📚 Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

60510Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Study #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2016

Narrator: Gabra Zackman
Length: 10h 26m
Publisher: Harlequin Books⎮2005

4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮ I’ve been wanting to get around to this series for quite a while now and I am beyond happy to say that it was worth the wait! There were a couple of things that bothered me a bit (to be discussed), but the plot was so overwhelmingly intriguing that they weren’t major detractions. First of all, I loved the focus on poisons. I was initially worried that this story would be alchemy-based and, thus, over my head, but it was not. Snyder must subscribe to the KISS theory (keep it simple, stupid!), because she chose to rely on her writing ability rather than bombard the reader with loads of science-y jargon. Magic actually played a larger role in the story than I was expecting. When I first realized that, I braced myself for the worst. I’m really peculiar about magical stories (Harry Potter generation). Fortunately, the KISS theory also prevailed there and, from what I’ve heard so far, that’s pretty easy to follow too. The magical aspect of the story somewhat reminds me of that seen in Truthwitch, only much better done. The next installment is supposedly more magic-focused, so we shall see if Snyder’s brand of magic lives up to my standards.

I thought Yelena was an excellent character and I was immensely happy that Snyder neglected to take the “victim” path with her, instead allowing her to slowly begin to morph into a self-sufficient woman, more than capable of kicking ass. However, I’m not exactly sure of how I feel about her romantic situation. On the one hand, I’m very pleased that the author chose to let it blossom slowly (no insta-love here). On the other hand, this romance is giving off vague vibes of Stockholm syndrome. And, not to be ageist or anything, but coupling an 18-year-old with a 33-year-old in a young adult novel is questionable, especially when considering the Stockholm syndrome aspect. I’ll brush my doubts aside for the sake of the story, but I don’t think this is a romance I could ever be on board with. Props for ingenuity, though.

But the main thing that bothered me basically from start to finish was the imbalance. Maybe “imbalance” isn’t the right term, but I don’t know how best to put it. When a story has you on the edge of your seat, it’s generally a good thing, right? I think so. But the best stories understand that there is a process of “give and take” to balance out the story. To put it plainly, Yelena was either attacked, abducted, poisoned, or otherwise harmed somehow in nearly every chapter. To begin with, it was what hooked me about the story. But after a while, it got extremely redundant, not to mention exhausting. “Danger lurking around every corner” sounds great at first, but it got old pretty quickly and had me constantly going “Ugh, again?”. The thing is, this story did not even need half of those cheap thrills to be captivating. I would have been much happier if the pace has slowed from time to time for a little more anticipation-building and development.

With all of that said, I will most definitely be continuing with this series. I don’t know how or where I’ll come up with the credits for for more installments (plus the short stories), but hear me now, I will do so!

Narration review: Gabra Zackman was new to me as a narrator, but thoroughly enjoyable. Her narration of Poison Study more closely resembled a performance than a reading. Her distinct impressions of the characters’ voices (vocal tones and accents) greatly enhanced my connection to them and to the story. I’m extremely pleased to have discovered her and hope to hear her work soon again! This audiobook also boasted a musical melody in between chapters which helped to set the atmospheric tone, as well as retain my attention, and let me know a new chapter was beginning (that’s helpful). However, it should be noted that the audible quality of this audiobook was not the best. It had a noticeable echo, similar to what you would hear from a bootleg recording, not an Audible purchase. It wasn’t anything that prevented me from enjoying the audiobook, but others may have a bigger problem with it than I did. I suggest listening to the sample to gauge your tolerance of it before purchase. Subsequent installments do not seem to have this problem. * I’m interested to hear if any other listeners detect listening quality issues or if the problem was something on my end. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback) and Audible

📚 Starflight by Melissa Landers

21793182Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Starflight #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2016

Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Length: 9h 44m
Publisher: Tantor⎮2016

3.75 ★ Audiobook⎮This was a fairly quick and easy listen. I was easily able to listen to it while completing tasks around the house, which allowed me to finish it in about 24 hours. This story was good and did a fine job of pulling me out of my recent listening slump, but it was nothing I’d write home about. Overall, it was pretty unremarkable for me. I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous “space dramas” I’ve heard (Illuminae, Starbound series), but this one did not quite live up to those standards. Starflight lacked that certain je ne sais quoi. It was enjoyable enough and there’s nothing that I can specifically point to as a major detraction, but my level of enthusiasm definitely could have been higher. If I had to blame one particular thing, I guess it would have to be the writing, which felt a little bland to me. It did nothing to engage me emotionally. The world-building and character development were so-so, not terrible but not extraordinary. To be completely honest, I just realized I can’t even remember the characters’ names. Wait… Solara was the main character, but that’s all I’ve got. I never really felt anything for any of them. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have enjoyed this much more if I had not previously heard Illuminae & the Starbound series. I know that “comparison kills” and all that, but I just couldn’t help myself and now I’m left wondering if experiencing the seemingly unattainable awesomeness of anything Amie Kaufman (she’s the common denominator there) touches has ruined the space sub-genre for me altogether…
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I won’t rule out listening to the next installment (which comes out sometime in 2017), but I can’t see myself pre-ordering it, you know what I mean? I would recommend this for anyone that is unsure about space-fiction or YA scifi (I’m still not sure what to call this genre/sub-genre) and wants to get their toes wet before diving in. This is a simple, straightforward, and effective way to do just that.
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Narration review: In retrospect, I think I actually enjoyed the narration a little more than the story in itself. Amanda Dolan brought additional depth to the characters and her narration is a large part of the reason this audiobook was so easy to listen to. Her voice was strong, clear, and articulate. She diversified the character voices just enough to provide adequate distinction, without it being intrusive to the story. Very well done! ♣︎
$ Available at The Book Depository and Audible

