📚 ☞ Buddy Listen: Me Before You ☜

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I’ve seen Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You floating around on Goodreads, but was never especially motivated to start it, mainly because I wasn’t fully aware of the plot premise. That is, until this trailer changed all of that. Have a look:

Yep, that’s Daenerys Targaryen and Finnick Odair!

Several minutes later, Dana (from Dana and the Books) and I are doing our first ever “Buddy Listen”! It’s like a “Buddy Read” but with audiobooks. Basically, we are listening to the same audiobook together…an ocean apart… It’s more fun than it sounds. Well, I think it will be. I’ve never done it before. I’ll let you know how it turns out when I review the audiobook. Hint: I’m 30 minutes in and it’s going fantastically! This is my first Jojo Moyes story, so unless she pulls a fast one and decides to break my heart along the way, I think it’ll be a pretty positive review. Stay tuned! ♣︎

📚 Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

251876401Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Witchlands #1

Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2016

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 14h 41m
Published: Listening Library⎮2016

3.25 ★ Audiobook⎮ I could lie to myself and say that it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I tried denying that through most of the book because I really wanted to like it as much as everyone else. I didn’t want to be the only “Negative Nelly” out there harping and complaining. But putting a sugary spin on this wouldn’t be an honest review. The truth is that Truthwitch gave me more grief than enjoyment.

At first, it was hard to put a finger on my issue with it and then I realized that was because I had multiple issues with it. It was like the entire Throne of Glass series combined into one installment and put on steroids. Beginning installments for high fantasy series usually start out slowly, with lots of descriptions, character backgrounds, and world-building. Truthwitch had very little of of any of that. I was shocked at the lack of imagery. In a fantasy world such as this, I want vivid descriptions of everything. In my opinion, Dennard’s descriptive writing could be called “minimalistic”, to say the least.

High fantasy series also normally start out slowly to give the reader/listener time to process this new world and develop opinions about the characters (opinions that will probably change later, but still). Imagine if you accidentally started the Throne of Glass series with Heir of Fire. You were just thrown in with very little help and expected to keep up during all of the action. You may be alright with that scenario, but I’m certainly not. And that’s exactly how listening to Truthwitch was for me. It was very demanding on the reader/listener.

There were several key concepts in story that I was never given ample time to grasp and I still have no clue what they mean, even after finishing the story. That, friends, is not how it should be done. This story was also extremely unbalanced with entirely too much action and too little processing time. In my opinion, Dennard should have spread the action in this book out through at least one or two more installments and filled the rest of this with character development. In an earlier post, I said listening to Truthwitch was like chewing a tough piece of meat and I stand by that analogy.

Obviously, I am in the minority here. But this is a bandwagon I simply cannot jump onto. Susan Dennard had some really great, original ideas with Truthwitch, but I feel they were executed poorly. For example, I love the idea of two badass best friend protagonists who would do anything to protect each other. That was the driving relationship in the story, not the romance. Again, that was a really great idea that wasn’t given proper development and that is so frustrating to me because this could have been really very good. But it’s hard to enjoy swimming when you can barely keep your head above water.

Narration reviewCassandra Campbell was an excellent narrator. I enjoyed her accents and I appreciated the character voice distinction. That made the multiple POVs easier to handle. Her voice had a very nice and mature tone to it. It somehow managed to be soothing and quietly intense simultaneously. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book DepositoryAudiobooks.comAudiobooks Now and Audible

Presenting The Fantasy Word Challenge

FWC

As a fiction fanatic, I’ve noticed that several words are frequently recycled in book titles, particularly in the Fantasy genre (and crossovers).

➜Tally up the number of appearances each of these 25 words make in your list of past reads (or listens) & TBR. Feel free to tag anyone! #FantasyWordChallenge

  1. Ashes
  2. Beauty/Beautiful
  3. Bone
  4. City
  5. Crown
  6. Darkness
  7. Daughter
  8. Elements/Elemental
  9. Embers
  10. Fire
  11. Glass
  12. Ice
  13. Ink
  14. Iron
  15. King
  16. Midnight
  17. Night
  18. Queen
  19. Shadows
  20. Smoke
  21. Snow
  22. Star
  23. Thorns
  24. Time
  25. Wicked

Have fun!

*Disclaimer: I apologize if this challenge (or something very like it) has been done before. No idea infringement was intended!

