📚 Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

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Sookie Stackhouse, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Johanna Parker
Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2007

Synopsis: Vampires have officially “come out of the coffin”, and Miss Sookie can’t wait for one to come her way.
Anthony Award-winner Charlaine Harris’ New York Times and USA Today best-selling Sookie Stackhouse novels entice countless fans with an irresistible mixture of vampire romance, beguiling mystery, and old-fashioned Southern charm.


4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I watched HBO’s True Blood series in its entirety nearly a decade ago. I enjoyed it enough to finish the entire series, but I’ve never thought of it as one of my favorite shows. Last year, when I read the Midnight, Texas trilogy from Charlaine Harris, I considered listening to the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I adored the Midnight, Texas novels and wanted more of Harris’ atmospheric writing. But I was concerned that having already seen True Blood would hinder my enjoyment. From what I can tell, the HBO show was very closely adapted from the Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Recently, after doing some further research on the matter, I discovered that the TV show and book series go their separate ways after a certain point. This, and my hankering for something Southern Gothic, was enough to make me a dive head first into Dead Until Dark. I can now confirm that the first (and second) installments in this series closely mirror events from the television show.

However, it didn’t bother me as much as I had anticipated. Instead, it was rather nice to be introduced to the characters and setting of Bon Temps by Charlaine. She has this richly engaging way of setting a scene that almost feels downright cozy. I even found myself liking Sookie and Bill more than I did in the show. There were minor deviations, but for the most part, they were more like elaborations than outright differences.

Most of all, I really loved being able to picture the cast members while listening to Dead Until Dark (particularly Alexander Skarsgård!). But my favorite part, by far, was Bubba. Bubba is the vampiric incarnation of an American rock legend who was “turned” by a morgue attendant who happened to be a big fan. Although it isn’t outright stated, it’s safe to assumed that “Bubba” is/was Elvis Presley. As a huge Elvis fan, I loved this inclusion. Bubba doesn’t play a huge part in the story, but he still managed to be my favorite (even though he eats cats!). It’s a shame that Bubba never made an appearance in the television show (probably for legal reasons).

Even almost a decade removed from having seen the TV show, it was still hard to view Dead Until Dark with fresh eyes (ears). I love Harris’ detailed, yet straightforward manner of writing. It made the audiobook extremely easy to hear. I heard Dead Until Dark in a couple of days. And believe it or not, I actually think it was easier to follow in the book than the TV show. If you’ve yet to see it, I definitely recommend listening to the books first. I wish I had done it in that order.

Narration review: Although the material may not have been new to me, Johanna Parker was a pleasant surprise! She is such a find. I have been very impressed with her narration ability, especially her characterization. She does a marvelous job of providing clearly defined distinctions between the characters and matching said distinctions appropriately to each character’s persona. I was also floored by the authenticity with which she pulls off the Southern accent. The accent she gives Sookie actually sounds eerily similar to the one Anna Paquin used in the show. It’s a real Southern twang, not the Scarlett-esque “lilt” so many narrators use. Well done, Ms. Parker! I look forward to hearing you for the rest of the series. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

🎁 The Green Lama: Scions by Adam Lance Garcia

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The Green Lama and The Green Lama Legacy [chronological order], Book 14, The Green Lama Legacy: Modern Pulps, Book 2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jul. 2018

Narrator: Jiraiya Addams
Length: 4 hours and 20 mins
Publisher: RadioArchives.com⎮2017

Synopsis: A cruise ship crashes suddenly on Liberty Island. All onboard are dead by their own murderous hands. All but one. What secrets does the lone survivor harbor within her very soul? And what horrors does she bring? These are questions only the Green Lama can answer! Reintroducing the most unique Pulp Hero ever! In reality, The Green Lama is Jethro Dumont, a millionaire playboy who spent ten years in Tibet and now uses his Buddhist training to pursue Justice for those denied it! Can even the Green Lama, with his mastery of the supernatural and his radioactive salts, be enough to prevent the coming of… Scions?


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮This story was way more fun than I expected. I do enjoy pulp fiction but I usually have to be in a mood for it as so much of the genre can be campy and sexist. Not this one! I was happy to see so many female characters in the book – and they get stuff done too! They don’t just look pretty while being rescued.

