📚 Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong

Casey Duncan, Book 4

Reviewed Feb. 2019

Narrator: Therese Plummer
Length: 11 hours 30 minutes
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2019

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Summary

Watcher in the Woods is the next gripping installment of number-one best-selling Kelley Armstrong's riveting Casey Duncan series. 

The secret town of Rockton has seen some rocky times lately; understandable considering its mix of criminals and victims fleeing society for refuge within its Yukon borders. Casey Duncan, the town's only detective on a police force of three, has already faced murder, arson, and falling in love in the several months she's lived there. Yet even she didn't think it would be possible for an outsider to locate the town and cause trouble in the place she's come to call home.

When a US marshal shows up demanding the release of one of the residents but won't say who, Casey and her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, are skeptical. And yet only hours later, the marshal is shot dead, and the only possible suspects are the townspeople and Casey's estranged sister, smuggled into town to help with a medical emergency. It's up to Casey to figure out who murdered the marshal and why someone would kill to keep him quiet - before the killer strikes again.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.75 Stars

I effing love the Casey Duncan series so much. It will go down in history as one of my favorite series of all time, along with Harry Potter and ASOIAF. There, I said it. And yes, I did move heaven and earth (credit-wise) to get this audiobook when I could've waited two more weeks to access it through my Scribd account. But it was a give it to me now or I will implode type of thing and I regret nothing.

I ravenously tore through the first three books in the series last year. It was one of my most enjoyable binge sessions of 2018. Watcher in the Woods was on track to be just as good as its predecessors until the last 5% of the book. It ended more with a fizzle than a bang, but honestly, it didn't matter that much to me. The first 95% was so incredible that Armstrong really would've had to have sh*t the bed to upset me at that point. I should probably lower my rating to 4.5 stars to account for that, but this is such a solid series that I really don't feel like nitpicking it.

Objectively-speaking, this wasn't the strongest installment in the series. In retrospect, the plot formula was rather similar to previous installments, but I didn't notice that at the time (probably because I was too busy freaking out over puppy playdates and Casey's sister and how much I was enjoying it all of it). But I mean, if it's a good formula, why change it?

My obsession with the series kind of baffles me because I haven't connected with anything else written by Kelley Armstrong. I've tried several of her other series and nothing clicked with me. But Casey Duncan is life to me. She's one of my favorite characters of all-time and a serious badass. I didn't even try to pace myself with Watcher in the Woods. It would have been a futile effort and I knew it. I also knew that I was going to have one hell of a book hangover when I finished it. One which I'll be reeling from for days to come.

But, oh my God, it was so enjoyable. Once again, Armstrong blindsided me with the mystery. I love it when that happens. Watcher in the Woods did feel more like a set up installment (aka a "bridge" book), which could account for the weak ending and somewhat formulaic plot. A lot was set up in Watcher in the Woods that won't fully develop until the next installment or beyond. I'm totally fine with that. I'll sit right here, on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next installment.

Narration review: This series always reminds me of how much I enjoy Therese Plummer's narration. Narration had a lot to do with my underwhelming experiences with Armstrong's other work, which makes me even more grateful to have Plummer narrating this series. Her characterization for Casey is spot on and she also did a great job of voicing April (an individual with ASD). She gives subtle accents to certain characters, which goes a long way toward, not only distinguishing their speech, but providing added depth to the characters as well. ♣︎

📚 One For the Money by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum, Book 1

Reviewed Feb. 2019

Narrator: CJ Critt
Length: 8 hours 32 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2011

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Summary

Rachel Morgan is a runner with the Inderland Runner Services, apprehending law-breakers throughout Cincinnati. She's also a witch, one of the many Inderlanders who revealed themselves after a genetically engineered virus wiped out 50 percent of humanity. Witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves: the creatures of dreams and nightmares have lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But now they've stopped hiding, and nothing will be the same.

On the run with a contract on her head, Rachel reluctantly teams up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner...and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crimelord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death...not to mention her own roommate!

Fun, sassy, filled with action, humor, and romance, Dead Witch Walking is the perfect summer listen for anyone who likes vampires, paranormal fantasy, romance, or just a great beach book.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I know I must be the last person on earth to get to the Stephanie Plum series, but here I am! I've actually tried listening to One for the Money on a couple of different occasions, but it just never hit me right, for whatever reason. This time, I was in the perfect mood for Stephanie Plum, having already been primed by a recent paranormal mystery kick. To be clear, this series is not paranormal, but it seemed like a natural progression from the Charley Davidson series.

I've come to like Stephanie Plum a lot. I definitely like her more than Charley Davidson. I find Plum to be much more relatable and I vastly prefer Evanovich's writing style. I also LOL'd more while listening to One for the Money than I did and all of the Charley Davidson series. Evanovich's humor seems to come much more naturally and it doesn't feel forced. Stephanie isn't necessarily trying to be funny, although she does have a dry, sarcastic humor that I appreciate. Most of her funny moments happen incidentally.