 

📚 Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

21457243Available 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 Others #3

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Length: 16h 9m
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2015

4 ★ Audiobook⎮ A whole lot of nothing happened in this installment. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the crap out of it. But Vision in Silver was nowhere near as exciting as the first two installments. In fact, parts of it were a downright snoozefest. There was way too much talking and not enough action. Capt. Montgomery was a good secondary character in the previous installments, but he is super boring in the spotlight. This book actually make me not like him a little. Not because of anything he did (he’s still a standup guy), but mainly because of the overexposure of the character. I’m not sure how the author intended me to feel about his daughter, but I absolutely hated her. The spoiled, bratty, petulant child trope is my absolute least favorite character trope of all time. Ick.

I will say that I’m enjoying the slow crawling pace at which the romantic angle of the plot is developing. It is taking a backseat to the larger plot points (and by “backseat”, I mean that it’s almost nonexistent). However, something that is sort of is bothering me (and has been for the last couple of books) is everyone’s instant loyalty/protection to Meg. I sort of get it, but at the same time, not really. I guess it’s one of those things you just have to go with (suspension of disbelief and all that). That’s the only aspect of this story that I can say is maybe just a little bit underdeveloped/under-justified.

Despite all of that and despite Vision in Silver clearly being a “bridge book” between the second and fourth installments, I’m still crazy about Bishop’s character/world/plot development style. And even though I could feel my enthusiasm for this series steadily waning during this installment, I never wanted to stop listening. It was more “hurry up and get through this to get to the fourth installment” than anything. I’ve heard that the fourth installment is way better, so I didn’t completely mind having to wade through a slumpish third installment. Most great series go through a slump or have a “bridge book” out of necessity to the overall story (just ask George R. R. Martin). However, I am considering waiting a few days before beginning Marked in Flesh (#4) just to give myself some breathing room. I’ve basically been zipping through this series nonstop since discovering it. It’s been like having a chocolate for breakfast every day of the week. No matter how much you love chocolate (which I do, a lot), you’re bound to need a break sooner or later. It doesn’t mean you stopped liking chocolate or that the chocolate is bad. Sometimes you just need a break to be able to fully enjoy it again (sorry I use so many food analogies).

?Obligatory warming about this series: This book may not be appropriately suited for everyone. One of its most prominent storylines involves cutting. I won’t say that it glorifies cutting, but it definitely presents it in a manner that could be easily misconstrued, especially by younger readers. Speaking of youngsters, I would suggest counting them out for this entire series. The cover art may be somewhat misleading (maybe just to me), but this is not a Young Adult series. Although it certainly isn’t as graphic as, say, something written by George R.R. Martin, it does openly deal with several things that are adult in nature. Parents, consider yourselves warned.

Narration review: I’ve come to associate the voice and narration style of Alexandra Harris with this series. With every installment, I love her dialogue narration more and more. I’ve even gotten used to the way she narrates prose now. I probably could still be critical about it, but I won’t because it doesn’t even bother me anymore. Plus, I love the way she voices the characters way more than I dislike anything else. This is a series I would definitely recommend in audiobook format! ♣︎

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback), Audiobooks.comAudiobooks Now and Audible

🎁 The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops

23669428Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

In Times Like These #2

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Length: 19h 48m
Publisher: Skylighter Press⎮2015

3.25 ★ Audiobook⎮This book was a struggle for me. During the first 65%, I was nearly bored out of my mind. Couple that with an overwhelming sense of confusion and I was ready to table it by the time I reached 46% completion. My primary frustration was the writing style. This book was all plot and no story. Imagine being suddenly grabbed by the arm and dragged along behind someone for miles at an alarming pace with absolutely no idea where you were going. No explanations. No breaks. Just go-go-go. It might be exciting at first, but it would get exhausting really fast. This was one of the most imbalanced stories I’ve ever heard. There was practically no character development or world-building. Seriously, none. I had no idea who these characters were or what their world was like. That was beyond frustrating. The author was so plot-focused that he basically ignored everything else. But why would I care about the plot (in this case, the Chronothon race) if I don’t care about anyone in it? Out of the host of characters, there were only two I came to care about at all (Jonah and Barley). Neither of them was the main character and one of them was a dog.