Set in New York, there’s a variety of characters for the Big Bad Evil to infect and/or kill. The creeptastic aspects lead back to a ship that crashed into Liberty Island. It’s something out of a horror movie and it has the police baffled. But never fear! The Green Lama knows what this evil is, much to his sadness.

For such a short story, it’s a pretty big cast of characters. I did have a little trouble keeping them all separate. However, they are all interesting. There’s Jean Farell, who is a good shot and doesn’t shy away from rescuing men knocked unconscious. Frankie, who is French Black American, has a soft spot for kids that need rescuing.

Jethro Durmont, the hero of this tale, is a bit standard. He’s a millionaire white guy who lost his parents under horrible circumstances, and ran off to Asia to learn some mystical self-defense arts. Sound familiar, no? Batman, Iron Fist, The Arrow, etc. He does have at least one unique aspect – he needs his special radioactive salts on a regular basis to maintain his special powers. I hope he labels those appropriately so the guests don’t use them to flavor their soup!

Betty Dale, a newsreporter, has me wondering what will happen in the next book. She knows the Green Lama’s secrets but he also knows who she is. Then there’s poor Lt. Caraway. He made me laugh a few times but things didn’t go well for him in this story. Overall, it was a fun story. 4.5/5 stars

The Narration: Jiraiya Addams puts on a great performance. He has unique voices for all the characters and his female characters sound feminine. He went all out voicing the Evil, which was multi-layered voices for individual characters affected by it. Chilling! There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars

 

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

📚 Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine

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

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Emily Sutton-Smith
Length: 10 hours 4 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2017

Synopsis: Gina Royal is the definition of average – a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor – the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake – and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed – or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.


5★ AudiobookStillhouse Lake kept me riveted, both mentally and physically. There were times when I was frozen in anticipation of the next sentence. Listening to Stillhouse Lake more closely mirrored the experience of watching a gripping television drama than listening to a story. I felt as if I could see everything play out in front of me. Audiobooks are popular for the convenience of multitasking, but the gripping intensity of Stillhouse Lake drove me to a one track mind.

This was my first Rachel Caine book. I’ve started two others in the past, Glass Houses and Ink and Bone, but never really connected to them. Because of that, I was a little hesitant to begin Stillhouse Lake. However, once I read the synopsis, I just knew I would enjoy it. Something about it reminded me of Kelley Armstrong’s Casey Duncan series, which I devoured it a few months ago. They share a common theme of abused women trying to disappear but finding more trouble in the process. I’ve always known that I like “strong female leads”, as a Netflix calls it. But what I like even more is when the female lead has to dig down deep to find strength she never knew she had. That type of empowering character development really appeals to me.

Similarly, Stillhouse Lake reminded me even more of Laura Lippmann’s And When She Was Good, which I just finished last month. There’s something really chilling about an abusive villain who has been locked away, yet whose reach still extends beyond prison bars. How does one ever feel safe, especially with kids involved? Stillhouse Lake brought to mind all sorts of enigmatic questions surrounding a serial killer’s other victims- his surviving family.

I’m dying (bad choice of wording) to see Stillhouse Lake adapted on screen. I know it would do well. As a protagonist, Gina/Gwen was extremely likable. Moreover, she was intelligent. There were no stupid mistakes or miscommunications for the sake of cheap drama. Caine didn’t need them. The mystery was woven together brilliantly. Even though I had suspected the culprit earlier on, I was kept on my toes enough to never be 100% certain. It certainly wasn’t outright predictable and I could have never guessed the extent of how it would play out. Stillhouse Lake was a thrill ride with tangible, endearing characters and exhilarating action.

I immediately knew I would be continuing on with the series, which has three installments, two of which have already been released. However, upon finishing Stillhouse Lake, I briefly wondered whether or not I should “take a breather” between installments because the first one had been so intense. Stillhouse Lake had invaded my thoughts and even my dreams. Ultimately, the decision was made for me because the next installment, Killman Creek, isn’t available via my listening service (Scribd) until the end of the month.

Narration review: Emily Sutton-Smith’s narration made Stillhouse Lake come to life. The approach she took (firm, dry, distant) was perfect for Gwen Procter. One of the reasons I’ve never made it through Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series is the narration. Sutton-Smith did not disappoint. Her tone set the scene for Stillhouse Lake and it never wavered. It also enhanced the characters, especially helping me to get inside the mind of Gwen Proctor. Although I’ve never heard her perform before, Emily Sutton-Smith is definitely on my radar now. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

📚 Series Review: The Graveyard Queen by Amanda Stevens

The Graveyard Queen Series by Amanda Stevens

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Installments (6.5*)

*There’s a prequel novella (#0.5) that isn’t available as an audiobook, so it’s not included in this review. Hopefully, it will one day be recorded. I’m dying to hear it!


• RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

Southern Gothic, Karen White’s Tradd Street series, Ghost stories, Horror, Cemeteries

• SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 16+

• Individual ratings & reviews:

◦ The Restorer (#1): 4.5 stars

Full review here.

◦ The Kingdom (#2): 3.75 stars

Full review here.

◦ The Prophet (#3): 4 stars

After discovering the series in October and finishing the first two installments that same month, it took me nearly 8 months to return to The Graveyard Queen. I loved The Restorerbut The Kingdom wore my patience thin enough that I needed a break from the series.

But the Summer always brings me back around to the Southern Gothic genre. I didn’t have the energy to search for a new Southern Gothic series (they can be hard-to-find), so I picked up The Prophet. Luckily for me, each installment in this series centers around a new (episodic) mystery. I was glad to see Amelia return to Charleston and even more glad to see her get away from Asher Falls. I’m glad she didn’t spend another book there. I appreciate the importance of The Kingdom to the series since it essentially functions as Amelia’s origin story, but for me it was more an installment to “get through” rather than to enjoy.

The Prophet dealt more with the Lowcountry’s version of magic, which is exactly my style. It showed flashes of what I loved about The Line and it was enough to whet my appetite for more of the series. The Prophet renewed my interest and my faith in Amanda Stevens and The Graveyard Queen. By the time I finished it, I was determined to finish out the series in quick succession.

◦ The Visitor (#4): 3.75 stars

The Visitor may have been the creepiest installment in this series and that’s saying a lot. Like The Kingdom, it explored another side of Amelia’s heritage. Believe it or not, The Visitor had a creepier angle than The KingdomCreepy or spooky is the perfect way to describe Stevens’ writing. It’s not necessarily outright scary. It’s never caused me to stay awake at night. But I definitely get spooked while listening.

Amanda Stevens has atmospheric writing down to a science. Curiously enough, the graveyard scenes are among the less spooky. For Amelia, cemeteries are a place of peace. She makes a point of emphasizing that she believes it’s people who are haunted, not places. Therefore, the hauntings can happen anywhere. Stevens also excels at using the five senses to enhance the experience of having a sixth sense. Amelia’s sightings are often accompanied by particular scents (like cloves, in The Visitor) and/or sounds, sometimes even physical sensations.

The Visitor was my second least favorite installment in this series and yet it divulges critical information about Amelia’s heritage and her gift. However, the unfolding of that information felt somewhat fumbly. No matter how much I adore Amanda Stevens’ ability to create such richly tangible settings, I still find her storytelling ability to be slightly subpar. It feels like she struggles to find balance between world building/character development (which she does amazingly) and plot progression. This causes almost all of her endings to seem rushed and thrown together. But by the time I finished The Visitor, I knew I was too far into the series to turn back. On to the next…

◦ The Sinner (#5): 4.25 stars

The Sinner was a weird one for me. For a while, I thought we were going to be dealing with zombies, but that angle never really came to fruition. When the series started out, there were the living and the dead (ghosts), but now we are entering a gray area with beings that are “something in between”. There was talk of an occult group that practiced necromancy, so I was sure zombies were the logical conclusion. They weren’t…, exactly. To be honest, I’m not sure what the plot conclusion was. Resolutions aren’t Amanda Stevens’ strong point.

The book’s ending, however, got my attention. My interest in the romantic angle of this series had been slowly growing over the last two books. I’ll admit that I didn’t see the break up coming. It was a nice curveball. I liked seeing insertion of a love triangle in The Visitor. I never felt the chemistry between Amelia and Devlin, so I was excited to see another player enter the scene and the end result of that triangle really threw me for a loop.

The end of the series is in sight, so I’m overlooking plot holes and leaning into the atmospheric richness. It’s perfect for listening during a Summer afternoon thunderstorm. It’s nice to see that Stevens isn’t afraid to contradict the obvious assumptions. So much of this series was beginning to seem formulaic. Her new approach is keeping me on my toes, but the new covers are making me cringe…

◦ The Awakening (#6): 4.5 stars

Besides The RestorerThe Awakening may have been my favorite installment in this series. The installments that are set in Charleston are always the best. Stevens’ atmospheric writing lends itself so easily to world building that Charleston feels like home for the series.

