earth”, but it’s a high compliment from me. I’m thrilled to see that she has several other paranormal series out on audiobook, all narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. I’ll be visiting those series soon enough. But now, if you’ll excuse me, my download of Spirit Witch has just completed and I’m off to hear more Ivy Wilde.

Narration review: The only complaint I had regarding Tanya Eby’s narration of Slouch Witch had to do with her lack of a British accent when voicing the main character, who appears in all other ways to be very British. That complaint notwithstanding, Eby’s narration continues to be marvelous. I’m extremely pleased with the amount of character distinction she provides. Such characterizations assist in my visualization of the characters immensely. And she has nailed Ivy’s sass perfectly. Eby has made an already relatable character seem even more realistic and almost tangible. ♣︎

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📚 Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

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How to Hang a Witch #2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Tara Sands

Length: 9 hrs and 52 mins
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2017

SynopsisThe Titanic meets the delicious horror of Ransom Riggs and the sass of Mean Girls in this follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Hang a Witch, in which a contemporary teen finds herself a passenger on the famous “ship of dreams”—a story made all the more fascinating because the author’s own relatives survived the doomed voyage.

Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one.

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship.

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers.


4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮ I know I’ve said this already this month, but I’m so glad I decided to continue on with this series. After hearing the first installment, How to Hang a Witch, I wasn’t exactly rushing to buy its sequel. But two things about Haunting the Deep intrigued me: 1) Narrator switch and 2) Titanic!

I’ve been fascinated by the tragic sinking of the Titanic since first learning about it in the third grade. My fascination grew when James Cameron’s film hit theaters in 1997. Of course, I was far too young to see it in the theater, but (after lots of begging) my parents allowed me to watch a censored version on VHS.

I’ve rarely thought about it since then, but that changed when I discovered that Adriana Mather was tackling the subject in the second installment of her series. Switching subject matters in the middle of a series was a bold move, but I like how Mather did it. Each installment is treated like a serial. They aren’t exactly standalones, because there are larger arcs spanning the series. The encapsulating events in each installment are approached in an episodic manner, somewhat like a television sitcom (but without the humor).

Haunting the Deep solidified my interest in this series and in Adriana Mather’s work as a whole. With How to Hang a Witch, I really wanted to like it, but I had several valid concerns that prevented me from being completely on board. Haunting the Deep managed to ameliorate (or negate) enough of my previous issues that I was able to enjoy it without reservation. No one was more surprised by this than me. I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying listening to Haunting the Deep. I honestly did not want it to end.

Adriana Mather can now count me among her biggest fans. I love the fact that she again drew inspiration from her family history to create such a historically rich tale. I especially appreciate that she approached the well-known legend of the Titanic from a lesser seen viewpoint by emphasizing the injustice that was shown to lower class passengers.

This was an incredibly haunting story that made my skin prickle. In other words, it was the perfect listen for October! I hope to be able to hear more from Mather this time next year. Listening to her books is becoming my new Halloween tradition.

Narration Review: What a difference a narrator makes! I can’t help but wonder how much of my disappointment with the previous installment and my enjoyment of this installment can be attributed to the choice of narrator. Adriana Mather narrated How to Hang a Witch herself, but decided to hire a professional voice actor for Haunting the Deep. I’m not normally a fan of mid series narrator switches, but in this case, I’m all for it. Mather has shown confidence in her series by investing in its professional telling. In my opinion, she got more than her money’s worth.

Tara Sands saved this series for me. She’s new to me, but I was deeply impressed with her abilities. The characterizations she provided were well done and she delivered and all-around excellent performance. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon

📚 The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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Practical Magic, Book 0

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Marin Ireland

Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2017

SynopsisFind your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.


4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮ I found The Rules of Magic so much more satisfying than Practical Magic. Even when listening to Practical Magic, I was drawn to the characters of Jet and Franny. I’m so glad Hoffman decided to tell their story in more detail.

The historical setting perfectly suited the story. It was wonderful to see Jet and Franny as children and young adults. Even though The Rules of Magic was released after Practical Magic, it’s set several decades before. The story is told in such a way that someone new to the series could just as easily hear The Rules of Magic first, especially if a chronological order is preferred. The Rules of Magic ends by introducing the newest generation of Owens, Sally and Gillian, who go on to become the main characters in Practical Magic.

