📚 Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

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Mercy Thompson #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2017

Narrators: Lorelei King
Length: 9h 14m
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2009

4.5★ AudiobookLet me start by saying that I will, without a doubt, be continuing on with this series. The discovery of it has made my week. The Mercy Thompson series is one of those that has been on my peripheral radar for a while now, but I hadn’t seriously considered giving it a try until just recently.

I’ve been on a paranormal kick as of late, giving a few new series a shot, and Moon Called has made the biggest impression on me. I was most taken with the main character, Mercy Thompson, and how strong of a female protagonist she is. I’m used to only seeing male protagonists written this well, which is a big reason for my general distaste of the portrayal of female main characters.

The way Patricia Briggs writes Mercy Thompson is so refreshing that I could almost feel my soul sigh with relief. Mercy has such a strong flavor of character that she effortlessly comes to life in my mind. She is strongly, richly and distinctly developed. This may be premature, but Mercy Thompson definitely has the potential to become my all-time favorite protagonist.

I’ve always struggled with Werewolf/Shifter storylines, but I have never given up on finding one that satisfies me. I nearly swore it off altogether after struggling with Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series, despite loving all of her other work. Moon Called is much more well-developed and less trope-ish altogether. This is a story you can sink into like a hot bath.

The world of Mercy Thompson is home to several kinds of paranormal creatures, Werewolves, Demons, Vampires, Witches, Shifters, and they all have a place. Briggs saw to that with her intricate and enveloping style of world building. Still, I got the impression that she was pacing herself for the rest of the series (10+ books). Pacing is something else Patricia Briggs did exceedingly well. She magnificently combined world and character development with an action plot, leaving everything feeling perfectly balanced.

There was even a wee bit of romance, but it definitely took a backseat to everything else. In my opinion, Briggs definitely had her priorities straight and was very much in tune with who Mercy is as a character. Forcing a romance into a larger part of the spotlight would have felt untrue to Mercy’s development and what I feel Briggs was trying to accomplish by writing her in this way. There is romance in Mercy’s past (and most likely in her future), but in Moon Called, we were given the chance to become very well acquainted with Mercy as an individual. If a romance does develop in future installments (as it probably will), it will feel like a natural progression in Mercy’s life, not a plot requirement.

I’m super excited to begin the next installment in this series and fall more in love with Mercy and her world!

Narration review: Lorelai King gave an outstanding performance in Moon Called. King’s work is as new to me as Briggs’ and I’m enamored with them both. King’s narration lent an air of maturity and seriousness to Mercy’s character that enhanced Briggs’ depiction of her. Everything King did, from her timing to her characterization and tone, aided in my enjoyment of Moon Called. ♣︎

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

📚 A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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Charlotte Holmes #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2017

Narrators: Graham Halstead, Julia Whelan
Length: 8h 41m
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2016

3.5★ AudiobookI began listening to this last year and got about a fourth of the way through it before tabling it. After picking it up a few months later, I was finally able to get through it, but I’ll always remember A Study In Charlotte for what it could have been.

Let’s start with something positive: I love the concept of the original Holmes’ and Watson’s descendents following in their footsteps. Love it. And I love it even more that the Holmes in this incarnation is a woman. Charlotte is brilliant. The parallels between her and Sherlock (her 5x great-grandfather) are fascinating, as are the rich family histories. That is an area that I wish had been more fully explored.

The character development was so “almost there, but not quite” that I found it a tad bit frustrating. There’s so much potential with these main characters and the vastness of their ancestry that it seems a shame for Cavallaro to have rushed it, barely bothering to skim the surface. I wanted to know so much more about these families, but I can understand if Cavallaro is waiting to reveal more further into the series.

What I can’t get past is the dullness of the mystery. When I think about what was missing from the story, my complaints land squarely on the mystery aspect of the plot. For a title that is labeled as a Mystery/Thriller, A Study In Charlotte was neither thrilling or particularly mysterious. Although I didn’t guess the ending, I also had no desire to even try. So much of this story was centered around driving the mystery plot forward (at the expense of other elements) that the mystery’s flaccidity caused a nearly total lack of interest on my part. In short, A Study In Charlotte  lacked enough intrigue to warrant much of an emotional investment from me.

However, the larger concept behind these characters interests me enough that I’m willing to pick up The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2). I’m hoping that the mystery surrounding the second book’s events will prove to be more gripping than the first’s.

Narration review: I think a large part of my difficulty connecting with the story stemmed from its narration. I have heard and enjoyed Graham Halstead‘s work before. He is a superb narrator, however, I don’t think he was the right choice for A Study In Charlotte. I just couldn’t find him believable as Jamie or Charlotte. For Jamie, Halstead sounded far too mature and his voicing of Charlotte came across as extremely awkward and unnatural. As already stated, I know Halstead is a capable narrator, but (in my opinion) this role was wrong for him.