It didn't take me long to realize how much I was enjoying One for the Money. Once that realization hit, I breathed a sigh of relief. I hadn't realized it before that point, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to enjoy this audiobook, simply because of its mass popularity. I also got this thrill of excitement, knowing that I had just found a new series to love and one that has 25 installments. This series has practically guaranteed the completion of my 2019 Goodreads challenge and it's only February! But mostly, I was just excited to know that I won't have to search for another great listen for several months while I enjoy this series.

One for the Money is really well written. Janet Evanovich's writing style takes a little bit to get used to, but after that's accomplished, this is actually a pretty easy listen. That is a huge testament to Evanovich as a writer because a lot of mystery novels require a great deal more mental energy to process what's going on, something that's usually harder for an audiobook listener, since multitasking is often involved. I was genuinely surprised at, not only how much I enjoyed One for the Money, but how easy the plot was to follow. I honestly don't remember a single time when I was confused about who was talking or what was going on.

The plot itself was highly engaging. It wasn't overly complex, but I still didn't entirely figure it out before the big reveal. I had a somewhat of an idea of who was behind the "whodunit", but I was never certain. The "big baddie" in this installment was pretty chilling and I could see how the theme of rape and violence against women could be disturbing to listeners particularly sensitive to those triggers. For me, it was definitely unsettling, but not unbearable. Evanovich toed that line very tightly. It was just creepy enough without being psychologically disturbing.

I've just started the second installment, Two for the Dough, and I'm glad to see Stephanie and Morelli team up again. I was worried that Stephanie would have a new male counterpart in this installment, so I'm happy to see Morelli reappear. He and Stephanie have a great dynamic together (I'm a sucker for the "enemies to lovers" trope!). My enjoyment of One for the Money was further amplified by viewing the movie trailer on Goodreads just after beginning the book. I liked being able to visualize the movie characters while listening to the audiobook. I plan on watching the movie sometime soon and continuing on with the Stephanie Plum series immediately.

Narration review: CJ Critt is a new-to-me narrator. Her characterization was excellent in this audiobook and it definitely aided in my processing of the story, especially when it came to knowing who was talking. I wouldn't hesitate to hear something narrated by her again. I know that she narrates the next couple of installments in this series. After that, it seems like Lorelei King takes over the series. Critt did an admirable job in this installment, but I am excited to hear Lorelei King again. She's one of my favorite narrators and I can't wait to get to the point in the series where she takes over, just because of my familiarity with her other work.

If you're one of the few who have yet to try this series, I highly recommend listening to it on audiobook. Not only is the narration superb, the listening experience is smooth and breezy, as well. ♣︎

📚 The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Folk of the Air, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

Narrator: Caitlin Kelly
Length: 10 hours 21 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2019

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Summary

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

When two Russian magicians come looking for a man named Alex Karkarov, they hire Lizbeth to find him or his family, but there are problems: The man they're looking for is dead, but he has a daughter they now need to find, as an ever-growing set of sorcerers and gunnies do not want them to succeed. It's a good thing Lizbeth is a deadly gunfighter; too bad she hates sorcerers, even the ones on whom she has to learn to rely.

Number-one New York Times best-seller Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, True Blood, Midnight Crossroad) returns to fantasy in a taut thriller set in a US where magic is an acknowledged truth, but disreputable.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.75 Stars

Holy freaking cow. Holly Black has done it to me again. I cannot believe how good The Wicked King was. I won't say it was better than The Cruel Prince, but it was damn close, let me tell you... I have to give the edge to The Cruel Prince based on its position in the series, but it's not often that a sequel gives a first installment such a run for its money. I'd almost come to accept the fact that sequels are rarely as good as their predecessors, be it books or movies. And then The Wicked King came along.

I started out wondering if I should re-listen to The Cruel Prince, just to refresh my memory. Black doesn't do the best job of "recapping on the run", so it's largely left up to the listener to recall the events of the first book. There's a five month gap between installments in the story, so it doesn't pick up immediately where The Cruel Prince left off. In reality, there was a gap of about a year in between the two books.

Luckily, as the story progressed, the major plot points of The Cruel Prince returned to mind and so did all the feels. I remembered exactly why I was so enamored by The Cruel Prince last year and doubled down on it. The Wicked King had me squirming with excitement. Seriously, Holly Black needs to be a soap opera writer because she definitely brings the drama. That ending practically had me flailing around on the floor in angst and agony. I can't believe I didn't see it coming. I mean, I saw something coming (one always does with Holly Black), but not that.

The Wicked King also made gigantic strides with character development. I can see now that my few criticisms of The Cruel Prince were indeed premature. Black was obviously just setting the foundation for the series in The Cruel Prince and had always intended on "playing the long game". I see that now and I tip my hat to it.

Cardan and was still the most complex character, but The Wicked King allowed for more character growth all-around, with a few exceptions. I hereby bestow the title of the 'most improved' character to Jude. She became a more dynamic character in this installment, as we got to see more of what makes her tick. I found it interesting that Black chose to use Jude's flaws to highlight this. I found it more interesting that the more flawed Jude seem to be, the more I liked her (and related to her).

