📚 Minimum Wage Magic by Rachel Aaron

Reviewed Sep. 2020

Narrators: Emily Woo Zeller
Length: 9 hours 45 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios⎮2019

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Summary

The DFZ, the metropolis formerly known as Detroit, is the world’s most magical city with a population of nine million and zero public safety laws. That’s a lot of mages, cybernetically enhanced chrome heads, and mythical beasties who die, get into debt, and otherwise fail to pay their rent. When they can’t pay their bills, their stuff gets sold to the highest bidder to cover the tab.

That’s when they call me. My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one - there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves - but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.

Author’s note: This is the first in a new series set in the same universe as my Heartstrikers books, but you don’t need to have heard those stories to enjoy this one. Minimum Wage Magic was written to stand by itself, so if you haven’t listened to the others, don’t worry! I wrote this book with you in mind. Thank you so much for listening!

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.5 Stars

I chose Minimum Wage Magic from an Audible 2-for-1 sale. I had just finished One to Watch and knew that I needed something completely different from it in order to survive the inevitably massive book hangover.

Because of the sale, I went ahead and purchased the sequel to this audiobook as well. I normally don't take such a risk, buying a sequel before I have even heard the first book, but I could tell from the summary and sample that Minimum Wage Magic was probably a safe choice.

And I turned out to be mostly right. I enjoyed Minimum Wage Magic. I liked Opal as a main character. Her job was really fascinating and I wish the overarching story had revolved more around that, rather than it just being a catalyst.

I was most intrigued by the world Rachel Aaron created. The DFZ is an interesting concept and Aaron does a good enough job of explaining her system of magic. The world building was adequate and so was the character development. But there was a lot to unpack in this one installment. Between Opal's job, the info dumps about the gods, magic creatures, cyborg body parts, her enemies-to-lovers romance, and all the drama with her family, it was just… a lot. Oh, and let's not forget the dragons!

I think that's what kept me from enjoying this as much as I could have. Rachel Aaron is definitely a talented writer, but I think her style could use a little finesse. Maybe I'm just a slow absorber, but I was never really able to fully connect with a character or process a certain thing before something else major was thrown at me. It's like a dinner where there are so many different rich foods that you make yourself sick trying to eat everything and end up with a massive tummyache and a bad taste in your mouth (a.k.a. American Thanksgiving).

With that said, a massive tummyache has never stopped me from digging in again at the next Thanksgiving and it certainly didn't stop me from heading straight into Book #2, Part-Time Gods after finishing this one. I'm glad I did that because we do learn more about Opal's family in the second book, which gave her character more depth. It also advanced some of her relationships with characters we met in the first book.

There's a third book in the series, but despite adding it to my Audible wish list, I can't see myself spending a credit on it. However, if it should ever pop up in another sale, I would probably grab it.

Narration review: I know I've heard Emily Woo Zeller narrate before, but I can't remember exactly what book it was. I'll have to do some digging. Whatever it was left a residual positive impression in my mind, because seeing her name as narrator of Minimum Wage Magic made this an instant buy. My subconscious must know its stuff, because Woo Zeller gave a great performance here. She conveyed a light, fun tone for Opal that immediately made me like her. If you're into Urban Fantasy and/or dragons, this is probably a safe bet for you. And I highly recommend it on audiobook. ♣︎

📚 One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Reviewed Aug. 2020

Narrators: Kristen Sieh
Length: 11 hours 42 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2020

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Summary

USA Today best seller

Real love...as seen on TV. 

A plus-size bachelorette brings a fresh look to a reality show in this razor-sharp, “thoroughly charming” (Hillary Clinton) debut.

“Relatable, incredibly smart...an extraordinary debut.” (Jasmine Guillory, New York Times best-selling author of The Wedding Date and The Proposal)

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers - and a massively broken heart.

Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition - under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale.

In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men - and herself - for a chance to live happily ever after.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 5 Stars

Just kill me now, because as long as I live, no book will ever compare to this one. It's so perfect, I want to cry!

One to Watch was EVER-Y-THING. It made me want to hug every woman who has ever been made to feel the way Bea did and also want to relive my Bachelorette watching glory days. It was light and funny, but carried a deeply concerning message about society pretty close to the surface.

My emotions ran the gamut while listening to this. I raged at the (almost too) realistic hate comments hurled at Bea for being a plus size woman and daring to live her life. I "squee-d" at all the cute moments, fist-pumped at all the empowering ones, and constantly swooned over the romantic cuteness. I even cried a little. It's been a while since a book has made me tear up, but it's also been a while since I've enjoyed one this much.