But I suppose I can’t blame my entire lack of enthusiasm on the writing. As you may have noticed,  this audiobook is the second installment in a series and 99% of my confusion most likely could have been avoided if I had heard the first installment before beginning this one. I’m not normally one to listen to a series out of order and this is the perfect example of why. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the prior installment has yet to be recorded. Several reviews claim that this installment can act as a standalone novel but I am calling “bull”. I mean, I suppose it could,  but it would be majorly lacking. I can only assume (and hope) that the majority of my confusion could have been avoided if I had heard In Times Like These first. Van Coops’ take on time travel is very original, but I can also assume that the mechanics of his version of time travel were explained in the previous installment and I missed all of that. I was pretty much “hung out to dry” when it came to understanding how time travel worked in this book. There was a lot of talk about time streams with various names and origins (all of which I still know nothing about) and I sort of had to piece everything together on my own. It felt like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle when half of the pieces are missing. To say the least, it was very, very frustrating. Obviously, I suggest reading In Times Like These  beforehand, or waiting for the audiobook (which I am told is already slated for production). Perhaps it’s just me who can’t hear audiobooks out of order, but I swear I really did try with this one. Despite all of this, I won’t completely rule out listening to In Times Like These when it is released as an audiobook (mostly out of curiosity). I suspect that at least 75% of the complaints posted here could be nullified by hearing  In Times Like These. This is partially a case of “cart before horse” on my part.

Narration review: For me, the narration of this audiobook was actually the brightest part of the whole experience. Neil Hellegers’ narration was simply awesome! Although the book was a bit of a letdown, the narration did not disappoint. Hellegers’ voice held a sense of urgency that added so much to the atmosphere of the story and kept regaining my attention whenever my mind would wander (which was pretty frequently). He was the perfect choice to narrate such an action-filled story. I also love that I could never definitively place an age on his voice. It somehow had a youthful and mature quality, especially when he was voicing the protagonist, Ben. This also allowed him to seamlessly switch between character voices, since there was a wide age range between a lot of the characters. The tone and range of his voice were so captivating, that his narration actually held my interest a lot better than did the story itself. I really do appreciate Mr. Hellegers’ generosity in gifting me this book and, despite my feelings towards this particular story, I would be absolutely thrilled to hear his narration abilities again. He truly is an extremely talented narrator. ♣︎

Update: I’ve now heard and reviewed In Times Like These (the first installment in this series) and it did indeed nullify some of the above complaints. Read my 4.5 ★ review of In Times Like These here.

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

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

Comparing Paid Audiobook Services: Part One

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: 4 plans
Gold Monthly Membership $14.95/mo.=1 credit
Platinum Membership $22.95/mo.=2 credits
Gold Annual Membership $149.50/yr.=12 credits (at once)
Platinum Annual Membership $229.50/yr.=24 credits (at once)

Selection: 180,000+ titles

Free Trial:
Standard- 30 days +1 free audiobook
➜Special- 30 days +2 free audiobooks
Amazon Prime- 90 days + 3 free audiobooks

What I like:

  • Frequent sales: Audible regularly boasts great sales and deals. They post a new 24-hour “Daily Deal” each day, where you can snag a title for as little as $2.95. They recently concluded a “First in Series” sale in which 150+ titles were $4.95. Surprise sales like that & membership exclusives pop up all the time. They occasionally run membership discounts too (i.e. 3 months for $1.95 each).
  • Great Listen Guarantee: Not happy with an Audible purchase? Return or exchange it with a click of a button.
  • Customer service: I’ve contacted Audible’s customer service a few times & have always been extremely pleased with it. They have one of the best I’ve ever dealt with.
  • The title selection: Audible is clearly the one to beat when it comes to the number of titles offered. Their selection contains more than 180,000 audiobooks. It’s basically heaven.

What I don’t:

  • The price: Honestly, this is the only thing I can really complain about. $14.95 isn’t that bad for an audiobook if you’re an occasional listener, especially compared to $30-40+ if purchasing through the publisher or elsewhere. But I can easily see how this point would dissuade audiobook listening in favor of a much cheaper book habit. New books may cost about the same as Audible’s gold membership, but used books can be found for half that price or less. This point is also why I think it is so important to mention that Audible offers regular sales. $4.95 for a book isn’t bad, much less for an audiobook! But it still adds up. I wish they would consider offering a digital rental program.
  • No mobile purchasing: A tiny complaint I have is that audible does not allow YouTube purchase on audiobooks through their mobile app. That means you’d better have something lined up to listen to when leaving the house!