Taryn, however, was still abysmal. I keep waiting for her redeeming story line, or at least an explanation of her actions from her point-of-view, but I'm not sure we'll ever get it. Black seems content to leave her as a passive (and flat) antagonist. We all know that Locke is going to get what's coming to him, but I really want a redemption arc for Taryn. Black writes sibling bonds extremely well and I need her to make things right between Jude and Taryn. My soul needs it.

Jude has such an interesting family dynamic. It bothers me that I don't think I can get everything I want from it in the one remaining installment. I'm really hoping Black will come out with novellas exploring the various family ties. I'm sure a spinoff series would be asking for too much, but each of these characters has so much potential that I can't stand to see any of it left untapped.

Narration review: It's not surprising that Caitlin Kelly's performance was just as good as it was in The Cruel Prince. I wouldn't expect anything less from her. She has obviously found her "sweet spot" and is making herself comfortable there. I'm beyond happy to see that audiobook community is recognizing her for the talent she is and giving her due credit. In my opinion, being the voice of this series could very well define and elevate Kelly's career. Working with an author like Holly Black is a huge deal. It allows Kelly to shine on a higher level and she has definitely risen to the occasion. ♣︎

📚 Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness, Book 12

Reviewed Feb. 2019

Narrator: Jasmine Blackborow
Length: 9 hours 36 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios⎮2019

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Summary

Handpicked by Rhys Bowen, Jasmine Blackborow is the dazzling narrator for the 12th installment of Rhys Bowen's best-selling Royal Spyness Mystery series.

Georgie, or Lady Georgiana Rannoch, is busy planning her upcoming nuptials to Darcy O'Mara. Unfortunately, what has started as a simple wedding has become quite a royal headache and grand affair, thanks to a guest list that includes the queen and the appointment of princesses as Georgie's bridesmaids. "If only Darcy and I had eloped!" she thinks, as she attempts to organize her wedding and find a place for her and her husband-to-be to live.

Just as she despairs of ever finding a home, her godfather offers his fully staffed country estate. With Darcy off in parts unknown, Georgie makes her way to Eynsleigh alone, only to find the grounds in disarray, and the small staff suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in her bedroom, which is beginning to look like an attempt on her life. Something sinister is afoot - and bringing the place up to snuff may put Georgie six feet under before she even gets a chance to walk down the aisle....

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was a bittersweet listen. For starters, I had no idea that it had even been released until I stumbled upon it while browsing Audible the other day. Honestly, I wasn't even aware that it was in production. It completely slipped under my radar. I'm ashamed to say that because the Her Royal Spyness series is one of my favorite series of all-time. I even pre-ordered the previous book and counted down the months until its release. I'm not sure if Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was given a softer release or if I was just completely out of the loop.

Anyway, within about 10 seconds of discovering this title, I had already added it to my cart, checked out, and begun listening. It totally made my week. Bowen opens the audiobook by dedicating it to Katherine Kellgren. For those of you who don't know, Kellgren, narrator of the first 11 books in the series, passed away a few months ago. It was a very emotional time in the audiobook community and hearing Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding really punctuated her loss for me. I wasn't lucky enough to have ever personally interacted with Kellgren, but she touched my life through her phenomenal audiobook narration, particularly with this series. Her Royal Spyness has always been a light and fun series and I'm sure it still is on paper. But my listening experience with Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was inevitably underlined by thoughts of Kellgren. I was touched by Bowen's heartfelt dedication in which she says that's she can't imagine the audiobooks without her [Kellgren]. That was a beautiful gesture on Bowen's part and it gives us a little insight into the bond between author and narrator.

Story wise, this wasn't my favorite installment of the Her Royal Spyness series. The plot felt somewhat weaker than what I'm used to from Bowen, probably because we spent the majority of the story without any familiar supporting characters. As much as I like to complain about Queenie, I found myself missing her terribly in this installment. Georgie was extremely isolated, figuratively and literally, and her lack of someone to "play off of" caused a lot of the humor to fall flat. Things started looking up when her mother, grandfather, and eventually Queenie were finally thrown into the mix. Darcy did't make a proper appearance until very late in the story, which was a shame because the best installments in the series are those that heavily feature Darcy and Georgie together. I also enjoy George's relationship with her grandfather and wish that we had seen more of that in this installment.

Before beginning, I had assumed that Georgie and Darcy's wedding would be the focal point of this installment. It wasn't and that really disappointed me. The wedding itself takes place in the last five minutes of the audiobook. That really felt like a missed opportunity. I was sure that the plot would revolve around some sort of terrorist scheme threatening to ruin the wedding. That would see much more in line with previous installments of this series. Instead, the actual plot of Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the series.

Although not terrible by any stretch of imagination, Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding felt more like a bridge installment in the series. That's odd, considering it's Book 12, but it's undeniably a transitional period in Georgie's life. The next installment will take place while she and Darcy are on their honeymoon, so it definitely sounds promising!

I was overjoyed to return to the series. Starting this audiobook felt like sliding into the covers of a cozy bed after a long day on your feet. As long as Bowen writes this series, I will be an avid listener. And I'm still holding out hope that it will be adapted for television production! Helen George (of Call the Midwife) would make a marvelous Belinda.