A lot of things culminated in The Awakening and a lot of loose ends were finally tied upBy the end of the book 5, I was fully invested in the Amelia+Devlin pairing. Although, I still haven’t warmed to Devlin individually, I’m beginning to ship them as a couple. The disconnect I feel with Devlin stems from his refusal to believe in the supernatural, even though it’s clearly all around him. I thought for sure that he would come around by the series’ end, but I was disappointed. It seems that there is still some character growth needed there, which is one of a few things that makes me believe (and hope!) that a spinoff series is in our future.

But the major thing that leads me to believe we haven’t seen the last of The Graveyard Queen is the glaring cliffhanger ending Stevens left us with. It would have been excellent fodder for an epilogue, otherwise. Let’s just say that my “spinoff Spidey senses” are tingling!

🎙 Narration Review: Khristine Hvam

Khristine Hvam has got to be one of my most frequently heard narrators. I’ve heard her narration so much that I’ve just about run out of ways to praise her. Hvam does way more right than she’s ever done wrong in the recording booth. And she did 9 out of 10 things right with this series.

The one thing I just couldn’t “cotton” to was her Southern accent. She gave an admirable effort, though. But even though artificial sweetener may be sweet, it’s just not the real thing! And before you think that I (as a native North Carolinian) judging too harshly, let me say that there are southern accents done by narrators that I have approved. Hvam’s definitely wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t the best of either. There were some minor pronunciation issues and inconsistencies that briefly bothered me (i.e. Goodwine was pronounced inconsistently throughout the series). Because of these issues, this series wasn’t my favorite of Hvam’s work and I’m not sure that it adequately showcases her talent as other titles do, but she still did it justice.

Accent aside, Hvam added so much to the telling of this tale. She truly is a talented and intuitive narrator. Until hearing this series, I think I had underestimated the impact of a narrator’s tone, pacing, and inflection. These are the things I only ever think of when they take away from the story, but Hvam’s interpretation added to the atmospheric presence of the series, making it a truly immersive experience. She was an excellent match for Stevens’ writing.

OVERALL SERIES RATING:
4.0 

Reviewer’s Note: This first three installments in this series are only available on audiobook through Audible.com. If you are interested in giving it a shot (which I totally recommend!), but don’t yet have an account with Audible, consider signing up through the banner below to get an extra audiobook with your free trial. Doing so will give me a small commission, but won’t cost you anything.

To sum up: You can get the first two installments of this series (or any other two audiobooks) for free and  help support The Audiobookworm!

📚 Heat Wave by Richard Castle

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Nikki Heat, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jun. 2018

Narrator: Johnny Heller
Length: 6 hours and 26 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2009

Synopsis: NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat feels sparks from ride-along, journalist Jameson Rook. A real estate tycoon plunges to his death. A trophy wife with a past survives a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with motives all have alibis. Dirty little secrets of the wealthy hide until Nikki shines a light.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮This is fan fiction of a sort for the TV show Castle. I have only seen 1 episode of the show so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got into this book. Heat Wave is a fun, fast-paced murder mystery. Detective Nikki Heat is brought onto a case that involves the murder of Matthew Starr, a real estate baron of New York. Jameson Rook, a reporter, manages to get himself attached to the investigation.

The action keeps the story moving along at a fast clip. There’s a little romance between Heat and Rook but it didn’t distract from the murder mystery. The plot itself was pretty straight forward, the mystery being fairly easy to unravel by the reader if not the main characters.

There are several sidekicks in the story, like detectives Ochoa and Raley and the medical examiner Lauren Parry. Mostly, they fade into the background and go unnoticed. Lauren has a few moments where her personality shows through. The cast of characters attempts various quips and jokes but much of it comes off flat. I was much more into the serious scenes. The action scenes were usually well done.