January Rewind

Jan Rewind

 

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10

Over the past month, I have heard and reviewed ten audiobooks, listed here:

AoM

It’s hard for me to ever just pick one of anything (shopping is a real struggle), especially when each of these three audiobooks are so deserving. These are the audiobooks that were most savored in my mind and my opinions of them have only increased with time. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is my most recent completion (along with its sequel), and is therefore weighing very heavily on my mind (I can’t stop thinking about it!). I have surprised myself (and probably some readers) by not selecting Passenger as a January favorite. I enjoyed Passenger very much while listening to it but, unlike the three above, it doesn’t stick out in my mind weeks after completion. I remember liking it, but I’d really have to concentrate (or read my previous review) to tell you exactly why I liked it so much. January was pretty equally divided between the Fantasy and YA Contemporary genres, which was a first for me, as I usually tend to lean more towards Fantasy. So it is very surprising to me that two of my three favorite audiobooks for the month are contemporary. Not only have I found a passion for a new genre, but I also discovered several new (to me) authors (Jenny Han, Jasmine Warga, April White, & Alexandra Bracken), a new Fantasy series to obsess over (The Immortal Descendants), and a couple of new narrators that I really enjoy (more on that below).

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January was really a great month for narration! Ron Herczig and Laura Knight Keating stood out the most (for positive reasons) and I’ve added both of them to my list of favorite narrators. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn that, in addition to being an exceptional voice actor, Ron is also a really down-to-earth guy and is completely open to chatting with audiobook fans on Twitter!

Honorable mention goes to Euan Morton (narrator of Carry On) for having a voice like warm cider and Saskia Maarleveld (narrator of Passenger) for best accents.

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Tabling an audiobook is something I do when it becomes apparent that I won’t be finishing it in the near future. I table for many different reasons, as demonstrated by the four above. I was slated to finish Dreams of Gods and Monsters in December to round out Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, but I seem to have lost interest somewhere during the second installment. Vicious was something I was really looking forward to hearing, both because of the synopsis and the positive reviews. I got a pretty good way through it before realizing I wasn’t into it at all. The premise is really enticing, but the writing and narration both fall a little flat for me.

The Truth About Alice is really, really good. It has multiple narrators (which I love) who all do excellent jobs of embracing their characters. The writing is meant to put a spotlight on the devastating effects of high school gossip, cliques, and slut-shaming. It’s meant to evoke powerful feelings from the reader/listener. The thing is, it did all of those things too well. I was enjoying the audiobook up to the point when it started to really hit home with me and began bringing back all of the terrible feelings and memories from high school that I’ve tried so hard to leave in the past. Seriously, it’s like I was right back there, even though it’s been 10 years since I graduated. Job well done on the part of the author and narrators, but I had to table this because listening to it wasn’t fun for me anymore. I do plan on going back to it in the future, but I will definitely keep a closer watch on my emotions as I finish it. Truthwitch should have a little asterisk by its picture up here, because I haven’t technically tabled it…yet. I might not ever have to table it. I might get this sudden burst of energy and determination and knock out the remaining 25% (yes, I’m that close). I should have reasonably finished it already but this audiobook takes so much effort to get through. It’s like chewing a really tough piece of me. I’m trying to take it a little bit at a time, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll have the patience.

 

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LA AC2

The Listen Along Audiobook Club (LAAC) was just founded two days ago (January 30), some no audiobooks were heard as a group for the month of January. But we did begin getting to know one another, exchange social media links, and vote on which audiobooks we wanted to hear in February. At the end of January, we have 25 wonderful members!

➜The February selections are I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, & The Siren by Keira Cass.

 

 

 

 

📚 P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

20698530Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Laura Knight Keating
Length: 8h 59m
Published: Recorded Books⎮2015

5 ★ Audiobook⎮ Oh, y’all! I’m so sad that this series is over! I’m telling you, for the few days it took me to listen to it, this series was absolutely everything to me. I was so consumed. It’s just precious and so hilarious. This series is the audiobook equivalent of a “happy place” for me now. I think about it and get this exuberant feeling of joy in my chest and a goofy grin on my face. Great audiobooks do that to a person, you know.

I can’t even be mad with Jenny Han for not making it a trilogy because the way it ended was so… right. Although, I wouldn’t exactly discourage another installment…Maybe just a novella? Pretty please? The thought of an epilogue makes my heart flutter! But no, I respect Jenny Han’s decision to leave things as they are because you really shouldn’t mess with perfection. And that’s what P.S. I Still Love You was: Perfection. She had me there for a minute, though. Threatening to sink my ship and all. But this wasn’t that kind of story. P.S. I Still Love You is the kind of story that makes you just plain happy.