Narration review: Apparently Jasmine Blackborow was handpicked to replace Kellgren by Rhys Bowen herself. I always love it when an author chooses their own narrator (as opposed to them being chosen by a publisher or production company). It feels more genuine that way.

I cannot praise Blackborow enough. It can't have been easy stepping into a series at Book 12, much less attempting to fill Katherine Kellgren's shoes, but Blackborow does it with aplomb. Her interpretation and voicing of the characters was only slightly different from that of her predecessor. I was pleasantly surprised with how remarkably similar her style was to Kellgren's. It made the transition between narrators that much easier to bear. There were a few things that Blackborow pronounced a little differently (i.e. "Rannoch"), but I've heard titles in which a single narrator uses inconsistent pronunciations within a series (or within the same book), so this was not a big deal at all. To be honest, there were some things that Blackborow did that I actually preferred and, after a while, I found it harder to recall the style of Kellgren's narration of the series for the sake of comparison.

Excitingly enough, Blackborow's style brought to mind interviews I've seen with the cast of The Crown in which they discuss the unique British RP accent used by the royal family. There were certain words Blackborow said that struck me as though I was hearing them from Queen Elizabeth herself. One of them was the word "actually". If you follow the British Royal Family at all, chances are that you know precisely what I'm talking about. That one word went a long way in selling Blackborow as a performer to me. She clearly knows what she's doing and she does it magnificently. Her stelar performance has quelled any comparison-based criticisms before they could even be vocalized. Brava! ♣︎

📚 First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Charley Davidson, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

Narrator: Lorelei King
Length: 8 hours 58 minutes
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2011

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

Summary

Charlotte “Charley” Davidson is not your stereotypical Grim Reaper. She’s sexy, sassy, and likes to help dead people with unfinished business before they cross. She’s more of a bright light kind of girl than a hood with an axe. For her day job, Charley is an Albuquerque private investigator and a consultant to her police detective uncle. Lately, her nights have been steamed up with dreams of a hot mystery lover who may or may not be real. It’s chick-lit meets paranormal with a touch of mystery in the buzz-worthy First Grave on the Right.

Inevitably, this book will be compared to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. They both have feisty female protagonists, snappy dialogue, and zany characters. Veteran narrator Lorelei King also performs the Stephanie Plum books and is well-cast in this novel. What makes her fantastic in the Plum series is her ability to define the voices of all the secondary characters and inject them with interest and distinct personalities. In this performance, she does not disappoint. King seamlessly switches among the characters and has fantastic comedic timing. She elevates the work and keeps the laughs coming.

This is a debut novel from Darynda Jones. It will not be her last; this is clearly a launch for a series. There’s quite a bit of set-up as Charley begins to understand more of her abilities and the presence of other supernatural beings. Jones has created an interesting premise and characters. The mystery element is weak, however, and the writing is on the mediocre side. Jones is at her best with witty dialogue and keeps things moving at a brisk pace. Overall, it’s a fun, breezy listen and an enjoyable escape.

Fans of Janet Evanovich, Lorelei King, and paranormal romance will want to give this new series a listen.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

This wasn't my first go around with First Grave on the Right, but it was the first time I made it all the way through. I've been on a PNR (Paranormal Romance) kick lately. To be honest, I could do without most of the romance, but it's so hard to find good paranormal books without it. PNR has basically consumed the paranormal genre, but that's a rant for another day.

Whatever you call it (PNR/Urban Fantasy), I still enjoyed it. I'm so glad I was able to get through (and enjoy) this book because this is a series that I've been wanting to get into for a while. It's always high everyone's lists of favorite Urban Fantasy/Paranormal series and I was really bummed the first time around when I wasn't blown away by it. I wasn't blown away by it this time either and it's leagues away from the likes of Mercy Thompson or even Sookie Stackhouse, but it was good enough that I was able to finish it in just a couple days.

Charley Davidson was likable enough as a protagonist. I mean, I wouldn't fall on my sword for her or anything, but she was more than tolerable. I could see her growing on me as I continue with the series. Maybe I'm finally acclimating to the PNR genre, but the romantic pairing in First Grave on the Right, actually sort of worked for me. I like that it wasn't run-of-the-mill and it certainly wasn't predictable, especially with one half of the pairing being incorporeal. The big twist at the end regarding the Reyes' identity really surprised me. I'm not sure how to feel about it at this point, so I'll wait for a few more installments before passing judgment.

The only character I didn't really care for was Cookie. Evening her name is annoying. She came across as really trope-ish to me. Other than that, I have no real complaints with First Grave on the Right. The episodic mystery didn't do a lot for me (I can't even remember it), but the larger mystery involving Reyes and Charlie's identities/connection was super intriguing. We were given just enough of a resolution at the end of First Grave on the Right to make me want to continue on with the series right away. This is clearly something that will be an overarching plot throughout the series and I am more than ready to let it string me along. This is definitely a binge-able series, so watch out for a series review once I'm finally finished with it.

Narration review: The phenomenal Lorelei King narrated First Grave on the Right. She also narrated the Mercy Thompson series, of which I am a huge fan. King carried me half way through this audiobook before I really became invested in Charley. Her voice is the stuff dreams are made of. It's absolutely heavenly. To begin with, my subconscious was making connections between Charlie Davidson and Mercy Thompson (because they are both voiced by King) and, on some level, I think that helped me draw more parallels between the two, which certainly aided my overall enjoyment.