Bea was the ultimate main character. I had no problem liking her and wanting her to succeed. If anything, I may have gotten a little too attached to her. Almost from the first page, I felt like I had taken Bea under my wing and was very protective of her. Needless to say, I became very emotionally invested in her life and in this story, overall. She was endearingly flawed. I didn't always agree with her actions, but I always understood where they were coming from.

Not only did One to Watch write a killer story with a plus-sized and badass main character, but it also did a pretty great job with Ace (Asexual) representation as well. The ace character in the story wasn't the protagonist, or even in the spotlight that much, but he still made a substantial impression. If Stayman-London ever decides to write a spin off with this character, I would definitely read it.

One to Watch also had a unique formatting. The story wasn't always told from the POV of our main character. In fact, many of the defining moments were told through blog or social media posts, magazine articles, or chat room transcripts. It was a very unique way to tell the story and it kept my mind from wandering.

I think One to Watch would make a great Netflix original film. I could see Netflix optioning this story. And, more than anything, I really want to see these characters come to life! I need to see what each of them looks like and I need to see this story play out before my eyes.

Before I was even halfway through, I had already recommended it to a couple of people. And now, the week after finishing it, I'm still recommending it. One to Watch was an all-around amazing book. The writing was on point, the characters were dynamic and realistic, and the overall message of body positivity and self-love was inspiring and empowering!

Narration review: Kristin Sieh deserves all the awards for One to Watch. There's no way that this was an easy story to perform, but this girl knocked it out of the park! There were so many characters here, most of them men, but Sieh voiced them all flawlessly. Honestly, the one that stands out most was her voicing of Luc, the French chef. Sieh provided a full, well rounded accent that sounded authentically French.

But the most noteworthy part of her performance was her character distinction. She managed to make each of the Bea's suitors sound unique and appropriate to their character. When reading tweets, news articles, and the like, Sieh and viewed each of them with the appropriate emotion and inflection. ♣︎

📚 House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Reviewed July 2020

Narrators: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 27 hours 50 minutes
Publisher: Audible Original⎮2020

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Summary

Number one New York Times best-selling author Sarah J. Maas launches her brand-new CRESCENT CITY series with House of Earth and Blood: the story of half-Fae and half-human Bryce Quinlan as she seeks revenge in a contemporary fantasy world of magic, danger, and searing romance.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night - until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She'll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose - to assassinate his boss' enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he's offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City's underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion - one that could set them both free, if they'd only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and pause-resisting suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by number one New York Times best-selling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom - and the power of love.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.75 Stars

I'll admit it. House of Earth and Blood surprised me. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did. I like SJM's A Court of series well enough to have heard all three current installments, but the Throne of Glass series has never been my favorite. I'm currently two installments behind on that series. I plan to catch up at some point, but I'm just not super driven to do so right now. I guess I would say I am a fan of `SJM, but definitely not exactly a super fan, so I definitely did not feel obligated or predisposed to like her newest book.

House of Earth and Blood seems to have divided reviewers into polarities. Those raving about it seem to be the super fans who count the Throne of Glass series among their favorites, so I was fully expecting to have the opposite reaction. But that was before I realized how different this series would be from anything SJM has written in the past. House of Earth and Blood is a solid an Urban Fantasy series. I can't say I'm particularly drawn to Urban Fantasies, because I've never really read that many of them. Urban Fantasy was popular a few years back, but then the craze seemed to die down before I could get completely on board with it. The world Maas created in this story stands out to me more vividly than any of her other fantasy worlds because of its similarity to our own. It was so surreal to hear things like "modern science" and "instant messaging" used in the same sentence as "fae" and "archangel".

And speaking of the fae and archangels, they weren't the only supernatural species present. [Stefon voice] This story has it all. Witches, angels, fairies, shifters (werewolves), sphinxes, wraiths, faun, and a cute little fire sprite who initially seems like comic relief but comes in clutch at the end. In the past, stories with more than a couple of different species heavily on display have irritated me, but Maas actually made it work here. She categorizes them into separate houses, with each having a loyalty to their own species. This type of separation and classification helped prevent a free-for-all type chaos in my mind as I was listening and trying to keep everything straight. Unlike her other series, I actually connected with the secondary characters in House of Earth and Blood. I was able to follow the alternating POVs and keep the cast of characters straight in my head with ease.