I’m so glad that I decided to give this prequel a chance. My initial experience with the series left me rather indifferent. I was expecting a stronger paranormal theme and got a “slice of life” instead. But with The Rules of Magic, I knew what to expect and was prepared for it.

In a lot of ways, this came across as historical fiction. It just happened that the family at the center of the cross-generational story has paranormal abilities. But the family was very much the focus of the story. In that respect, it resembled Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series, but with a slower pace and lighter tone.

Like Practical MagicThe Rules of Magic was a character driven story. The major difference, from my perspective, was that I was already invested in the characters this time. Unlike most other stories featuring paranormal elements, very little of the characters’ of supernatural abilities where within their control. The author wrote them passively. For the most part, the Owens were reacting to things that happened to them, but initiating very little of the action. Because of that, there really didn’t seem to be a plot. It annoyed me in the first book, because I wanted more action, but I was able to appreciate it for what it was in The Rules of Magic.

Alice Hoffman obviously knows that her strength as a writer lies in character development. Kudos to her for capitalizing on that strength. The development of the outside world seemed stronger in this installment as well. There was a better sense of time and of the outside world, which helped track the generational progress of the Owens family and its individual members.

I hope Hoffman continues on with this series. I’m eager to see if she will continue backtracking within the Owens family or chronicle of the lives of younger generations. Either way, I look forward to returning to the Owens characters and Hoffman’s storytelling.

Narration Review: Marin Ireland was an excellent choice to narrate The Rules of Magic. Her appointment as narrator influenced my decision to begin this audiobook. Having someone new perform this installment in the series was the right call. It was my first listening experience with Marin at the helm and I was deeply impressed. Her performance was spot on. She provided excellent character distinction and an all-around pleasant listening experience. I could have listened to Ireland forever. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon

📚 Origin by Dan Brown

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Robert Langdon, Book 5

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Paul Michael

Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Where do we come from?

Where are we going?

The stunningly inventive new novel from the world’s most popular thriller writer.

Bilbao, Spain

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement – the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a 40-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough…one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself…and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face to face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery…and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Origin is Dan Brown’s most brilliant and entertaining novel to date.

Dan Brown is the author of numerous number one international best sellers, including The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons, Deception Point, and Digital Fortress.


4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮ Dan Brown is easily one of my top five favorite authors. His novels are consistently entertaining. Before beginning Origin, I was concerned that it wouldn’t be as enjoyable as his other novels. What if the magic was gone? What up my preferences had changed since hearing Inferno three years ago? Ten minutes into Origin, I knew I had nothing to worry about.

Origin’s premise was quite different from Brown’s previous work, which focuses on history and the past. In contrast, Origin shifts much of the focus to the future of humanity. Despite this difference, the overall tone of the book was the same. It was thrilling, adventurous, and majorly thought-provoking.

As Aristotle is credited with saying, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” This quote comes to mind every time I begin a new Dan Brown novel. Brown has an excellent way of making you question what you think you know. The thing being questioned is generally something regarded as being “untouchable”. In this case, it was theology and religion.

This is probably a good point to interject that those who consider themselves deeply religious should probably steer clear of Dan Brown and Origin. However, if you are able to entertain a thought without accepting it, Origin will push you to new limits.

Each time I finish a Dan Brown novel, I feel as though my eyes have been opened a little wider, simply by having entertained a new [and mindblowing] thought. The thoughts Brown presents are ones I’ll be entertaining for weeks to come. And my favorite thing about his work is the way in which he presents these ideas. In Origin, Brown discusses profoundly huge concepts, having to do with the beginning of the universe, and yet I’m able to understand them without holding a single physics degree. Out of everything Brown has ever thrown at me, I’m most amazed by his ability to communicate these things in such a completely unassuming manner.

Because of this, I was able to follow along beside Robert Langdon every step of the way. Hearing this audiobook was like watching an action packed film. In classic Robert Langdon style, the adventure was so full of suspense that I was practically biting my nails in anticipation of the next line. Langdon is an Indiana Jones-esque hero and I can’t get enough of him.

As far as ranking this Robert Langdon story in with the others, Origin is my fourth favorite installment in the series. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Angels and Demons, The da Vinci Code, or Inferno, but much more than The Lost Symbol. The futuristic focus of Origin was intriguing, but also rather frightening in an existential sort of way.