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Type of Service: Subscription

Cost: Premium membership $8.99/mo.=1 credit (additional credits can be purchased for $8.99 each)

Free Trial: 14 days (*2-months with special offer)

Selection: approx. 45,000 audiobooks; over 1 million eBooks, documents, and sheet music

What I like:

  • The price: $8.99<$14.95. That’s simple math. Back when Scribd offered unlimited audiobook listening, I was singing its praises from my rooftop. But they have now transferred to a one credit per month system, similar to Audible’s, but for $5.94 cheaper.
  • It’s inclusive: That $8.99 doesn’t just buy you an audiobook credit each month, it also allows you unlimited access to a rotating selection of free audiobook titles, and three credits for their selection of eBooks. If you enjoy reading eBooks at all, I highly recommend this service. I find their eBook selection to be very strong.
  • Longer samples: While an audiobook sample on Audible only lasts a few minutes (<5, I think), Scribd samples usually last anywhere from 15-30 minutes. *Update: I’ve experienced a few 100 minute samples (not sure if that’s the norm now). I think that is more than enough time to decide whether or not to spend a credit!
  • Refund policy: If you get an hour or so (but no more than two) into an audiobook and decide you don’t like it, Scribd says the credit you spent is refundable. I have yet to take advantage of this policy, so I cannot speak to its ease of use.
  • Referral program: Something I have taken advantage of, however, is the Read for Free opportunity. It offers 1 free month to you for every email referral you make (and 2 free months to the person you refer). For example, *click my referral link here to get your first two months free (in addition to the initial two week free trial).
  • Membership pause: Another feature I can personally attest to is the option of pausing your membership for three months. It doesn’t cancel your membership, so you still have access to all of the books and audiobooks saved in your library. After three months, your membership (and monthly charges) will automatically resume. You won’t receive new credit during this time and cannot spend credits during the paused either (without resuming).

What I don’t:

  • The audiobook selection: To put it simply, it’s not what it used to be. Although I understand their reasons for cutting it and for using a credit system (they were losing way too much money), that doesn’t mean I have to like it. This is the primary detraction that separates Scribd’s service from Audible’s, in my eyes. I suppose it still not bad for the price though, especially with the additional eBooks included.
  • Temporary ownership: Unlike Audible, you don’t actually own the audiobooks purchased at Scribd. Once your membership is canceled, your access to the audiobooks you have previously purchased vanishes.
  • No downloads: This service is streaming only, making it very difficult to listen on the go without eating up all your data. *Update: You can now choose the “Store to Device” option when using the mobile app. Yay!

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: $14.95/mo.=1 credit (additional credits can be purchased through the website and mobile app, probably for another $14.95 each)

Free Trial: 30 days + 1 free audiobook

Selection: 100,000+ audiobooks

What I like:

  • The title selection: After briefly scanning, I am pretty impressed with the selection available. I see several new releases and best sellers that I would happily gobble up.
  • Downloadable selection: Audiobooks.com gives you the option of streaming or downloading your purchases.
  • Mobile purchasing: Audiobooks.com allows you to purchase and spend credits in their mobile app for iOS and Android. They have a leg up on Audible here.

What I don’t:

  • The price: This service is the same price as Audible’s, but none of Audible’s considerable bonus perks and a smaller title selection. I can’t see why anyone would choose this over Audible for the same price (unless there’s something I’m missing!). * I have not yet personally used this subscription service, so I cannot fully judge all of its features. Opinions here are based on the information I could find from the website (as a non-subscriber). If you have additional information, please share!


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Type of Service: Subscription, Rental

Cost: 4 rental plans & 4 digital plans
Monthly Rental Membership (1 audiobook at a time) $19.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (2 audiobooks at a time) $29.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (3 audiobooks at a time) $39.98/mo.
Monthly Rental Membership (4 audiobooks at a time) $49.98/mo.
Monthly Download Membership $14.95/mo.= 1 credit
Monthly Download Membership $24.95/mo.= 2 credits
Monthly Download Membership $31.95/mo.= 3 credits

Selection: 20,000+ rental titles & 9,000+ digital titles

Free Trial: 15 days with the $29.98 rental membership

What I like:

  • Dual plan types: This service offers multiple rental and download memberships. I really like this. Simply Audiobooks is the only rental service I’ve found (so far) that offers physical and digital rentals.
  • Free shipping: Rental audiobooks are shipped directly to (and from) your house free of charge.
  • Unlimited rentals: The word “unlimited” is always eye-catching. It makes an audiobook rental service that much more appealing.