King is a wonderful performer, so if you have a chance to hear First Grave on the Right, jump at it! Knowing that she is the narrator makes me want to continue with the series even more, just to hear more of King's voice. ♣︎

📚 Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Fever, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

Narrator: Joyce Bean
Length: 8 hours 57 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2008

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

Summary

MacKayla Lane's life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she's your perfectly ordinary 21st-century woman.

Or so she thinks...until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death - a cryptic message on Mac's cell phone - Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers.

The quest to find her sister's killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed - a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister's death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane - an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women - closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac's true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book - because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

I love a good paranormal book and I'm always in search of one. More often than not I'm disappointed. The Patricia Briggs and Anne Bishops of the world are few and far between. Knowing that, I went into Darkfever with semi-low expectations, even though it appears on pretty much all of the top paranormal lists on Goodreads. From the cover, I thought that it would be a cheesy paranormal romance with that horrible writing would turn me off immediately and another one would bite the dust...

Boy, was I wrong. Let me tell you, good writing and good narration really do make all the difference in the world. I'm still surprised at how much I enjoyed Darkfever. That realization dawned on me slowly. Moning started out with a Southern Belle trope of a protagonist but pretty quickly threw her into a foreign land. Right there, all of my premature assumptions about the MC and her actions were thrown out the window, because I've never read anything with a Georgia Peach (a real Reese Witherspoon-type) in Ireland.

To further unsettle my in accurate assumptions, Moning didn't immediately toss our MC into bed with the first hot Irish dude she came across. I mean, he definitely existed and there was a ton of chemistry, but she kept on hating him through the end of the book. Moning allowed the dynamic between them to grow and breathe. There was no suggestion of an immediate pairing, much less a triangle. That's practically unheard of in Paranormal Romance!

Without the distracting presence of insta-love or a love triangle, I was able to focus on the plot at hand. The catalyst itself was nothing particularly new or noteworthy (her sister was murdered, she wants to find out why), but what was intriguing was watching Moning's paranormal universe begin to unfold and take shape. This happened over the course of the book, not in one or two "info dumps". Moning is actually pretty great with pacing her story. She scattered her seeds of world-building in the beginning of the story, they sprang to life in the middle of it and bloomed in the end. This gradual progression made Darkfever really easy to follow. Even if I was a little bit unclear on certain aspects of the world-building at some points, it was never for too long. Moning has a really subtle way of providing clarification, without rehashing.

If you can't tell, I was really impressed with Karen Marie Moning's writing style. At this point, I'm not ready to elevate her to Patricia Briggs status, but I'm definitely eager to continue with the Fever series. It has a ton of potential, especially where the world-building is concerned. I can't wait to see what she does with it.

Narration review: It was a total coincidence that I began listening to this series right after hearing and loving Joyce Bean's narration of Matchmaking for Beginners. To be completely honest, I don't even think I registered the narrator's name before pressing play on Darkfever. But it didn't take long after that for me to recognize Joyce's warm, rich voice. The fact that she could convincingly play an elderly woman in Matchmaking for Beginners and a 22-year-old young woman in Darkfever is a testament to her talent.

I can't overstate this: My listening experience with Darkfever would have been entirely changed (probably for the worse) if it had been narrated by someone else. Mac (the protagonist) is a hit or miss type of character. Because of her age and personality, she could easily be confused with a YA protagonist. From what I recall, she mentioned her nail color by name at least three times during the story (always some shade of pink). Picture Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. If Reese Witherspoon hadn't walked such a fine line during that portrayal, that character would have been unbearably annoying. But instead, she became lovable and endearing.

Joyce Bean's voice has a lower register than most female narrators, which makes her sound more mature. Her voice is exactly what the character of Mac needed to be taken seriously and tolerated through, let's be honest, some ridiculous scenarios. Her voicing of this character influenced and enriched my mental image of Mac. I have no doubt that was by design. A+ casting! ♣︎

📚 Series Review: The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

Installments (13+)

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, also known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries, is a series of books written by bestselling author Charlaine Harris that were first published in 2001 and now serve as the source material for the HBO television series True Blood.

The series is narrated in first person perspective by Sookie Stackhouse. She is a waitress and a telepath in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. The recently released thirteenth book, "Dead Ever After", is the final book in the series.

Please note: Each book in this series is a whole story with a beginning and an ending, however the plot of each book relies heavily on the prior books in the series. It is recommended that you read the full length novels in the order they were published.