Over all, I liked Nikki Heat as a character. I will enjoy getting to know more about her in future books. While it was a quick, easy read, it had it’s charms. 3.5/5 stars

The Narration: Johnny Heller took some getting used to. His style is nearly monotone but he also tries to go for that hard-boiled detective story feel. Once I settled into his voice, I liked it well enough though I had to pay attention to which character was talking as Heller didn’t always make distinct voices. There were no recording issues. 3.5/5 stars

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

📚 And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed June 2018

Narrator: Linda Emond
Length: 9 hours 47 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2012

Synopsis: Perennial New York Times and national best-selling author and acclaimed, multiple prizewinner Laura Lippman delivers a brilliant novel about a woman with a secret life who is forced to make desperate choices to save her son and herself.

Heloise considers it a blessing to be a person who seldom attracts attention. In her suburb, she’s just a mom, the young widow with the forgettable job, who somehow never misses a soccer game. In the state capital, she’s the redheaded lobbyist with a good cause and a mediocre track record. But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the area, she’s the woman of your dreams – if you can afford the hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise believed she was safe, managing to keep up this rigidly compartmentalized life. But her secret life is under siege. One county over, another so-called suburban madam has been found dead in her car, an apparent suicide. As 40 looms and her son enters adolescence, Heloise is facing a midlife crisis with much higher stakes than most will ever know. With no formal education, no real family or friends, Heloise has to remake her life – again. Disappearing will be the easy part. The trick is living long enough to start a new life.


4.75★ Audiobook⎮The best praise I can give And When She Was Good is to say that it was the only audiobook (out of approximately 7-10 contenders) that could grab and keep my attention during a particularly annoying two-week listening slump. I could drone on about how unfair it is to be caught in a listening drought right at the beginning of Audiobook Month, but I’m just so relieved to be out of it!

There was probably nothing wrong with the other audios I tried listening to, as I’ve found that listening slumps have more to do with my state of mind than with specific audiobooks. Nevertheless, I’m not only overjoyed to have been so enthralled by And When She Was Good, but to have also discovered of Laura Lippman and Linda Emond.  Laura Lippman’s writing style was like a breath of fresh air. It was straightforward, yet realistically detailed. The pacing was enjoyably slow, giving appropriate time to world building and character development. It may be too slow for some listeners’ tastes, but I appreciated the opportunity to really “sink into” the story, like a warm bath.

Besides, the promise of climactic action was always just underneath the surface. Lippman’s laying out of the story was intentional and calculated, without seeming overtly so. It was extremely intellectual, offering thought-provoking insights instead of mere fluff. Heloise’s cerebral nature may have pushed away those in her environment, but it was what I found most endearing about her. That, and her fierce maternal love. Sometimes a character’s vulnerabilities don’t lie within their own flaws, but in the existence of those they love. This was a poignant and intriguing premise.

Heloise was an amazing main character, possibly one of my favorites in a long time. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the brief flashbacks detailing her past and explaining how she got to her current position in life. I normally don’t enjoy flashbacks and I thought I wouldn’t like these, but Lippman direct writing style won me over. She was able to directly tie past events in Heloise’s life to their effects in her present, thus making the flashbacks seem useful to the plot as well as character development.

I chose And When She Was Good over Lippman’s other titles because (at a glance) it seemed to be the only one built around a premise other than a “whodunit”. There is a murder that acts as a catalyst in the story, but not a central event. I found that very refreshing. I would recommend And When She Was Good to anyone who has enjoyed the television show The Client List. Both feature women trying to compartmentalize their personal lives as suburban moms from their professional lives as escorts.

I’m so glad to have discovered Laura Lippman. I will 100% be checking out more of her titles in the immediate future.

Narration review: Linda Emond’s voice is singularly enjoyable. She has a voice I could listen to all day long (and did during the course of binging this audiobook). Emond is undeniably a quality narrator and it’s clear that she knows her way around a recording booth. I am as glad to have discovered her as I am Laura Lippman. They make an incredible team and I’m happy to see that they have collaborated on other titles as well. This was an all around excellent listening experience. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

🎁 Once Upon a Time in Venice by Monique Roy

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

Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jun. 2018

Narrator: Kevin E Green
Length: 1 hours and 27 mins
Publisher: Monique Roy⎮2017

Synopsis: An intriguing, middle-grade audiobook that takes young listeners, ages 9-12, on a physical and emotional journey to Venice, Italy.