I recommend this to fans of the Robert Langdon series and those who enjoy his standalone novel Digital Fortress. As with each installment in the series, the Robert Langdon novels can be read alone or out of order. However, I still recommend starting with Angels and Demons, simply because I think it’s the best in the series.

Narration Review: This was my second audiobook from Narrator Paul Michael. I previously heard him narrate Inferno, which was one of my first audiobooks. It seems like Dan Brown has made it to Stephen King’s level regarding the quality of his narrators. Paul Michael is a fantastic performer. He performs the material. He doesn’t just read it. And his characterization skills are phenomenal. There were only a couple of women featured in this story, but Michael performed them with ease. He also mastered the heavily featured Spanish accent and even managed to play a convincing AI. Paul Michael’s storytelling ability kept me captivated as Dan Brown’s story played out seemingly in front of me. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon

 

📚 A Spell of Trouble by Leighann Dobbs & Traci Douglass

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.

Silver Hollow, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Amy Rubinate

Length: 5 hrs and 50 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: When town troublemaker, Louella Drummond, drops dead in front of Isolde Quinn’s pet store just minutes after threatening both Issy and her cousin Graeme, the police in the small lakeside town of Silver Hollow assume it’s from natural causes.
Until it’s discovered that Louella was murdered.
Not just any murder, though. Murder by paranormal means. Dark magic that could only have been performed by a powerful witch. And every law-abiding paranormal knows that dark magic is forbidden and carries strict punishment at the hands of “the committee” – the mysterious entity that provides law and order within the paranormal community.
Being witches, Issy and her three cousins fear they are at the top of the suspect list. To make matters worse, a secret division of the FBI has gotten wind of the happenings in Silver Hollow and sent two agents to ferret out paranormal activity. Even worse than that, Issy is annoyingly attracted to one of them!
Armed with their unconventional posse of familiars, Issy and her cousins dodge the efforts of the police and the special FBI agents while following a twisty path of clues that lead to a shocking betrayal.


3.75 ★ AudiobookA Spell of Trouble was a cute prelude to Halloween.  As a cozy mystery, it checked almost all the right boxes. It took place in a small town, had an interesting group of characters, and a “whodunit” that I just couldn’t crack. Plus, there was the added benefit of it being a paranormal cozy mystery. That’s really what drew me in. It reminded me somewhat of the Halfway Witchy series.

On the surface, A Spell of Trouble seemed a lot more appealing to me than it was once I began. The main character and her cousins are all witches with varying abilities living in a small town. I love witch stories and stories about families. The protagonist, Issy, runs a magical pet shop. I’m crazy about animals. Those three things should have been enough to guarantee at least a four star rating from me, but something fell short.

The key to writing great cozy mystery is the writing itself. If the writing is lacking, the entire story suffers. The writing of A Spell of Trouble was just slightly off the mark and it made the story come off as too “kids-y”. It’s a common complaint with cozy mysteries and the paranormal angle of this one wasn’t enough to save it. The character development and the world-building were one dimensional, which prevented me from being able to completely dive in.

The mystery itself was fairly entertaining and one that I wasn’t able to figure out beforehand. The paranormal element disguised its predictability pretty well. Even though the resolution seemed a little out of left field, I still enjoyed hearing Issy investigate. I liked that she teamed up with her cousins and that the family angle was played up more than a romantic angle. A center stage romance probably would have done me in.

The point in which my enjoyment began to decline was when I realized that the plot was progressing, but the story was not. In other words, it was moving forward, but I wasn’t being pulled in. Despite there being mentions of adult things, the simplistic and repetitive writing style made A Spell of Trouble come off like a middle grade book. Take out the few references to a midnight sex ritual and this actually could have passed as a middle grade book. The premise of the story was so promising, but I was ultimately disappointed by the lack of depth. The whole thing was just too Saturday morning cartoon-ish.

However, if you’re looking for a super “spoopy”story for Halloween, A Spell of Trouble would be perfect. It was an extremely easy listen and would be great for anyone looking for something more cute than scary.

Narration review: I haven’t heard anything from Amy Rubinate in a while. My last listen from her was the final installment in The Selection series, The One. She narrated the three original books in The Selection series, so when I saw that she was also narrating this audiobook, I didn’t hesitate to make the purchase.