But I kept my guard up for classic Maas-isms. Most fans will know that Maas usually pulls a romantic switcheroo at some point in the series, with the initial romantic interest not being endgame for our main character.  With that in mind, I tried not to become too attached to the inevitable pairing in this installment. I'm actually not opposed to this type of bait-and-switch done by Maas. In fact, I'd rather hope she pulls it off again. I enjoy a well-developed love triangle and I'm not overly fond of our male love interest in this particular installment. I don't mind him, but I still feel our protagonist could do better and I'm curious to see what/who else Maas may have in store for her.

There's certainly a lot left to explore in the world of Lunathion. I have a feeling each installment in this series will be named after one of the four houses of Midgard and because I formed such solid connections with all of the characters in the story, I'm excited to see which direction we go in next.

Narration review: Elizabeth Evans also narrates SJM's Throne of Glass series, so I'm familiar with her work. However, I think I enjoyed her narration more here than previously. In part because I enjoyed this story more, but I also feel that Evans talents were better suited for the Urban Fantasy subgenre. The grittiness of her tone just fits it more naturally, producing a more believable performance. SJM and Evans are quickly becoming a power duo in the audiobook world, like Philippa Gregory and Bianca Amato. This is a pairing that is continually growing on me and I can't wait to see what else they produce together. ♣︎

📚 How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

Reviewed May 2020

Narrators: Amanda Ronconi, Jonathan Davis
Length: 6 hours 24 minutes
Publisher: Audible Original⎮2018

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Summary

The first book in Molly Harper's uproariously funny, sinfully sexy new Mystic Bayou series!

Anthropologist Jillian Ramsay's career has taken a turn south.

Concerned that technology is about to chase mythological creatures out into the open (how long can Sasquatch stay hidden from Google maps?), the League for Interspecies Cooperation is sending Jillian to Louisiana on a fact-finding mission. While the League hopes to hold on to secrecy for a little bit longer, they're preparing for the worst in terms of human reactions. They need a plan, so they look to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where humans and supernatural residents have been living in harmony for generations. Mermaids and gator shifters swim in the bayou. Spirit bottles light the front porches after twilight. Dragons light the fires under crayfish pots.

Jillian's first assignment for the League could be her last. Mystic Bayou is wary of outsiders, and she has difficulty getting locals to talk to her. And she can't get the gruff town sheriff, Bael Boone, off of her back or out of her mind. Bael is the finest male specimen she's seen in a long time, even though he might not be human. Soon their flirtation is hotter than a dragon's breath, which Bael just might turn out to be....

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

How to Date Your Dragon was one of four books I grabbed during a recent Audible two-for-one sale. It wasn't something I had already had my eye on, but was more of an impulse buy. Interestingly enough, it wound up being the first one I heard. This wasn't my first experience with Molly Harper, however. Back in early 2018, I heard and reviewed Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs and had a less than stellar reaction to it. I figured it was one of those really popular books that just didn't vibe with me for whatever reason. Because of that, I've been hesitant to pick up another Molly Harper novel since then.

I'm not sure what exactly drove me to take a shot with How to Date Your Dragon, other than the synopsis seemed interesting and I needed another book to round out my two-for-one selection. I guess I chose it more out of curiosity than anything, since I've never read a dragon novel. It may actually be the only supernatural creature I hadn't had a literary experience with yet. That curiosity also made me dive into it immediately after purchase.

Almost right away, I could tell that this was going to be a very different experience. The tone of the writing just seemed so different from what I remember in Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs. How to Date Your Dragon was funny in a simplistic way. Although a lot of reviewers rave over how funny Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs is, one of my main complaints about it was that the humor aspect felt too forced.

One unwelcome similarity did rear its ugly head in How to Date Your Dragon, so let's go ahead and get that out-of-the-way. Insta-love. I remember cringing at it in Nice Girls and although it's also present in How to Date Your Dragon, I was less annoyed with it this go around, probably because my overall enjoyment of the book was so much higher. Still, you have been warned. However, if it's something you think you can look past, I really do recommend forging on. The rest of the book is so worth it.

There's really great world building in this one. The atmospheric setting almost has a cozy feel to it. When coupled with the murder mystery our main character is adjacently involved with, one could probably even classify this as a cozy mystery, although the paranormal romance elements definitely stand out more. It takes place in a small town Louisiana setting. Thanks to Anne Rice, I'm a sucker for anything set in Louisiana and the French/Cajun words and sayings peppered throughout made the setting come alive. There was no way I could forget where this was set.