Available purchase options for this series (via affiliate links) are located by clicking the cover images and buy links below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

True Blood, Paranormal Mysteries, Small Town Cozies, Vamp Lit, Faeries, Charlaine Harris

SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 18+
A Few Of my favorite things:
  • Sookie's accent
  • Pam's sassiness
  • Eric Northman shower scenes
  • Quinn mixing things up
  • Bubba being passed around
  • Jason's adorkable self
  • Sam's awkwardness around Sookie
  • Sookie's relationship with Hunter
  • BUBBA
  • The length of this series- I didn't want it to end!
  • Details, details, details
  • Novellas and side stories
  • Eric & Sookie's bond

The Audiobookworm's Review

Highlights: Triangles, Television, & World Building

The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, also known as The Southern Vampire Mysteries, will go down in history as one of my favorite series of all time. *mic drop*

*picks mic back up* To elaborate, it is everything that is pure and good in the world of paranormal books. Charlaine Harris is an exquisite author with the uncanny ability to "cozy up" a mystery series without "dumbing it down". This series is the perfect combination of two of her other series. It has the cozy factor of Harris' Aurora Teagarden series, which has been made into Hallmark movies, and the paranormal vibe of her Harper Conelly series.

Over the course of a 13 book series, a certain amount of world building is inevitable, even for the worst authors. However, Harris' descriptive writing made the quaint Louisiana town of Bon Temps as distinct as her characters. This small town coziness is a key element that was missing from the television adaptation True Blood. For that reason, I'm not sure that HBO was the right network to make the adaptation. I mean, HBO doesn't exactly do cozy, do they? They played up the sex appeal and buried the small town appeal of this series. I think HBO (purposefully?) misunderstood the tone of this series.

I didn't mention this in my review of Dead Until Dark, the first book in the series, because the TV show remained largely true to that installment (plot-wise). In fact, it isn't until later in the series that significant plot divergences are made. I have to say that I greatly prefer the book series over the TV adaptation (shocker!). If you are thinking of passing on the book series and just watching the TV show (or maybe you've already seen it and don't want to rehash everything in writing), I strongly encourage you to read the series anyway. I think you'll be surprised at, not only the significant plot differences, but the overall tone the series takes, which directly contrasts that of the show. After the fourth book or so, the book series becomes more like a cousin to the television adaptation, rather than a twin or sibling.

For example, Sookie's romantic life takes a very different path in the series and one which I definitely prefer. Without giving too much away, the book series changed my opinions of several of the key characters. It didn't make me completely switch teams in a primary love triangle, but it evened the odds significantly. In the series, Bill and Sookie have a much healthier (in my opinion) relationship than is portrayed in the show and that really changed my opinion of Bill's character (and Sookie's, for that matter).

Minor spoiler: Eric Northman has a much stronger role in the series and that is one of the biggest differences between the book and show. In the series, he, more so than Bill, is Sookie's primary love interest. Alcide is not really seen as a viable contender for Sookie's heart, but is treated more like a shallow rebound. Instead, her interests (outside of Bill and Eric) focus on Quinn, a character who does not even exist in the TV show.

With this series, Charlaine Harris has proven herself to be a master of world building. This world is made up of so many little details that knit together to create an expansive universe. There are so many side characters, each with unique back stories, that it's understandable why HBO had to cut out the majority of them. The existence of After Dead Proves this point best of all. After the 13th and final installment of the series, here is created a novella detailing, and I do mean detailing, the lives and events of (probably) every character ever mentioned in the series. That was a neat way to say goodbye to the series and it provided closure in a way I've never experienced with a book series before. It went a long way toward healing the hole in my heart that was left after finishing Dead Ever After.

I'm amazed at how quickly I was able to zip through this lengthy series. Harris' writing lends itself to audiobook listening extremely well. I was easily able to listen while I worked. Her straightforward manner of writing is easy to follow and does not require much mental energy to comprehend. She is not prone to fancy flourishes or fluff, but is descriptive all the same. Don't let the length of the series put you off. This series is like potato chips, once you start indulging, you just can't stop. ♣︎

🎙 Narration Review

Johanna Parker

Don't ask me to choose between Charlaine Harris' writing and Johanna Parker's narration because it would probably take the rest of my life to decide. I love them both equally and I also equally credit them with making my listening experience so spectacular. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have heard this series on audiobook from Parker. This is a case in which a narrator was able to elevate a written work above and beyond anything that could be found on the page or produced from the author alone. I do hope Harris realizes what justice Parker has done to this series. I do not hesitate in saying that hearing this series was one of the top three best listening experiences of my life.

Do yourself a favor today: Drink lots of water, take your vitamins, and start the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries on audiobook. You'll thank yourself (and me) later. ♣︎

Overall Series Rating

4.25 Stars

The gush-fest above and my average rating of 4.25 stars for this series may seem contradictory, but my love for this series is really about the underlying fabric and tone that stretched through the entire series, more than specific events in individual installments. It's hard to articulate, but this series just made me so happy and gave me the warm fuzzies while listening to it. That's hard to factor into a star rating.

This was a solid four star series. It wasn't perfect and the first half of the series was slightly better than the later books. I got the distinct feeling that the series changed course after the debut of True Blood (around the 7th or 8th book). Although I didn't enjoy the books after that point as much as the earlier ones, I'm a loyal listener and I was already invested in Sookie, Bon Temps, and the series enough to hang on.

Where To Find This Series

Audiobooks.com

If you are interested in giving this series a shot on audiobook (which I totally recommend!), there are a couple of great options available to you.