My listening experience with A Spell of Trouble is a testament to the symbiotic nature of narrator and story. If I hadn’t already had a positive experience with Amy Rubinate as narrator, I might have come away from this experience with a more negative opinion of her talent. In A Spell of Trouble, I found her characterizations a little too cartoonish and almost patronizing, although certainly distinct. My opinion of the narration may have been partially influenced by my dislike of story itself, because the sample of her narration for The Selection series doesn’t come off that way. It can be really hard to separate opinions of the story and the narration sometimes. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible listening experience. The sound quality wasn’t quite what I thought it should be, which was surprising, but I still recommend this on audiobook. ♣︎

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💬 Thursday Thoughts & Opinions: The Spook Effect

Are spooky stories more tolerable in the audiobook format?

Growing up, I always knew I was a “baby” when it came to scary stories. I learned to lean in to my low tolerance for them. It was never really something I was ashamed of; It was just part of my personality. I didn’t seek out scary movies or shows like Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark?.

Believe it or not, I never exactly grew out of it. I’m still not fond of unnecessarily frightening or gory television, and yet, I love Stephen King. After finishing my first Stephen King novel on audiobook, I was incredibly proud of myself. I felt like I had just taken on this big, bad monster and found out that it wasn’t so big or bad after all. Sure, it was pretty spooky, but something about the audiobook format made it tolerable. Was it a fluke?  Maybe 11/22/63 was King’s equivalent of “Mild” hot sauce. Since it was my first King novel, I had nothing with which to compare it.

The next October, I strapped on my big girl boots and dove into The Shining. I knew from having seen trailers of the movie adaptation that it was one of Stephen King’s most notable works and I was out to test my resolve. Surprisingly to me, I loved it! Not as much as 11/22/63, but enough to think that maybe I had overcome my fear of fear.

Not so fast. Watching the movie was a completely different experience. Maybe I got too cocky,  but the movie adaptation (and Jack Nicholson’s compelling performance) made the story seem all too real.

via GIPHY

Warning: Minor Psychobabble Ahead

The psychology student in me had to know why two different formats of the same story affected me so differently. I think it comes down to two things: Sensory stimulation and control. We know that everyone processes stimuli differently and therefore will be affected in varying degrees by different forms of sensory input. In other words, some people are more affected by things they see and others are more affected by things they hear.

As an avid audiobook listener, it stands to reason that I would be an auditory learner. My years in school confirm that. I process information better by hearing it. That’s not he case with everyone, however, so I’m sure plenty of you are shaking your heads in disagreement.

But I think the second point is the more important one. Control. With an audiobook, I feel more in control of the story. I’m able to pause it if things get too intense or I can change my physical location, allowing me to feel more in control of my listening experience and therefore my reaction to it. If a story begins to get to me, I take a break from it and come back later when I’m in a different frame of mind. That makes an unbelievable difference.

I’m learning to enjoy being mildly spooked, as long as I don’t feel that I’m losing control of the situation. Scary stories are supposed to be fun, after all. Although, I think it’s important to know how certain things impact you. Everyone has sensitivities, even if they are aware of them. For example, I have an extremely low tolerance for child and animal abuse. The presence of either of those almost certainly means I won’t be finishing a story. It simply raises my anxiety to an unacceptable level, so I refuse to put myself through it for the sake of “fun”.

My [unsolicited] advice to you is to know what you can handle and in what format you best handle it. It’s also important to monitor your own reactions to things. Different things bother different people, depending on personality and past experiences. Avoid things that raise your anxiety level and drain the enjoyment from an experience. That’s why I’m avoiding The Handmaiden’s Tale like the plague. I know it’s a literary classic and part of me really wants to hear it (or at least watch the television adaptation), but I know myself well enough to know that it would affect me in a negative way.

Spooky vs. Spoopy

For those hell-bent on avoiding anything too spooky, but who still want to participate in Halloween themed reading, I suggest finding a “spoopy” alternative. Spoopy is the cute, light, and fun cousin of Spooky. Spoopy is too spooky as a cozy mystery novel is to a regular mystery novel. Make sense?