The other part of the world building that was done really well was the development of the magic system. Harper doesn't go into a ton of broad-spectrum detail regarding her supernaturals. Rather, we get little info snippets about certain creatures, almost as asides. She does go into a bit more detail about one or two species of supernaturals, since they are more at the center of the story and we learn more about dragon sex than I would have wondered on my own, but that's no complaint. I do wish this audiobook had been just a teensy bit longer to allow for extended world building. I'm not saying anything was lacking, per se, just that I wanted more. Luckily, this is a five book series. That discovery actually made me subscribe to the Audible Escape package just so I can hear the rest of the series. It looks like each additional book in the series will also take place in the town of Mystic Bayou, Louisiana, so I can't wait to return. I plan on starting the second installment tonight!

Narration review: The really cool thing about How to Date Your Dragon is that it was released on audiobook exclusively for six months before the release of the e-book. An audiobook releasing before its written counter part is almost unheard of but I love that the audio format is getting this sort of attention.

It was dual narrated by Amanda Ronconi and Jonathan Davis. I was already a fan of Amanda Ronconi but this was my first time hearing anything from Jonathan Davis. I'm normally a huge proponent of dual narration and I didn't mind it in this case, but I also didn't think that it added as much to the overall experience as previous audiobooks I've heard. Jonathan Davis did a fine job, but I did think that Amanda Ronconi outshined him a bit in this performance. Alternating between the two made it more obvious and I also had a slight problem with their different takes on how certain characters sounded. Obviously, some of that is only to be expected, but in this case, the differences in character interpretation actually changed my mental image of the character each time the narrator was switched.

But really though, this was such a well performed audiobook that I shouldn't dwell on such minor annoyances. It was an absolutely wonderful listening experience and I'm excited to continue with these two performers throughout the rest of the series. ♣︎

📚 The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

Reviewed Mar. 2020

Narrators: Patti Murin, Jon Root
Length: 7 hours 29 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2020

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Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author behind the “joyful, warm, touching” (Jasmine Guillory, New York Times best-selling author) The Unhoneymooners comes a delightfully charming love story about what happens when two assistants tasked with keeping a rocky relationship from explosion start to feel sparks of their own.

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at 16, and - more than anyone would suspect - has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along - and start playing for keeps - they may have the chance to build something beautiful together.

From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Honey-Don't List was a Booktube recommendation. I've heard of Christina Lauren before, but never heard any of their books until this one. The author duo has been on the outskirts of my radar for a couple of years now. I don't have a particular interest in romance, so I've never seriously considered listening to their work before. However, The Honey-Don't List was described as being somewhat 'left of center' from their normal romantic comedy style, so I figured it would be a good place to start.

What really intrigued me, though, was the idea of it being based around a Chip and Joanna Gaines-type couple, complete with their own home design reality television show and brand. I love celebrity gossip as much as anyone, but I'm not especially obsessed with the Gaines. In fact, I've never even seen a complete episode of their show, Fixer-Upper. But being a person living in the world, I have heard of them. Now, what really sold me on listening to The Honey-Don't List was the idea that this fictional couple hates each other behind-the-scenes. I know it's not technically celebrity gossip, but it was salacious enough to pique my interest.

The first disappointment was in discovering that the story is told from the point-of-view of the couple's two assistants, not either of the couple of themselves. I guess that makes sense, given that the couple and their marital woes are basically just used as a plot device for these two assistance falling in love. The wife's assistant is the main character and her love interest is the husband's assistant. They are the couple that we are supposed to become invested in and root for, yada yada. But I didn't connect with either of them. That's the kind of disconnect that happens when you take two secondary characters and shove them into the limelight. The two most interesting characters (the celeb couple) were always held at arms length from the reader. Major bummer.

Now, if Christina Lauren were to come back with a spin off told from either of the celebrity couples POV, I would pick it up in a heartbeat. Despite us never really getting close to them, their characters were pretty well fleshed out. We know their backstory, how they met, how things used to be before they made it big, and where everything started to go all wrong. That is where the story should have been. I wanted a redemption arc for them. Their assistants could have had their own spin off.

Aside from that one hugely disappointing aspect, The Honey-Don't List wasn't terrible. The writing was good, if a little bland. It was extremely easy to listen to while working. But I doubt I'll ever pick up anything else from Christina Lauren, because despite having an incredibly intriguing premise, they failed to do notable anything with it. And if The Honey-Don't List is unlike anything else they've written, I already know the rest of her titles won't be for me.