This enchanting story revolves around the relationship between Samuelle, a young boy, and his grandfather Leo. Leo has learned that he suffers from a terminal illness, and in his wistful skimming of artifacts from the past, he uncovers treasured mementos of his earliest years, growing up in the romantic city of Venice. Sharing them with Samuelle, he infects the boy with an infatuation for the city, one they will both share when Leo decides to accept an invitation to participate in the annual Regatta, a rowing festival that his own great-grandfather had competed in with great success. The two embark on their journey without Samuelle knowing about Leo’s illness, but Leo makes a promise to himself that it is in Venice, after he has passed on his knowledge and fondness for the city to his grandson, that he will reveal the truth about his fate. Venice becomes a special place in their hearts forever.

This beautiful, middle-grade chapter book will show young listeners, ages 9-12, the strong impact and importance of family, love, and the community in our lives. Listen to this preteen book with your kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, and you will be instantly transported to the romantic city of Venice, Italy! The vivid descriptions of Venice enliven the story. From the food and the architecture to the art and the magical canals, you are right there in Venice, without the long flight and the icky airplane food! All adventurers wanted: preteen listeners are taken on an emotional journey that is educational, sad, sweet, and heartwarming, and opens their eyes to geography and cultures.


Guest Reviewer Susan⎮While this is a short tale, Monique Roy packs quite a lot into it. Grandpa Leo and his grandson Samuelle take a vacation in Venice, a city Leo knows well. Samuelle’s parents are gone and Leo wants him to get to know his Venetian relatives. The city of Venice really shines in this story.

I loved the relationship between Leo and Samuelle. Gramps really cares about the boy and takes great joy in showing off his old stomping grounds. Even though Samuelle is young, he soaks it all in. Their combined excitement on this vacation is palpable throughout the story.

Leo has a secret he’s been holding back from Samuelle because he wants the lad to enjoy Venice and not be troubled by Leo’s health issues. This made the last quarter of the story really standout. I was worried what Samuelle would do if his gramps passed away, being as young as he is.

Meanwhile, Samuelle continues to make friends in Venice. His impromptu explorations of the old Jewish ghetto was interesting. I also liked that Samuelle got to know Leo’s old flame, the one that got away. All these people are scattered throughout Venice and that let’s the author show off her own knowledge of this beautiful and historical city. In the end, it was Venice that captured my heart (sorry Samuelle). 5/5 stars

The Narration: The Narration: Kevin E. Green was a great pick for the narration. He had a great old, slightly gravelly voice for Leo and a great kid voice for Samuelle. He also did Italian accents for all the Venetian natives. His female voice (I believe there was only 1) was believable. There were no recording or technical issues. 5/5 stars

 This audiobook was received at no-cost from Audiobookworm Promotions. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

📚 White Silence by Jodi Taylor

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

Elizabeth Cage, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Kate Scarfe
Length: 10 hours 33 minutes
Publisher: AudibleStudios⎮2017

Synopsis: Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them, and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.

What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control. When her husband dies, Elizabeth’s world descends into a nightmare. But as she tries to piece her life back together, she discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Alone in a strange and frightening world, she’s a vulnerable target to forces beyond her control. And she knows that she can’t trust anyone….

White Silence is a twisty supernatural thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.


4.75★ AudiobookWhite Silence was an amazing listen that I almost didn’t hear. I picked it up during a recent Audible 3-for-2 sale as a sort of “throwaway” book. I had already picked out two books that I really wanted but I needed to find a third in order to take advantage of the sale. I quickly read the synopsis for White Silence and listened to a bit of the sample before deciding that it sounded interesting enough to be my third selection.

It wasn’t until after I had already begun listening that I realized this book was authored by Jodi Taylor. I have nothing against Jodi Taylor, personally. But my one and only previous experience with her work was less than stellar. I tried listening to her St. Mary’s series last year and did not love it, to say the least. If I had noticed her name on the cover of White Silence, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have gone through with the purchase out of fear of repeating my previous experience.

However, I’m so glad I went ahead with it. I absolutely adored White Silence. In my opinion, the writing and structure of the story were miles above anything I heard in St. Mary’s. Honestly, if I didn’t know that they were by the same author, I would not believe it. White Silence was incredibly well put together. It was inventive and original, all the while being extremely easy to follow. And, my god, was it creepy. Oh, and there was a bit of time travel too. White Silence was damn near close to being the perfect paranormal tale.