I spent about 8 hours and 31 minutes wondering when the heck Julia Whelan would appear. When beginning this audiobook, I assumed it would be narrated in alternate chapters (Halstead as Jamie and Whelan as Charlotte) and, I have to say, I wish it had been. But that isn’t how this book was written. It’s told almost completely from Jamie’s point-of-view. However, Julia Whelan managed to steal the show in the final 10 minutes and save my opinion Charlotte Holmes in the process. That probably isn’t fair to Mr. Halstead, who performed the first 8.5 hours, but it’s still true. I’m looking forward to seeing how the POV chapters (and therefore narration) will be divided in the next installment. ♣︎

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

 

📚 White Cat by Holly Black

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Curse Workers #1

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrators: Jesse Eisenberg
Length: 6h 41m
Publisher: Listening Library⎮2010

4.75★ Audiobook I’ve had my eye on White Cat since discovering my love of Holly Black’s writing while listening to The Darkest Part of the Forest. I had my mind set on saving it for October, because it gave me strong Halloween vibes. But I’ve been going through a bit a listening slump recently and that means all hands [books] on deck. Desperate times and all that…

White Cat  did not disappoint! I can’t understand why I haven’t heard more about it in the book community. I realize that it was published seven years ago, so I may have missed the hype, but this kind of awesomeness should withstand the test of time.

I can’t express to you how elated I am to have discovered this series at the peak of my listening drought. Everything about White Cat  is just so on point. But what else would be expected from Holly Black? For starters, the blending of inspirations behind White Cat  is genius. Magical mobsters, need I say more? I love reading great family development and the Sharpe family gave off this Scoundrels vibe that I adored, especially Mama Sharpe.

There was also this infusion of a Russian mafia-esque crime ring that was fortified with a legislative backstory and political inner workings. Curse working is illegal in this world, giving rise to the criminal underbelly of society to which the main character’s family belongs. Black superbly developed the concept of curse working, complete with the various types and “blowbacks” each gives off.

White Cat  was both informative, as a debut installment, and enthralling, with great action. The world-building was phenomenal and I can only see it getting better from here. But the character development takes the cake. Cassel (the protagonist) is a self-proclaimed “big-mouth” and often gets in trouble for it with his older brothers. He was endearing and relatable. Even the side characters were distinctive and well-developed. They were flawed enough to make them realistic, even in a paranormally fictional setting.

My discovery of this series has solidified Holly Black’s standing as one of my newest favorite authors. I’m bumping the rest of her work up several notches in my TBR pile and I recommend that you do the same, beginning with White Cat. 

Narration review: Jesse Eisenberg’s narration has really surprised me. He has a very versatile voice, making him able to sound young enough to pass as a high schooler, but mature enough to lend credibility to the high stakes storyline. Speaking from listening experience, that is a really hard balance to strike. I get the feeling that Jesse could adapt his voice to fit multiple age ranges. Even though the character voices could have been a little more distinct, I still had no trouble distinguishing them from one another, probably because I was listening so intently. It’s just that kind of story. I 100% recommend listening to this series on audiobook. ♣︎

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

📚 House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

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Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

Narrators: Brittany Pressley
Length: 8h 44m
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2014

4★ AudiobookHouse of Ivy & Sorrow and I started out on the wrong foot, but eventually became good friends. The rocky start was mainly due to the fact that I was expecting something very different from this story, something deeper and darker. In reality, House of Ivy & Sorrow was much more flowery than it’s synopsis and [beautiful] cover initially lead me to believe.

I was in the mood for something witchy and didn’t yet feel like sitting through 30 hours of Discovery of Witches, so I started House of Ivy & Sorrow, despite the mixed reviews. I also knew that it was narrated by Brittany Pressley, a solid narrator, in my eyes. What I wasn’t expecting was how incredibly (and almost painfully) YA parts of it would be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love YA, but House of Ivy & Sorrow is on the lower end of the YA maturity scale. It reads like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but with magic thrown in. From my point of view, the characters and relationships were far too trope-ish for the plot. We’re talking basic, run-of-the-mill character stuff, which is a real shame because the plot itself deserved so much better.

The matrilineal magical families and succubi-type villains kept me listening, despite the writing only being so-so. The back stories of these families were particularly intriguing and I wish they had been even further elaborated upon. By the 40% point, I thought I could probably finish the story and by the 50% point, I knew I had to finish it.

The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but I’m still glad I decided to finish it. The further I got into it, the more I begin to appreciate the way the story was turning out, despite not being as engrossing as I had originally hoped. However, the lack of complexity made the story extremely easy to follow without becoming confused. Since most stories of this nature are part of a series, House of Ivy & Sorrow was a relatively quick and self-contained novel. It’s perfect for someone who enjoys tales of witches, but doesn’t care for anything especially dark. With that said, there were some not-quite-gripping (but almost) moments that propelled the story forward. If you go into this with the right mentality and knowing what to expect, House of Ivy & Sorrow is perfectly enjoyable.

Narration review: Brittany Pressley, whom also narrated Kiera Cass’ The Selection series, provided beautiful narration for House of Ivy & Sorrow. Her vocal distinction has always been admirable, but what really brought these characters to life was the amount of emotion Pressley infused into her performance. Such an emotion-filled reading kept my attention and encouraged me to keep listening, even when the story lulled. ♣︎

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

📚 Royally Matched by Emma Chase

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Royally #2

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

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Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

📚 Replica by Lauren Oliver

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Replica #1

Description⎮Reviewed Mar. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 Royally Screwed by Emma Chase

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Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

✏️ Wednesday Resource Review: TuneIn Premium

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Mobile listening makes more sense cents

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

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

Still think it’s too good to be true?

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

 

What I love:

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

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

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

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

What I don’t:

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

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

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

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

* This post will be amended and updated as necessary.