Narration review: Patti Murin and Jon Root did a perfectly respectable job narrating this audiobook. I'm afraid I can't gush about the narration, because it was more than likely dragged down by my disappointment with the story. Murin and Root did nothing that would prevent me from wanting to hear either of them perform again. In fact, I would welcome the opportunity! This was my first time hearing (or hearing of) either of them and I'm excited to have two new narrators on my radar. If you are a fan of Christina Lauren or HGTV-type celebrities, I bet you'll love The Honey-Don't List. And if you're interested in it, I recommend the audiobook. ♣︎

📚 Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Reviewed Mar. 2020

Narrator: Eileen Stevens, Tristan Morris
Length: 10 hours 32 minutes
Series: Once Upon a Con Series, Book 1
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.⎮2017

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Summary

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad's old costume, Elle's determined to win - unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons - before he was famous. Now they're nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake - until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I discovered Geekerella at the perfect time in my life. I was in the middle of a mild listening slump, having recently heard several great, but intense thrillers. I needed something lighthearted and fun to break that pattern (and destress!). I don't typically hear a lot of Young Adult fiction anymore. After overdosing on it a few years back, I now approach the genre with more caution and moderation. However, it had been a while since I had heard any YA and I thought it just might be the thing to lift my spirits and break my slump.

It also didn't hurt that I'm currently binge watching any and all Star Trek shows on Netflix, as well as the newest addition, Star Trek: Picard. I missed the original (and then five subsequent) Star Trek fan boats, so I'm definitely late to this SciFi party/convention, but I'm trying to make up for that with enthusiasm.

To be clear, Geekerella isn't directly related to the Star Trek fan base, but it's certainly adjacent. Instead of Star Trek, this story follows a lifelong fangirl of "Starfield", a fictional Star Trek-esque show. If it weren't for the frequent Star Trek references, I'd think that Starfield was a thinly veiled disguise for it. Instead, the two exist alongside each other in this fictional world.

I was initially pulled into Geekerella by the SciFi fangirl-ness of it all, but wound up being pleasantly surprised by the Cinderella retelling. I've heard several retellings, but I've never heard one quite like this. If it hadn't incorporated the geek/SciFi/ComiCon elements and had only been marketed as a Cinderella retelling, I probably would have passed on it, since those are a dime a dozen these days.

As with most retellings, you can see the broad strokes drawn from the original fairytale. A "wicked" stepmother, two "evil" stepsisters, a mistreated stepdaughter named Elle, a pumpkin carriage, a fairy godmother, a ball, a prince, and a missing slipper. Ashley Poston checks all of those boxes, but it's in between those broad strokes that she weaves together her own story. The setting is contemporary, the stepmother is a snobby Country club member, the stepsisters are online influencer wannabes, the pumpkin carriage is a food truck, the prince is a teen actor, the fairy godmother is a teal-haired LGBT character (who drives the pumpkin food truck), and the rest is simply magical. Instead of Cinderella trying to get to a ball, our protagonist Elle is trying desperately to get to a SciFi convention.

Above all, Geekerella was just So. Freaking. Cute. The "geekification" of a classic fairytale is something I've never seen done before and I didn't realize how much I was longing for it until hearing Geekerella. I will undoubtedly be continuing on with the series. I believe the next one is a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper centered around a minor Geekerella character. Whatever it is, I'm here for it.

Narration review: Eileen Stevens knocked this audiobook out of the park. She was one of two narrators, with Tristan Morris being her counter, but Stevens' performance is the one that stood out most to me. Her character differentiation was subtle, but effective. I could always understand which of the two stepsisters was speaking, even though they initially appear to be of the same temperament. Even after that was proven to not be the case, the distinction was slightly enhanced, but not overly done. I definitely appreciated the dual narration for the alternating POVs. It added dimension to the story that would not have otherwise been available if reading the traditional format.

Overall, this audiobook was a wonderful listening experience and I recommend it to anyone interested in this title or series. I will certainly be continuing the series on audio. ♣︎

📚 The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Reviewed Mar. 2020

Narrator: Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell
Length: 18 hours 16 minutes
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2008

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Summary

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid, Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her 17th white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 5 Stars

I originally read The Help back around 2010. I had just received a Kindle and was on a major reading binge. Recently, I've decided to revisit the books I read during my Kindle phase (2007-2012), but this time on audio.

I remember enjoying The Help when I first read it, but this time around, I was absolutely blown away by how much I was able to fall in love with it all over again. It was like a brand new story to me. Enough time had passed since my previous experience that I was able to see it with new eyes. The story had obviously not changed, but I clearly had.