My favorite thing about White Silence was that Taylor didn’t take the easy way out. There were no witches, werewolves, vampires, or fairies. Pick up a paranormal title and odds are you will find at least one of those things included. Taylor designed her own type of paranormal character and made it work. I’m also usually pretty tired of the “Evil scientist/Corporation conspiracy” angle (à la Replica), but I’ll be damned if Taylor didn’t freshen that up as well.

My second favorite thing about White Silence was how Taylor broke up the larger story arc into approximately three semi-separate smaller arcs. One flowed easily into the next, but each felt somewhat succinct, like an episode of a TV series. I’ve seen got done with series installments, but never within a single installment. Again, it just worked.

Hearing White Silence has taught me a huge lesson about preconceived notions. I almost missed out on a great listening experience because of a previous encounter with the same author. It was still a risk, but I’m happy to report that this one more than paid off. I will absolutely be continuing on with the Elizabeth Cage series. In fact, I’d like it now please! In the meantime, I’m even considering checking out some of Taylor’s other works, or {gasp!} possibly giving the St. Mary’s series another go…

Narration review: Kate Scarfe appears to be a newcomer on the narration scene, as this is her only listed title on Audible. After this experience, I am hoping she comes out with more titles soon! I would love to hear from her again. I much preferred the narration of this title over that of the St. Mary’s series. Scarfe did everything perfectly, as far as I’m concerned. I was very pleased with her performance. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

📚 Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

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Dumplin’, Book 2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Erin Mallon, Kyla Garcia
Length: 11 hours 9 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2018

Synopsis: The irresistible companion to the number one New York Times best seller Dumplin’, soon to be a major motion picture starring Danielle Macdonald and Jennifer Aniston!

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a little girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream of being a newscaster – and to kiss the boy she’s crushing on.

Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend.

When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing that they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

A story about unexpected friendship, romance, and Texas-size girl power, this is another winner from Julie Murphy.


4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I devoured Dumplin’ last year. Everything about it was perfection. Despite knowing that sequels often fail to live up to the standards of their predecessors, I couldn’t help but be excited for Puddin’. I snatched it up within days of its release.

Puddin’ follows to different characters from the Dumplin’ universe. Millie Michalchuk was a minor character in Dumplin’ and I honestly don’t think I registered her presence. If I had known that Puddin’ would turn the spotlight her way, I would have paid more attention to her in Dumplin’. Millie was likable enough, but she was certainly no Willowdean. She lacked Willowdean’s vivaciousness and flair. I think if this story hadn’t been split between two protagonists, Millie could have been better developed.

Callie, on the other hand, was better developed, but not as likable. I enjoyed her part of the story, but still preferred Millie’s. The parts of Callie’s story that I really appreciate were when she explored the impact of her Mexican heritage and other peoples responses to it. Both of these characters felt deserving of their own stories. Forcing them into the same book, felt like an abridgment of both sides.

But where are those stories connected was pure gold. Unlike Willowdean and Ellen’s friendship, Millie and Callie’s friendship gets off to a rocky start. The friendship arc was the most endearing angle, by far. It felt very realistic and organic, as did the other relationships in the story. I think Murphy could have gotten away with telling this entire tale from Callie’s POV. She was the more interesting (better developed) character and had much more growth to experience.

I really enjoyed Puddin’, but it has nothing on Dumplin’. Looking back at my review of Dumplin’, I see exactly why I enjoyed it so much more. Puddin’ lacked the southern sass of Dumplin’. I know that both books take place in the same town, but it doesn’t feel that way. I appreciate Puddin’ as a sequel to a book that I loved, but the flavor just wasn’t there. It felt like a sequel of convenience. You know, one that was created in response to the popularity of Dumplin’, rather than planned from the start. Oh, and it definitely needed more Dolly Parton! That may seem like a little thing, but it’s the little things that count the most when developing characters and story. Dolly Parton is a huge part of what made Willowdean so memorable.

When all said and done, I’m still complete trash for this series. Julie Murphy is out there telling stories that no one else is telling about characters no one else will touch. Dumplin’ and Puddin’ are heartwarming, relatable stories about friendship and body positivity that just make you feel good. They also make you look at people a little differently and reevaluate your own biases and daily interactions, which is always a good thing.