This series will always be special to me, like a first love. There really isn’t anything left to say that hasn’t already been covered in my review of the first installment or in the sugar-fueled gush session that happened on Goodreads last night when I finished it. I’m already working Han’s other stories into my audiobook budget (I ration my credits!), so you definitely haven’t seen the last of her on The Audiobookworm, that’s for sure! I just hope her other work is as utterly charming as this series.

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Narration reviewLaura Knight Keating‘s narration skills absolutely blew me away. Particularly, her ability to give each character an incredibly distinct voice. The voice distinction between characters was so significant that there were a couple of times I wondered if she was sharing narration duties with another voice actor. I also appreciate the tone she used to voice the 16-year-old protagonist, Lara Jean. It was youthful, upbeat, and innocent, without being juvenile, whiny, or annoying. A narrator really has to have a solid grasp on a character’s personality in order to convey it through voice alone. I felt that Laura Knight Keating excelled at accomplishing this feat, which instantly makes her one of my favorite narrators. As excellent as Jenny Han’s writing is, Keating’s narration brings so much more to the audiobook than could ever be available in written format. Final verdict, choose the audiobook! ♣︎

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

📚 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

15749186Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Laura Knight Keating
Length: 8h 22m
Published: Recorded Books⎮2014

5 ★ Audiobook⎮ This audiobook. This freaking audiobook. It’s 8 hours and 22 minutes of sheer and utter delight. Funny story, I accidentally listened to half of this story’s sequel (P.S. I Still Love You) before realizing that it wasn’t the first in the series. Normally, that would make me flip out. I hate listening to a series out of order. But you know what? It wasn’t a huge setback like I would have anticipated. It’s really a credit to Jenny Han’s writing ability that I was able to [inadvertently] jump into the middle of the story and not even notice for several hours.

Han has described this series as “two halves of a heart” and that’s exactly what it feels like. The two blend so seamlessly that I couldn’t tell the middle of the story from the beginning. Once I finally realized my mistake and started this⬆︎ story, I was able to get more details regarding the background of events that I heard in the first half of the sequel. Am I confusing you?

Suffice it to say that this series is so incredible that not even I could flub it up by hearing it out of order. Never have I ever wanted to give an audiobook more than five stars (on a five star scale) until this one. It’s just so cute! It’s fluffy without being obnoxious and had me giggling every five minutes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something serious and thought-provoking, but other times I just want something that will make me smile. This is definitely the latter. It definitely fell under the category of “Daytime Listens” (something I can listen to during the day, without requiring much concentration). It was a super easy listen and I don’t think I’ve ever quite enjoyed something this much.

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Narration reviewLaura Knight Keating‘s narration skills absolutely blew me away. Particularly, her ability to give each character an incredibly distinct voice. The voice distinction between characters was so significant that there were a couple of times I wondered if she was sharing narration duties with another voice actor. I also appreciate the tone she used to voice the 16-year-old protagonist, Lara Jean. It was youthful, upbeat, and innocent, without being juvenile, whiny, or annoying. A narrator really has to have a solid grasp on a character’s personality in order to convey it through voice alone. I felt that Laura Knight Keating excelled at accomplishing this feat, which instantly makes her one of my favorite narrators. As excellent as Jenny Han’s writing is, Keating’s narration brings so much more to the audiobook than could ever be available in written format. Final verdict, choose the audiobook! ♣︎

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

Introducing the Listen Along Audiobook Club

There are so many regular ol’ book club groups out there, but what about us self-proclaimed “audiobook addicts”?

The Listen Along Audiobook Club is designed especially for avid audiobook listeners. It operates just like a normal book club, but with all the extra benefits that audiobook lovers regularly enjoy.

The primary genres featured include, but aren’t limited to, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, & Science Fiction.

You can officially join LAAC on Goodreads (and friend me, while you’re at it!) and [officially/unofficially] participate through The Audiobookworm’s other platforms, as well: here, Twitter, Tumblr.

*Please note that you don’t have to strictly be an audiobook listener to participate, but it is encouraged in order to foster audiobook-related discussion about the narration, etc. But again, it’s not mandatory. Booklovers of any format are always welcome!

 

Fantasy Face-off: Round One

September was a big YA Fantasy month for me and some audiobooks definitely stood out more than others (not always for positive reasons, though). I never wrote full reviews for any of these, so let’s see which audiobooks were left standing when the dust cleared!