What I don’t:

  • Free trial: I don’t like that you have to purchase a more expensive rental membership in order to get a free trial. This type of service is so different from what I have used in the past, that I would be very hesitant to try it without a free trial. I shouldn’t have to spend more money in order to find out if I even like the service.
  • The selection: The download selection is extremely small to be so expensive. It costs the same as Audible, but with 171,000 less tiles to choose from. Even though a slightly larger rental selection is nothing really to write home about.
  • Physical CDs: I don’t own a CD player and haven’t for sometime. I would much rather them offer a digital rental service instead.
  • Snail mail: The rental service only takes 2-6 business days, but I’m so spoiled by instant digital downloads, that 2-6 business days would probably feel like an eternity to me (especially when waiting for sequels!).
  • Fluctuating prices and an informative website: I’m grouping these issues together, because one lead to the discovery of another. The Simply Audiobooks website is not exactly user-friendly (and I’m pretty adept with computers) and it was very hard to get a straight answer on the specifics of their services. So, naturally, I googled it and found several reviews with outdated pricing information. It seems that the prices and detail plans have changed quite a bit in the last couple of years. To be honest, I’m still not 100% confident in the exact details provided here.

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Type of Service: Subscription, Purchase

Cost: 2 plans
Monthly Club Pricing Plan $5.00/mo. membership + the discounted price of audiobooks 50% off first book each month & up to 40% off additional books that month
12 Audiobooks Club Pricing Plan $36 per plan
50% off first 12 audiobooks & up to 40% off books thereafter. Renew as needed for $36.

Free Trial: 30 days + 1 free audiobook

Selection: 60,000+ audiobooks

What I like:

  • Multiple plan offers: This service offers two very different types of plans. In my opinion, the $36 plan is the way to go. That boils down to $3 a month for membership & some very deeply discounted audiobooks. For example, John Green’s Paper Towns is just $7.50 (with the 50% discount) + the $3 monthly membership (if using the $36 dollar plan)= $10.50. That’s cheaper than it could be purchased using a credit system like Audible’s for $14.95/mo.
  • No limits: The number of audiobooks purchased each month is completely up to the consumer. The membership fee more than pays for itself through the significant discount you receive.
  • Great selection: I saw a ton of best sellers while browsing and several new releases, all of which made me extremely tempted to take advantage of the free trial.
  • Download or stream: You are able to choose between downloading or streaming your purchases.
  • Specials: There is a section on the website dedicated to current specially priced audiobooks, some as cheap as $4.95.
  • Everything is discounted: With this service, you’ll never have to pay full price for an audiobook. Imagine walking into a retail store and seeing everything listed as 40-50% off. You’d jump at that opportunity, right?
  • No credit system: For those that dislike the credit system commonly used by audiobook services, this company offers something very different. It gives more control to the customer and operates more like the retail market we are generally exposed to today.

What I don’t:

  • Varying Book prices: Put plainly, some books are more expensive than others, for reasons largely unknown to the customer. The Selection series by Kiera Cass, for example, is priced from around $12.92-14.96 per installment (with the 40% discount), but the Matched series by Ally Condie is priced a few dollars more from $19.91-21.94 per installment.
  • Math: If you decide to use this service, I would suggest keeping a calculator handy, just to make sure you get the most out of your plan. The John Green example used above is a great deal because that is one of the lower-priced audiobooks. However, if we replace it with Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, the results are a little different. With the 50% discount, the book is priced at $14.95. Combine that with the $3 monthly membership fee (from the $36 plan) and you’d be paying $17.95. Or combine the $14.95 book price with the $5 monthly membership plan and the total would come to $19.95. In cases like that (with more expensive books), it would make more financial sense to use a $14.95 flat rate credit from Audible or Audiobooks.com. Of course, there’s still the added benefit of multiple monthly discounted purchases, depending on your spending habits.

AudiobooksNow - Digital Audiobooks for Less

 

If you have any opinions or insights on these services, please comment! I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone that has had first-hand experience with the latter three services. Also, please [politely] comment if I have made any informational errors here.

This post is part of a series. Part Two to come. ♣︎

📚 Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

17563080Available 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 Others #2

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Length: 14h 13m
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2014

4.75 ★ Audiobook⎮ I began this audiobook within seconds of finishing the previous installment. When you’re riding the high of a newly discovered series, you do things like that. I will say that I liked this installment slightly less than the first, but only slightly. It continued with the larger, over-arcing storyline, which moved at a steady pace, while the smaller, faster-paced plotlines shifted focus a little in this installment. For example, the main storyline (the growing divide between humans and terra indigene) is steadily picking up steam, albeit at a tantalizingly pace, and the minor plotlines (usually dealing with smaller/internal conflicts) that are happening in conjunction are occurring and being resolved much more quickly.

This installment saw more of Mary Lee and the other humans that work in the Courtyard and not as much of Sam, the wolf pup whom I adored in the previous book. I appreciate how Anne Bishop can artfully juggle multiple minor plotlines in tandem with the overall main plot. This technique gives her the opportunity to develop extremely well-rounded characters, along with an excellently crafted world. Murder of Crows takes the reader even further into the world beyond the Courtyard and it is marvelous. It’s amazing how Bishop’s writing strikes such a delicate and enticing balance that causes the story and its characters to come across as delightfully dark. For me, it’s just perfect, like a really great dark chocolate.