This time around, The Help was actually became a comfort listen. That really surprised me, considering the purposefully uncomfortable nature of the story and its overt themes of segregation, racism, classism, and feminism. When I first read it, it was eye-opening. There was this somewhat scary sense of enlightenment. This time around, however, I found myself much more comfortable listening to these themes. This realization caused me to do a lot of reflecting on my own evolution over the past decade, as well as that of society. I've learned that this sort of introspection is necessary for personal growth and the more you do it, the less awkward it becomes.

What I'm saying is that we all have (or should have) these literary wake up calls and The Help was one of mine. It was the first time I had read anything that caused me to step out of my comfort zone and view life from the perspective of someone of a different race than me. Now, I actively seek out these types of works.

The Help is the type of story I could listen to over and over again. It's a true classic. It was my last listen of 2019. At that point, I had given up reaching my goal of 100 audiobooks that year (I was like 12 books behind), but I wanted to hear something enjoyable to end my year on a good note. Ending the decade with The Help felt like coming full circle.

If any of you read The Help when it was first released, I encourage you to revisit this story and note your reactions to it. See if/how they have changed. And I definitely encourage you to listen to the audiobook.

Narration review: Now, what really made this audiobook such a comfort listen was the narration. It was next level. Octavia Spencer, in particular, is such a joy to listen to. I loved her parts of the audiobook. Even though I hadn't seen the movie at that point, I was still able to picture the cast as I listened to the audiobook.

Fantastic writing coupled with perfect narration made for an unforgettable listening experience. I will undoubtedly be revisiting this modern classic several times in the future. It also makes for a great slump-buster! ♣︎

📚 Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball

Reviewed Feb. 2020

Narrator: Lucie Arnaz
Length: 6 hours 46 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance 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

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The one and only autobiography by the iconic Lucille Ball, hailed by TV Guide as the “#1 Greatest TV Star of All Time.”

Love, Lucy is the valentine Lucille Ball left for her fans—a warm, wise, and witty memoir written by Lucy herself. The legendary star of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy was at the pinnacle of her success when she sat down to record the story of her life. No comedienne had made America laugh so hard, no television actress had made the leap from radio and B movies to become one of the world’s best-loved performers. This is her story—in her own words.

The story of the ingenue from Jamestown, New York, determined to go to Broadway, destined to make a big splash, bound to marry her Valentino, Desi Arnaz. In her own inimitable style, she tells of their life together—both storybook and turbulent; intimate memories of their children and friends; wonderful backstage anecdotes; the empire they founded; the dissolution of their marriage. And, with a heartfelt happy ending, her enduring marriage to Gary Morton.

Here is the lost manuscript that her fans and loved ones will treasure. Here is the laughter. Here is the life. Here’s Lucy...

“The comic actress in her own words…intensely moving.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Filled with light and laughter.” —New York Times Book Review

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

If you love Lucy, you'll love Love, Lucy! It's a wonderful snapshot of Hollywood in the golden age. Love, Lucy is the official autobiography of Lucille Ball.

I've always loved Lucy, but I've never known that she had an autobiography. In fact, Love, Lucy was just released on audiobook two years ago. If you didn't know about it either, don't feel bad. Her own children weren't aware that Lucy had written a memoir in 1966 until around 30 years later.

Love, Lucy is an “As told to…” memoir, but don't get hung up on that detail. It sounds exactly like you're hearing these words straight from Lucy. The memoirist did an amazing job of capturing Lucy's spirit and staying true to her. In the forward from Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball's daughter, Lucie admits as much, saying that reading the manuscript was like hearing from her mother beyond the grave.

In her memoir, Lucy proves herself to have been a class act. She doesn't skirt around the dames, drink, or divorce, but the memoir doesn't feel sensationalistic or gossipy. Despite an ugly divorce from her ex-husband Desi Arnaz, Lucy doesn't take any low blows at him in the memoir. Apparently one of her reasons for not finishing the memoir in her lifetime was not wanting to hurt Desi. I'm sure her grown children appreciated that decades later when the manuscript was discovered.

This isn't a long audiobook. I was able to breeze through it in a day. Once I began listening, I could not stop. Lucy is just as gripping in an audio memoir as she is on television. Devoted fans of the actress will likely have read this and many other biographies on Ball, but this audiobook is not to be missed. It's the perfect jumping off point for casual fans as well. I'm not sure if I'll ever pick up one of the longer biographies, but if I do, it will be interesting to see how the perspectives differ. Frankly, I'm more interested in picking up Desi Arnaz's memoir to hear his side of the same events.