Narration review: The biggest disappointment for me had do with the narration of this audiobook. I know comparison kills and I’m probably being way too hard on Puddin’, but Eileen Stevens did such a stellar job narrating Dumplin’, that it’s almost unfair to Erin Mallon and Kyla Garcia to have to follow her. I love that they brought on two narrators for the two POVs, which was totally the right call. Erin Mallon (Millie) and Kyla Garcia (Callie) are each an excellent narrator in their own right. For any other book, I would have nothing to complain about.

However, it didn’t feel like they fully grasped the spirit of this series. A big reason why Puddin’ felt so disconnected from Dumplin’ was because of the narration. What was so great about Stevens was how much she added to the story, atmospherically. Garcia brought a little of that to Callie, with her pronunciation of Spanish terms, but Millie didn’t feel Texan at all. Actually, there weren’t a lot accents to be found in the entire story. If I didn’t know the story took place in Texas, I could have easily forgotten. Stevens certainly set the bar high, but I really can’t find a reason to recommend the audiobook version of Puddin’ over the physical book. You’ll be getting just about the same experience either way with this one. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

📚 In the Blood by Steve Robinson

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Jefferson Tayte Genealogical, Book 1

Description⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 10 hours 56 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2014

Synopsis: Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.

In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.

In the Blood is the first in the Jefferson Tayte mystery series.


4.5★ Audiobook⎮Genealogy probably seems like just about the mildest thing anyone could do…unless they are Jefferson Tayte. As soon as I read that In the Blood was a genealogical mystery series, I immediately purchased the first two installments. Now, I never download the second installment in a series until I’m certain that I like the first. There have been times when I’ve downloaded sequels within 5 or 10 minutes of starting a series, but this was a first. Sure, it was a gamble. But it just so happened to pay off.

I had never before heard of Steve Robinson, but I like his style of writing. It gives off a Dan Brown vibe that I really dig. This mystery was so layered, that it was almost hard to follow at times. But I can’t even complain about it, because that’s exactly how genealogy is. I credit my awesome amateur detective skills to the loads of genealogy research I’ve done over the past two decades (I’m not old, I just started young). So I know that there is a fine line between Genealogist and Private Investigator. I think most people probably overlook that and automatically write off genealogists as “nerds” instead badass detectives.

Jefferson Tayte is such an Indiana Jones. He’s really likable and has his own slow cooking identity plot just sitting on the back burner. He’s adopted and has no idea who his real family is and I need to know now! Besides having a really cool name, Tayte was a pretty likable protagonist. There were only one or two times when I was like “What are you thinking?!”. For the most part, his actions were plausible enough. He would throw around just enough genealogy terms to feed my inner geek.

The one thing I did wish, however, was that In the Blood had come with a family tree. I know I’ve said that before, but of all the audiobooks to have an accompanying family tree PDF, this should have been the one. It’s about genealogy, for crying out loud. As it was, I managed to sketch out my own based on the information gradually given. That helped my understanding of the intertwining plots tremendously. It felt like untangling a bundle of cords. Plus, it was way fun. I love genealogy.

The only bits I didn’t really care for were the alternating POV chapters. One chapter would take place in the 21st century and the next in the 18th. On top of everything else, it became very confusing and hard to follow along with. What really bothered me was that there was no basis for the time jumps. Sometimes, Tayte would be reading from a journal or letter, but usually the new chapters would just take the listener back in time without much premise, which required some suspension of disbelief. Having already begun the second installment, I can see that this is something Robinson will do in each book.

However, the mystery in In the Blood was fantastic. It kept me guessing until the end. There was nothing obvious about it at all. You start on the surface with Jefferson and dig deeper and deeper until you’re all wound up in a tangled knot. That’s exactly how real genealogy is. It’s not just about names on paper. Each of those names was a person with a life and secrets, connecting to all of these other family members, with their own lives and secrets. So, even if you start out trying to answer one particular question, a dozen more questions pop up before you ever find your first answer. Honestly, I’m amazed that Robinson was able to tie up the loose ends so nicely.

Narration review: I’ve heard of Simon Vance, but I’ve never heard him perform until now. Overall, I was very impressed with his performance and I’m satisfied that he’s reading the rest of the series. He appropriately differentiates between characters, even if the differentiations are sometimes a little off. I don’t particularly care for the way he voices female characters because they don’t sound obviously female. But I do love that he narrates the story with an English accent, but voices the main character as an American. It perfectly demonstrates that Jefferson Tayte is an American abroad. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com