In my opinion, your best option for listening to the whole series is from Scribd. Scribd doesn't use credits, so you'll have access to the entire series and the novellas on audiobook. If you haven't tried Scribd yet, I recommend signing up for a free trial using this link, which will add an extra month to your free trial.

This series becomes available through Scribd around the 28th of each month, so be sure to download whatever installment you need soon after that date.

Your other option for hearing this series is, of course, Audible. If you 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 all or part of this series for free and help support The Audiobookworm!

📚 Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Reviewed Jan. 2019

Narrator: Amy McFadden, Joyce Bean
Length: 12 hours 49 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2018

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life - a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she's marrying the man of her dreams, she's sure this is the life she'll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé's irascible matchmaking great-aunt who's dying, and everything changes - just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She's even more astonished to find that she's inherited Blix's Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix's unfinished "projects": the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn't believe she's anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ AudiobookMatchmaking for Beginners was a fun little read. It was more substantive than I was expecting it to be, but still light and breezy, without being overly fluffy. Women’s fiction, with a touch of magical realism, Matchmaking for Beginners took me on a moderately paced roller coaster ride.

It was very well-developed, with both the characters and story arc being given ample time to breathe and grow. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly things that bothered me, particularly about Marnie’s a weakness for Noah. She laid down for him like a doormat, which I found to be annoyingly pathetic, if a little too realistic. Marnie was not the most endearing of characters. I think I was supposed to have liked her more than I did, but I really couldn’t stand her pushiness, especially where Patrick was concerned. She was narrow-minded and almost bullheaded about pushing her (ableist) agenda on him, with a little to no regard for his point-of-view. The author approached their dynamic from a black/white perspective and that’s not how the stories of those with disabilities need to be told.

Blix seemed to have a far better understanding of, not only Patrick, but human nature in general. I wish we had seen more of her and less of Marnie. Blix was a wonderful character. I would love a prequel story from a young Blix. She lived a lot of life before meeting Marnie, so there would be plenty to choose from. She was really fun!

Overall, I enjoyed Matchmaking for Beginners well enough to finish it and I would certainly pick up any Blix-focused spinoffs, but it also reminded me why I don’t frequent the women’s fiction genre too often. However, there was never a point where I considered not finishing this audiobook. Luckily, it was a super easy listen that I was able to complete in just three days. It was breezy enough for me to listen while I worked and it didn’t require much focus at all. I’m not opposed to trying out something else from this author. Although, probably something very different from this.

I would recommend Matchmaking for Beginners for a true optimist. Someone who enjoys Hallmark movies, astrology, and believes in soulmates. If you check any of those boxes, Matchmaking for Beginners is perfect for you.

Narration review: Amy McFadden and Joyce Bean did stellar jobs with the narration for Matchmaking for Beginners. I’ve heard Amy narrate before, but this was my first time listening to Joyce Bean and she absolutely blew me away! She voiced Blix and added so much to the character. I could practically envision Blix when I heard Joyce’s voice. So much of my affection for the character was realized through Bean’s narration. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for more audios from Joyce Bean and Amy McFadden. They both provided wonderful characterization and distinction to make this a great listening experience. ♣︎

📚 Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander, Book 0.5

Reviewed Dec. 2018

Narrator: Allan Scott-Douglas
Length: 3 hours 3 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2016

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend, Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds, both have good reason to stay out of Scotland, and both are still virgins despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue.

But Jamie's love life becomes infinitely more complicated - and dangerous - when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor's beautiful daughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be - but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they're truly dealing with.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ Audiobook⎮I don’t normally put a lot of stock into novellas, and I certainly don’t make a habit of reviewing them, but Virgins made such an impression on me that I had to pass my thoughts along. I’ve just finished the 7th Outlander book and I’ve begun to realize that it may be awhile before the ninth is released,  so I wanted to bide my time before plunging into #8. Luckily, there are quite a few novellas set in the Outlander universe and a spin-off mini-series focusing on Lord John Grey.

Virgins is a prequel to the Outlander series. In it, Jamie and Ian (Sr.) are young lads having adventures in France. These adventures are sometimes alluded to in the main series, so it was a treat to hear about them first-hand. It also takes us closer to the events surrounding Jamie’s father’s death, as Virgins begins right after his (first) mutilation at the hands of Blackjack Randall and Brian Fraser’s subsequent death. We don’t necessarily learn anything new about those events, we just hear about them from a slightly fresher perspective.

Virgins was actually quite humorous as well. Gabaldon’s sense of humor is very cheeky.  I’m sure she had a wonderful time writing about young Jamie and Ian as virgins in France. Their conversations reminded me of those had by pubescent lads exchanging (mostly incorrect) information regarding females and their anatomy. It is especially funny because we know the men Jamie and Ian turn out to be.