Narration review: Lucie Arnaz, the grown daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, narrates this audiobook. When I first saw that she was the narrator, I internally groaned a bit, worrying that it was a poor decision. I could not have been more wrong! I had clearly forgotten that Lucie is not only the daughter of two talented actors, but a talented actor herself. Not only was having Lucie Arnaz as narrator a touching decision, but it was a stellar a decision from a performative standpoint as well.

I don't know why am surprised by this, but Lucie is able to impeccably imitate both of her parents voices and accents, as only someone who grew up with them could do. Lucie Arnaz narrating this audiobook turned out to be the next best thing (and nearly as good) as having Lucille Ball read it herself. ♣︎

📚 Break Shot: My First 21 Years by James Taylor

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: James Taylor
Length: 1 hours 33 minutes
Publisher: Audible Original⎮2020

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

Summary

"I’m James Taylor and I’m a professional autobiographer. So begins the tender audio memoir Break Shot: My First 21 Years. Through decades of songs by the celebrated folk legend who brought us Fire and Rain and Carolina in My Mind, James Taylor has doled out details of his life in the poetry of his work. Taylor says his early life is the source of many of my songs and Break Shot is a tour of his first 21 years in rich, new detail. Combining storytelling, music and performance, this one-of-a-kind listening experience also features a crop of musical gems, including an unreleased recording of the beloved hymn Jerusalem, selections from his newest release American Standard, as well as new original scoring by Taylor specially recorded for Break Shot and more.

Recorded in his home studio, TheBarn in western Massachusetts, Taylor tells the deeply personal story of his youth, which is entwined with the story of his family. What started as an idyllic tight unit soon became a family sent to different emotional corners – like a break shot in the game of pool, he says, when you slam the cue ball into the fifteen other balls and they all go flying off.

By the time Taylor released his breakout second album in 1970, Sweet Baby James, he had seen the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his family crumble in the aftermath. He had committed himself twice to a psychiatric hospital, battled depression, a heroin addiction, suffered a relapse, and traveled far away from the wood smoke and moonshine of the North Carolina landscapes in which he came of age. Despite it all, he was also on the cusp of superstardom and on his way to bringing light and joy to millions. He was 21.

In this Audible Original, Taylor lays bare the emotional turmoil he and his family fought through when he was first finding his musical path. At last, he creates an audio memoir illuminating the tenuous first act of a life he’s spent decades learning to fully live. Journey with James Taylor to a time before he became a Grammy Award-winning, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts; as well as one of the best-selling musicians of all time.

Special Note: This title is free to members and free with trial through April 2, 2020.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

As a lifelong North Carolinian, James Taylor has always been on my musical and pop cultural radar. His hit "Carolina in My Mind" is the real state song, ask anyone. I've picked up bits and pieces of his life's story here in there, mostly in behind-the-music tidbits. I don't for right into the non-fiction genre often, but when I do, it's usually about a pop-culture figure of specific interest to me. Given that and my love of music history, it's no surprise that Break Shot was such a hit with me.

Since most of Taylor's songs are autobiographical, some curiosity into his personal life is natural.  James himself points this out in the opening sentence of this Audio memoir. He says, “I’m James Taylor and I'm a professional autobiographer.” And from that moment, the very first sentence, I was hooked. I thought “Huh, I've never thought of it that way, but I guess he's right.” Singer-songwriters divulge so much of their personal lives to us through song. Hearing Break Shot made me realize just how much of a vulnerability that is.

Taylor was one of the first singer songwriters on the scene in the 60s. He credits the Beatles with kickstarting his career and discusses making music and hanging out/doing drugs with them in London. One particular line in the memoir that made me laugh out loud is "I'm sure glad I didn't kill John Lennon that night." I'll leave that with you without context as bait for picking up this Audible Original yourself. It's free to anyone with an Audible membership or free trial until April 2, 2020 (it's $7 otherwise and well worth it).

I've always loved music history and the cool thing about Break Shot is how Taylor tells his story: Through song. I'm not sure why I was so surprised by that, especially because it's how he's always told his story to us. But this seemed different because it was music inserted into an oral story, not the other way around. Taylor would tell us something about his family growing up or an experience from his childhood and then seamlessly flow into the song that was written about that same thing. In most cases, the songs were well-known, but the light in which they were shown was entirely new.