?However, I will reiterate the warning from my previous review: This book may not be appropriately suited for everyone. One of its most prominent storylines involves cutting. I won’t say that it glorifies cutting, but it definitely presents it in a manner that could be easily misconstrued, especially by younger readers. Speaking of youngsters, I would suggest counting them out for this entire series. The cover art may be somewhat misleading (maybe just to me), but this is not a Young Adult series. Although it certainly isn’t as graphic as, say, something written by George R.R. Martin, it does openly deal with several things that are adult in nature. Parents, consider yourselves warned.

Narration review: In my previous review, I expressed a minor complaint about certain portions of the narration. Specifically, the unnatural vocal pacing and articulation used when voicing the prose. Although that complaint is still valid, it did not strike me quite as much in this installment. I suspect I have just grown used to this narrator’s narration style. She (Alexandra Harris) does a phenomenal job of voicing the character dialogue. That ability became even more distinguished in this installment because several new characters were introduced. I found it very easy to latch onto the new characters because their voices were so distinct. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback), Audiobooks.comAudiobooks Now and Audible

📚 Written in Red by Anne Bishop

15711341Available 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 Others #1

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Length: 18h 32m
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2013

5 ★ Audiobook⎮ *jumps on couch* I love this book!
*flails on floor* I LOVE this book!
*yells from rooftop* I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can tell you exactly why I love this book. Ugh, where to even begin? I listened to almost an hour of Written in Red a few months ago and then stopped. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right “place” for it at that time. Whatever the reason, I sure am glad that I decided to pick it back up again. This story was so addicting that I found myself thinking about it all the time. I almost literally could not stop listening. This is one of those books that completely de-rails your TBR and forces you to rearrange your life around listening to it. I missed a social function because of this book. The writing is so enveloping. It swallowed me up like a black hole. There may have been (actually, there probably were) some problematic points in the storyline, but those barely registered with me. If I had looked closely and really scrutinized, I’m sure I could have spotted them, but I was far too consumed with enjoying the story to even bother. I realize this review is more of me “gushing” than reviewing, but I’m not even sorry. I just love this story-world so much. The attention to detail is impeccable and so original. The world is very thoroughly built and “fleshed-out”, but I never felt that it was at the expense of the story’s progression. Written in Red had a wonderful pace and never felt rushed or stagnant. I was surprised after finishing it to realize that the audiobook was over 18 hours long. I honestly didn’t realize it was that lengthy of a story. I was enthralled with it every single second.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good urban fantasy story and this one reminded me of why it’s my favorite genre. For a while there, I was reading so much fantasy that I got burnt out, but this novel has rekindled my love for it. One of my favorite feelings in the entire world is discovering a new series to obsess over. Especially that moment when you feel yourself becoming hooked by a new story and realize that there are several more installments just waiting to be downloaded. That, that’s the best. After finishing this installment, I sped through the second one (review to come shortly) and have already begun the third. It should be noted that this series is definitely not, I repeat, NOT for youngsters. It bluntly discusses numerous things that are of a mature nature. And I do mean bluntly. There’s no way any of it could slide past the noticing of a teen/pre-teen. As an adult, I found it both humorous and refreshing, but there’s no way I would consider recommending it to anyone under the age of 17 or so.

?Trigger warning: It also *prominently* deals with the matter of cutting, as well as physical and psychological abuse.

Narration review: Alexandra Harris’ narration style actually bothered me a tiny bit for the first 75% of the book. It was nothing major and I never wanted to stop listening because of it. It just took a little getting used to before it no longer bothered me. The way she narrated the prose portions of the book sounded slightly strange to my ears, although it was hard for me to put a finger on why (something to do with the pacing and articulation, I think). However, I very much enjoyed hearing her voice the dialogue. Her ability to voice characters was very distinct and really brought them to life in an individual sort of way. I particularly enjoyed the way she voiced Sam, the wolf pup! ♣︎

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback), Audiobooks.comAudiobooks Now and Audible

🎁 Zombie West: Survivor Roundup & Dead Plains by Angela Scott

16133865Available 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 Zombie West #2

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts
Length: 9h 7m
Publisher: Evolved Publishing⎮2014

4.5 ★ Audiobook

$ Available at The Book Depository (hardback trilogy) and Audible

 

 

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The Zombie West #3⇢

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Rebecca Roberts
Length: 11h 42m
Publisher: Evolved Publishing⎮2014

4.75 ★ Audiobook

$ Available at The Book Depository (hardback trilogy) and Audible

 