The main takeaway from Virgins was the closeness of Jamie and Ian. I mean, I knew that they had a close friendship, practically a brotherhood, but knowing something and seeing it are very different. In Virgins, I was able to really see their relationship as it was at possibly its strongest point. It was very moving, especially after reading the events of  An Echo in the BoneVirgins also shows us the meaning of “On your right, man”, a meaningful phrase between Jamie and Ian that becomes even more poignant in An Echo in the Bone. The events surrounding that phrase and its explanation in Virgins exemplify another important takeaway from the prequel. Diana Gabaldon is a “ show” type of author, rather than a “tell” author. She perfectly understands the pacing of a story and how to filter information through it. I think I learned more about her writing style in this 3-hour novella than I have in hundreds of hours of the main Outlander series. She doesn’t do information dumps and she would rather show something than tell it. I likely won’t remember the plot details of Virgins for much longerbut that won’t matter because it wasn’t Gabaldon’s point in writing the story anyway. Her  message was that of the bond between Jamie Fraser and Ian Murray (Sr.) and I received it loud and clear.

Narration review: I began Virgins prepared to be disappointed by the narration, simply because no one can possibly compare to Davina Porter. It just isn’t fair. I’ve been so spoiled while listening to her narrate the main series and I’ve come to exclusively associate her voice the Outlander characters. However, Allan Scott-Douglas did an admirable job of voicing Jamie and Ian. I will say, as much as I adore Davina Porter’s narration, it was refreshing to hear Jamie and Ian voiced by a male narrator. His interpretation of Ian was spot-on. I could perfectly envision Ian Murray when hearing him voiced. His interpretation of Jamie was a little less accurate, though. I’m not sure if I was comparing it to Davina’s interpretation or Sam Heughan’s on-screen portrayal, but something about it didn’t fully line up. Not that it was a huge problem, however. It may have bothered me more in a longer story, but I was able to enjoy Virgins just fine and I hope Allan Scott-Douglas narrates more of the Outlander novellas. ♣︎

📚 As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Reviewed Dec. 2018

Narrators: Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Wallace Shawn, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal
Length: 7 hours 1 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2014

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.

With a foreword by Rob Reiner, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

The full list of narrators includes: Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Chris Sarandon, Andy Scheinman, Wallace Shawn, Robin Wright, and Billy Crystal.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 5 Stars

5★ Audiobook⎮This is my favorite nonfiction audiobook ever. Granted, I haven't heard a ton of them, but this was still spectacular. I intend to hear more nonfiction audios in the future and if they are all like this, I would be thrilled. It's a perfect combination of two things I love: The Princess Bride and behind-the-scenes info. Some people think behind-the-scenes glimpses ruin the magic of a story, and I could see that happening for some people, but I crave any tidbit of insider information I can get my hands on and As You Wish was full of it.

The Princess Bride is my second favorite movie of all-time (following Harold and Maude). I remember the first time I saw it like it was yesterday. It's a flashbulb memory seared in my mind. As You Wish took me back in time to that night. For seven hours, I listened with fondness as Carey Elwes, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, and other members of the cast and crew relayed their memories of the filming and made me feel as if I had been part of the process.

Wallace Shawn, a favorite actor of mine, had one of the most surprising revelations in the book. Apparently, he was the second choice to play Vincini, after Danny Devito, and the knowledge of that greatly impacted his performance and experience with the film. This is both amusing and surprising because I cannot imagine anyone other than Wallace Shawn playing that part. His was one of the most iconic performances in the film. Another surprising revelation may not be surprising to some people who were around during the time of the movies original release. Apparently the film was not a huge box office success as I had assumed, but barely broke even. It received positive critical acclaim, but was not marketed correctly to the public, given its genre bending nature.

I think I enjoyed Rob Reiner's anecdotes the most. Reiner has always been an entertaining figure to me and his part in this book was no different. I've always known that he directed the film, but hearing of his experience with it added another dimension to that knowledge. Directors have such a significant impact on a film, but they are rarely recognized or credited as much as the actors. I'm glad I was able to hear Reiner's takes on The Princess Bride. It was also amusing to hear William Goldman's anxiety about the project. It's understandable, but still hard to fathom, knowing what a classic the film has now become.

After finishing this audiobook, I rewatched The Princess Bride. Now possessing the many insights As You Wish had provided, it was like watching it with new eyes. For example, knowing that Carey was really knocked unconscious when Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) hits him over the head after the fire swamp scene, made me feel like I was a Hollywood insider, possessing behind the scenes knowledge of the shoot. As You Wish was full of little nuggets like that and I found it absolutely thrilling! This experience was made even better because I watched the film with my younger cousin who was seeing it for the first time. I was able to regale her with all of the knowledge and insights I had just gleaned from As You Wish and she was thoroughly impressed.

Narration review: I know I've said this like three times already, but the best part of the audiobook was the narration. This was one of the best listening experiences I have ever had. As You Wish was narrated by a full cast and it was astonishing to see how many of the cast and crew members joined in on this project. The book itself was written by Cary Elwes, but he was joined by nearly all of the major players for the audiobook's production. That says a lot about their relationship and feelings toward this movie.

As a fan, it was surreal to hear the actual voices of Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Rob Reiner, Carol Kane, and Billy Crystal coming through my speaker, chapter after chapter. I can't put into words what a cool experience this was. Because of the narration and the participation of so much of the cast, the audiobook has two legs up on the book version of As You Wish. If you're a fan of the Princess bride, this audiobook is a must listen♣︎