My mom is the ultimate spoopster. She loves watching the adorable Halloween movies that come on the Disney Channel this time of year (Halloweentown, anyone?). A quick search online comes up with several lists of spoopy Halloween movies. And a scan of the Paranormal genre finds several literary equivalents.

via GIPHY

A perfect example is A Spell of Trouble. It’s a cozy mystery about a witch, her cousins and their animal familiars. Having just finished it, I can tell you it’s heavy on the cozy, but will still put you in the Halloween mood.  

Personally, I float between spooky and spoopy as I please. Last year, I was feeling the spook. I listened to Doctor Sleep, sequel to The Shining. This year is feeling more spoopy. I’m planning on hearing more of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic and Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic.

What are your Halloween listening plans? And which end of the Spooky/Spoopy spectrum do they lean toward?

🎃 Saturday Selects: Pick Your Paranormal

pick-your-paranormal

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Seasonal recommendations for your October listening pleasure.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The air has a chill to it, American Horror Story is back on television and there’s candy everywhere. And, perhaps best of all, Halloween is a holiday that doesn’t require family gatherings. What more could you ask for?

I’ve collected some of my favorite paranormal tales, along with a few that I’ve been meaning to try, to help get you into the holiday spirit. There’s no better month for themed listening! There’re also some more “spoopy” selections sprinkled in for those of us who can’t always take the spook.

So scrounge up whatever money you haven’t already spent on pumpkin-shaped chocolates and spiced lattes and consider investing in some of these satisfyingly spooky selections.

via GIPHY

Ghosts

Ghosts are perhaps the scariest type of paranormal being to me. There’s a reason ghost stories are told around a campfire. Two years ago, I tackled The Shining and last year it was Shutter. But I’ve been saving The Diviners for this year.

Vampires

YA Vampire Lit went mainstream with the success of Twilight, but not all of these bloodsuckers sparkle. Personally, I like my vamps to have a little more bite!

Witches

Witches are my current taste du jour. If you’re into witchy woo, I recommend starting with JD Horn’s Witching Savannah series. It’s still one of my favorite witch tales.

Fairies

Fairies are a newer favorite paranormal indulgence thanks to The Darkest Part of the Forest. Holly Black’s take on fairies is definitely different from anything found in a Sarah J. Maas book.

Angels & Demons

Don’t let any preconceived notions of angels fool you. They can induce shutters just as well as their demon counterparts. Remember Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels?

Werewolves & Shapeshifters

A wolf-lover, are you? I suggest starting with Written in Red. You won’t be able to resist Sam, the little wolf pup. He may not be scary, but the rest of the series will still keep you on-edge.

Monsters & Zombies

No matter your ghoul of preference, these selections will have you covered. Pick up one while you wait for the return The Walking Dead.

I have a tradition of hearing a Stephen King book every October. I’m looking forward to beginning It just before Halloween, although I don’t know if I’m brave enough to actually watch the movie…

What are your go-to stories in October? Do you gravitate towards any particular corner of the paranormal genre?

📚 Slouch Witch by Helen Harper

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.

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic #1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Tanya Eby

Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand, regardless of her actual abilities. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content.

However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work.

And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.


4.25 ★ AudiobookSlouch Witch was delightfully “spoopy”, fitting for an early October listen. Most of the titles I hear leading up to Halloween are designed to get me in a spooky mood, but Slouch Witch had a more whimsical effect.

Ivy Wilde was refreshing as a protagonist and terribly relatable. I hesitate to call her a heroine, because saving the day was the last thing she wanted to do. What made her so refreshing was that, despite her adeptness with magic and technical skill, Ivy was rather lazy. She’s like a high school student who has great potential but doesn’t “apply herself”. But Ivy had no interest in applying herself to anything.

She wasn’t fit, hated exercise, and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. In other words, she’s the perfect “anti-hero”. I can’t recall ever reading about another main character like Ivy and that was precisely what endeared her to me. Even when thrown into the middle of a situation, Ivy was reluctant to come to the rescue. As I learned more about her past, her current nature began to make more sense.

Slouch Witch had a unique romantic angle too. I loved how Helen Harper approached the romance in a way that felt true to Ivy’s personality. It wouldn’t have made sense for Ivy to go all “goo-goo-eyed” and fall head over heels for someone. That’s just not her style. The tension was built up perfectly throughout the story. Even its culmination was perfectly imperfect.