Because I heard these audiobooks in such quick succession, without even a break for writing a review in between, I’ve decided to combine my thoughts on the last two installments into one post. The continuity and fluidity of this series’ storyline makes the combining of reviews that much easier. Even if a listener had not heard the installments practically back-to-back, as I did, Angela Scott (the author) makes it extremely easy to jump back into the story as if it never ceased. This also makes it hard for me to recall precisely which installment certain events occurred in, which is not necessarily a negative thing. The continuous nature of the writing is one of the series’ greatest appeals. There were miniscule bits and pieces of the storyline that bothered me from time to time, the main one being the steady weakening of the way the main character was written and my declining opinion of her that went along with it, but it was never enough to murk my overall opinion of her or of the story, in general. There were times towards the end of the second installment and especially in the third when I questioned the way she and Trace were written, but in reality, I was just being nitpicky and impatient. Having finished the series, I can clearly see that now. Which leaves my largest standing complaint as being the extremely graphic, vivid, and revolting descriptions. Before you yell at me, I know this is a zombie series. I’m sure those kinds of descriptions are par for the course among zombie literature and there would probably be a lot more fans upset if that type of thing was excluded or watered down. Heck, the graphic nature of this series may pale in comparison to that of its contemporaries. I don’t read enough zombie stories to know. I’m just saying that, for me, it was a bit much. I quickly learned that I couldn’t listen to this while eating or trying to fall asleep at night. Not big sacrifices. But there were a couple of times when I actually had to stop listening for a period because the descriptions were so stomach-turning. I don’t consider myself overly squeamish either. Mind you, this type of thing may appeal to some listeners, but consider this a warning if you are not one of them. I would find it completely unnecessary and any other type of story, but in a zombie series, I’m guessing mine was probably the intended reaction. And it isn’t like the guts and gore didn’t serve a purpose because that would have really disappointed me. It all added to the story’s atmosphere. This story was woven together exceptionally well with relatable characters, plenty of heart warming moments, and some laughs thrown in as well.  Speaking of heartwarming, let’s talk about that epilogue. It positively made my heart swell and also made me ache for a spinoff series set several years in the future. The epilogue set the stage perfectly for that type of thing, should Angela Scott ever feel so inclined. I would definitely, definitely have to get my hands on that. I’m salivating just thinking about it! I felt this series was extremely well-balanced, well-developed, and well-written. The Zombie West series tops my burgeoning list of favorite zombie stories, for sure.

Narration review: Rebecca Roberts has become a premier narrator, in my mind, primarily because of her wide tonal range. Her ability to give each of the characters their own distinct voices, impacted my listening experience in the most positive of ways. It can be frustrating for audiobook listeners when character voices are not given enough distinction and individuality, especially because we don’t have the visual cues that traditional book readers do to tell who is speaking. I understand that some narrators may not have the physical voice range of others, to no fault of their own, so it is always exciting to discover a narrator with Rebecca’s vocal abilities. She showed wonderful discernment while narrating, particularly with the decision to transform her voice when switching in and out of character. She made the multiple point-of-view switches much more bearable than I normally would have considered them. And, most importantly, her voice had an overall pleasant quality (read: not annoying) that I found quite enjoyable. As an audiobook reviewer, I’ve learned that the value of such a thing should never be overlooked! In addition to being a top tier narrator, I’ve also found Ms. Roberts to be an extremely delightful conversationalist in our brief, but charming communications. I’m incredibly grateful to her for her kindness and for introducing me to this wonderful series! ♣︎

 These audiobooks were graciously gifted to me by its narrator, Rebecca Roberts, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Rebecca!

? Bonus: You can follow Rebecca on WordPress here!

🎁 Flexible Wings by Veda Stamps

25622589Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Natalie Hoyt
Length: 4h 29m
Publisher: Veda Stamps⎮2015

4.25 ★ Audiobook⎮ I was initially hesitant to accept this audiobook for review because I have not had good experiences with the middle-grade genre in the past. As a 28-year-old, I think that’s fairly understandable. However, I agreed to the review for three reasons: 1) The length- 4.5 hours is not a huge sacrifice of my time, even if I turned out not to enjoy the book. 2) The narrator- A big problem I have had with middle-grade audiobooks in the past has been the narrator overly playing the voice of juvenile characters. In the Percy Jackson series and Miss Peregrine series, for example, I felt the narrator (who was coincidentally the same guy) played into the youth and immaturity of the main character’s voice too much, which made the story hard to take seriously. In this case, Natalie Hoyt voiced the young protagonist very delicately, capturing the character’s youthful innocence without sounding petulant. 3) The diversity- To be honest, this was the main draw. The main character’s diverse heritage (African American and Japanese) is frequently addressed as a point of internal pride and external conflict in her life. There has been a big push lately for more diverse books and I have to agree. The diversity in Flexible Wings was utterly refreshing.