To say that this listening experience was enlightening would be a terrible understatement. Between his anecdotes and his songs, Taylor helps us connect the dots that form his life. Some of the information was familiar, but most of it was not. I remember wondering how I could have practically grown up with this man (pop culturally speaking), yet hardly seem to know him at all. His story was right there in the lyrics of his songs all along, but sometimes when you grow up with something, you never really see/hear it until decades later.

Break Shot clearly states that it's the story of his first 21 years, which makes me wonder if a continuation  is in the works. I sincerely hope so, because my only slight disappointment in this was the lack of mention of singer-songwriter Carly Simon, Taylor's first wife. As a fan of both of them, I was hoping to hear stories of their time together, but Simon was pretty much left out all together since they didn't marry until a few years after the end of Break Shot. So it was a bummer that there was nothing about Carly, or their two children (who must be insanely talented).

Still, the fact that Taylor would open up in this way after refusing so many autobiographical opportunities in the past is a treat. He's an intensely private person, preferring to express himself in song, so the audio platform suited his tale perfectly.

Narration review: James Taylor's voice has always soothed me, usually in song. But this time, however, it was his speaking voice that provided a wonderfully comforting experience. I'm so glad that he voiced this himself. The brief interruptions of song were perfectly timed for maximum poignancy. It added so much to the listening experience and proved that, whether singing or speaking, James Taylor is the ultimate storyteller. ♣︎

📚 The Wives by Tarryn Fischer

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 9 hours
Publisher: Harlequin 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

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much, you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket - an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: You track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.75 Stars

The Wives was a highly anticipated release for me. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the show Big Love and who claims the TLC reality show Sister Wives as a guilty pleasure, I was looking forward to Tarryn Fischer's take on polygamist drama. I actually discovered The Wives (pre-release) by actively searching for 'books like Big Love'.

From the start, The Wives gives it a different spin by keeping all of the wives separate- not just in separate homes, but in separate cities and states. Practically from the first page, Fischer lays out the marital situation, using wife #2 as narrator. Her name is "Thursday" and her husband [Seth] always visits her on Thursdays. He has two other wives, "Monday" and "Tuesday", whom "Thursday" has never met. She does not even know their real names. So far, so good.

I didn't notice it immediately, but Fischer jumps straight into the action and sort of info dumps all of this on us. I think we see Seth and Thursday together one time before the plot kicks in to full gear. There's really no time to settle in to the world and become accustomed to its characters before things start spinning out of control. When I did notice it, I told myself that the author was probably just trying to keep the reader engaged, and would likely flesh things out more later. That was not the case.

It soon became clear that this wasn't the action thriller I have been anticipating, but a psychological thriller. If you browse through my past reviews, you'll notice that the last psychological thriller I read was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. After finishing that series, I knew that psychological thrillers or, more accurately, unreliable narrators were not for me. I loathe the feeling of not being able to gain purchase within a story. I appreciate that some readers enjoy not having anything to cling to and not knowing what's real and what's not. I can even admit that a little of it can be thrilling, but not nine hours worth. I just don't enjoy feeling constantly lost and disoriented in a story, like being in a blizzard and not being able to see anything around you. That's not my type of thrill.

I much prefer being blindsided. In my mind, the best kind of plot twist is when you feel like you're standing on firm ground and then a rug is ripped out from underneath. But in order for that type of twist to be truly effective, you have to be sure you're standing on firm ground, before realizing you aren't. To me, that's the ultimate dupe. In The Wives, I was never sure who to trust. Therefore, when the plot twist was revealed, it was anti-climactic because I had already been partially expecting it from everyone involved.

I will say that the execution of the plot was engrossing. As I neared the end of the audiobook, I avoided going to bed just so I could hear some sort of resolution. I've never read anything from Tarryn Fischer before, but I do know that she is thought of as a very talented author. I, however, was disappointed with the way The Wives was set up. The plot itself was clever and the conclusion was satisfying, but they were wasted on me because I never really felt invested in the characters or immersed in their lives. I would be willing to give Fischer's writing another chance, just to see if this type of style is typical for her, or if this was a one-off.

Narration review: Lauren Fortgang did a wonderful job narrating The Wives. I always enjoy her performances, although this was the first time I've heard her narrate a thriller. She did an adequate job of providing character distinction, even though it wasn't quite what I'm used to hearing from her in Fantasy titles. The Wives was excellently narrated and produced, so if you are into psychological thrillers, I recommend checking this out on audiobook. ♣︎