The mystery was the weaker point in Slouch Witch for me. I didn’t care as much about it as I did about the characters involved. I think a little more world building, especially regarding The Order, would have gone a long way in helping the pieces of the puzzle click into place. The character development was excellent, but the world building was only so-so and the mystery suffered as a result.

But given that this installment’s mystery was solved, I’m expecting a brand-new one in the next installment. It won’t be something that I pick up right away, but I do plan on continuing with this series at some point. Slouch Witch was fun and light hearted, without being overly simplistic or ridiculous. The writing was reminiscent of a cozy mystery, but with a more complex and sophisticated setting. Helen Harper is now on my radar and I’ve already earmarked two of her other series for future listening.

Narration review: Tanya Eby provided a pleasant listening experience. This was my first time hearing her perform, but it certainly won’t be my last. I enjoyed the appropriately whimsical nature of her narration. She provided each character with distinct voicing, true to their respective personalities.

However, I’m still wondering why the performance wasn’t given more of a British flair, considering it’s urban London setting. There seemed to have been a disconnect between the writing and Eby’s interpretation of the writing. Alone, the writing came off as very British, even using British slang, which helped enhance the story’s atmosphere. But Eby voiced Ivy and a few others with an American accent, without any basis. This disconnect wasn’t damaging to my listening experience, but it did have me scratching my head for a while. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon

📚 The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

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.

Graveyard Queen #1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Oct. 2017

Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
Publisher: Harlequin Books S.A.⎮2012

Synopsis: Never acknowledge the dead.
Never stray far from hallowed ground.
Never get close to the haunted.
Never, ever tempt fate.
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to these rules passed down from my father…until now.
Detective John Devlin needs my help to find a killer, but he is haunted by ghosts who shadow his every move. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the headstone symbols lead me closer to truth and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.


4.5 ★ AudiobookI’m so glad I decided to save The Restorer until October. I began it a couple of months ago when I was on a Southern Gothic kick, but quickly decided to save this spooky story for closer to Halloween. My curiosity about the story’s premise wouldn’t let me save it for too long though, so it was my first listen of the month.

Fun fact about me: I love cemeteries. Not in a perverse or occultist way, though. I just find them peaceful and kind of comforting. As an amateur genealogist, I have frequented my share of cemeteries and graveyards. Some old, some new. Some well-maintained, and others, not so much. Because of that, I was able to relate to Amelia in a way most other readers or listeners of the series probably can’t.

Story-wise, it reminded me more than a little of Karen White’s Tradd Street series. Both series  are set in Charleston and feature female protagonists capable of seeing and communicating with those passed on. But in a face off, The Restorer gets my vote because I found Amelia Gray to be a much more interesting character than Melanie Middleton, primarily because Melanie is a realtor and Amelia is a cemetery restorer.

My interest in Amelia and this series has a lot to do with her occupation. Amelia is known as the “Graveyard Queen”  for her adept skill with restoring old cemeteries. I’ve never thought of cemetery restorer as a job position, let alone my dream job, until The Restorer.

The Restorer was not only thrilling, but also informative. I was absolutely fascinated by the tidbits of history and cemetery lore Stevens slipped into the story. I found myself making mental notes of things to do and not to do in cemeteries, based on Amelia’s comments. For example, instead of doing gravestone rubbings, I plan on taking a full length mirror on my next visit to try Amelia’s trick for deciphering epitaphs.

The mystery was well laid out, with plenty of false leads to keep me on the edge of my seat. Stevens could have taken it in several different directions, but I’m satisfied with the ultimate way it played out. One mystery was solved, but several others are still in play. There’s plenty left for Amanda Stevens to work with and this series has some serious potential. I’m already saving up my credits for the next five installments.

Narration review: The second reason I’m giving The Restorer a leg up over the Tradd Street series is the narration. I’ve been a fan of Khristine Hvam for some time now and when I saw she was narrating this series, it went from a “maybe” straight into my basket. That’s the power of a great narrator.

I’m pretty particular over narrators doing Southern accents. In this area, I am admittedly hard to please, so I do take that into consideration when reviewing. I’ve never heard Hvam do a Southern accent before this audiobook and I have to say I prefer her other performances. Her accents for the main character and a couple of other characters struck me as a little to “put on” for my taste, but not over the top. Everything else about her performance was spot-on, especially her character distinctions and other dialect interpretations. I can’t wait to hear her and the rest of the series! ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.com and Audible/Amazon