This story was written beautifully, with an air of authenticity. It was clearly written to deliver a particular message to the reader and I suspect a fair amount of the inspiration may have been gleaned from the author’s own experiences. I cannot emphasize enough how maturely and realistically the main character, Summer, was written. It surprised me how much I was able to relate to an 11-year-old and her struggles, even though I have never experienced anything similar to them. I commend Veda Stamps for recognizing that a child protagonist does not have to behave childishly. Summer’s grace and maturity really helped me relate to her and like her as a character, which also speaks to the excellent character development. For such a powerful story to be told in 4.5 hours, it also speaks to Stamps excellent writing ability. I highly recommend this story for children with parents in the military, children (or anyone) from diverse backgrounds, children who move around a lot, and children who love competitive swimming. Of course, I also recommend this to anyone who enjoys the middle-grade genre. Like I said, this story seems to be aimed at a younger audience, but is written in a way that has a much wider appeal.

Narration review: For me, Natalie Hoyt’s narration was the star of this audiobook. As I’ve said (probably in every other review), narration is critical to defining the success of an audiobook. Specifically, Hoyt’s vocal tone lent seriousness and reverence to the subject matter that may not have been relayed as effectively if voiced by another narrator. She clearly understood Summer as a character and brought her to life accordingly. In my opinion, Hoyt was a fantastic choice to narrate this audiobook. Her inflection was spot-on, which made the audio experience seem more like a performance (without being over-the-top) than a reading. I, personally, appreciate her vocal interpretation of the many young characters, which made the listening experience not only tolerable, but enjoyable!  ♣︎

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

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback) and Audible

📚 The Void by J.D. Horn

22046823Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Witching Savannah #3

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2016

Narrator: Shannon McManus
Length: 10h 8m
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2014

Very Spoiler-y ⬇︎

4 ★ Audiobook⎮ After a few nights of deliberation, I have decided I am finally ready to write this review. Basically, I’m just going to pretend that the ending never happened. I reject it. I’m going to pretend like The Void ended at around 75%, the same way I pretend that Grey’s Anatomy ended after season five. Because I cannot for the life of me understand why the author would bastardize his absolutely incredible series with an “It was all a dream”-type ending. I just can’t. In my review for the previous installment, I credited J.D. Horn with being very in tune with his fans and anticipating their needs. In this review, I am crediting J.D. Horn with making me an eater of words. I simply cannot believe that he began this series intending to end it this way, because the final 25% felt like it was written by someone else. More than that, it felt like it didn’t even belong with this series. I don’t even know how to describe it other than to say that it just felt wrong. As someone who has become a diehard fan of the series, I feel completely robbed and even a little disrespected. I was so into this series and now I’m worried that the ending has tainted it for me. I’ve calmed down now, but the night I finished this I was absolutely fuming. Which is why I’ve decided to live in denial. The ending never happened, Mercy and Emmet raised baby Colin, and all those characters that no one even cared about stayed dead. That’s what should have happened. That is how to keep fans. Because honestly, having someone undo everything in the last few pages that you’ve spent more then 2.5 books becoming invested in is incredibly disconcerting and not something that makes me want to read this author again. Sure, I love his writing. His character and world building skills are amazing. But I don’t trust him as an author. Not anymore. Why would I want to read another one of his series just to be this disappointed again in the end? I don’t even think I’m being irrational here because I know that you don’t have to agree with an ending in order to understand it. With Gone with the Wind or Me Before You, I understood why the author chose to end things the way they did. In those cases, it made sense to me after a while, even if it wasn’t exactly what the majority of fans wanted. But again, I cannot fathom why Mr. Horn would flip his readers on their heads in the closing pages. That just doesn’t seem like the way to treat readers who have been so loyal to the series. Another thing that makes me so certain of my opinion is that it is shared by almost every other reviewer I’ve found. That is not a good sign (for the series).

My distaste for the ending aside, the primary reason I’m giving this four stars is because it was confusing as hell. There were a lot more information dumps and Horn did not do the best job of making this installment as “reader-friendly” as the previous two had been. Maybe the writing of this installment was rushed or… I don’t know. It just felt more foreign, especially the last half, like it was written by another author or as part of another series. The way Scarlett feels in comparison to Gone with the Wind. As a whole, I still really enjoyed the majority of this series. I had all but included it as one of my favorite series ever, until this reading last installment. I think it is such a shame that the ending of this installment was able to tarnish my opinion of the entire series, because I loved it so much. My initial anger gave way to sorrow and then to indifference. The series doesn’t hold a special place in my heart like it should have. There is another installment (or mini-installment?) coming next month surrounding my favorite character from the series, Mother Jilo. Despite my severe disappointment with this installment, I will more likely than not still be picking that up as soon as it comes out. But I’ll also be crossing my fingers, toes, and eyeballs that the next book more closely resembles the first two than the third. Until then, I’ll just be over here trying to wipe my memory of the last installment. Wish me luck.

Narration review: Shannon McManus is quite possibly the best thing to come out of this series for me. I enjoyed her narration more than I can say. This is the first series in which I have heard her narrating abilities, but she made a very strong impression. She certainly is one of the best narrators, if not the best narrator I have ever heard. ♣︎

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