[Ring announcer voice]

First in the ring, we have:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson vs. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Managed by (Narrator): Jennifer Ikeda⎮ Elizabeth Evans

Weighing in at (Length): 12h 9m ⎮ 12h 47m

Representing (Publisher): HarperCollins (2012) ⎮ Audible, Inc. (2013)

Knock Outs (Rating): 5★ ⎮ 3.5★

Post-Match Breakdown: Throne of Glass (ToG) was heavily favored to win this matchup, but never overlook an underdog. The Girl of Fire and Thorns (TGFT) was narrated by (in my opinion) an all-star voice actor, Jennifer Ikeda. Although Elizabeth Evans did a fine job of narrating Throne of Glass, Ikeda may be one of my favorite female narrators. Her voice is like warm honey and nearly lulled me to sleep on several occasions. I started these series in September and have since finished them both (well, as far as I can go with ToG). Throne of Glass is a longer series and starts out rather slowly, probably to build momentum for future installments, whereas The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a trilogy that comes out swinging. Celaena, the protagonist in the Throne of Glass series is constantly hailed as a “badass” and all that, but Elisa (TGFT) is hands-down one of my favorite female protagonists of all-time. In this first installment, she is insecure and overweight, not at all like her confident, mesmerizing sister and, more importantly, not at all like the typical YA female protagonist. Yet, as the story progresses, Elisa becomes her own type of badass. Her character transformation was humbling to witness. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like Celaena progressed much in this installment (or really in the entire series). The ToG series picks up around the middle of the second installment, but judging by this installment alone, The Girl of Fire and Thorns easily takes the prize.

Next up, is:

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows vs. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Managed by (Narrator): Katherine Taub ⎮ Kate Simses

Weighing in at (Length): 9h 14m ⎮ 9h 12m

Representing (Publisher): HarperCollins (2012) ⎮ HarperCollins (2011)

Knock Outs (Rating): 3.5★ ⎮ 3★

Post-Match Breakdown: Only half of a star separated these two contenders and, to be honest, I originally gave Incarnate three stars when I first heard it. Both of these ratings were no doubt heavily influenced by the narration. Try as I might to keep my feelings between authors and narrators separate, there is bound to be some overlapping when the two come together to create a complete audiobook experience. Neither of these narrators will ever be my favorites and I am not in a rush to hear either of them again anytime soon. The narration made it particularly difficult to finish Incarnate, but I still feel like that was the stronger story. Narration aside, Incarnate‘s plot interested me a fair bit more than Shatter Me. But I will give Shatter Me credit for having interesting sound effects. There was a “scritch” sound every time the protagonist scratched out something she was writing. There was an element of uniqueness to the Shatter Me audiobook experience that I feel translated well from the physical format.

To me, all books/audiobooks leave a certain flavor (opinion) with you after finishing it. With time, that flavor can either savor (improve), sour (turn bad), or stay the same. The thing that persuaded me to award Incarnate the winning half star was the fact that it has savored in my mind since hearing it four months ago. When I think back on it now, I find myself recalling the parts of the plot that really interested me and sort of glossing over the negatives. From what I remember, the narrator was my primary complaint, so I would still recommend choosing the book format over audiobook for Incarnate, as well as Shatter Me.  If I ever decide to continue on with either of these series, Shatter Me  may have a chance for a rematch, but in this round, I’m declaring Incarnate the winner (but barely).

And finally, the main event:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas vs. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Managed by (Narrator): Jennifer Ikeda ⎮ Kate Rudd

Weighing in at (Length): 16h 7m ⎮ 10h 56m

Representing (Publisher): Recorded Books (2015) ⎮ HarperCollins (2014)

Knock Outs (Rating): 5★ ⎮ 4★

Post-Match Breakdown: This match featured one of my already well-beloved narrators, Jennifer Ikeda, and an author I was on the fence about. As seen in a previous matchup, I had ambivalent feelings towards Sarah J. Maas based on the only previous exposure I had to her writing, the Throne of Glass series. I was unsure about whether or not to give her newest work A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) a shot, but seeing that Ikeda was the narrator persuaded me. I’m telling you, some narrators are so incredible that I am willing to risk 9-12 hours of potentially horrible story just to hear their voices again. Fortunately for me, ACOTAR turned out to be the farthest thing from horrible. I don’t think I gave many audiobooks five stars in 2015, but this one was well deserved. On the other side of the ring, Snow Like Ashes put up a very, very good fight and even pulled out some last minute trick moves in an attempt to claim the victory. There was a blindsiding punch towards the end of the story that I never saw coming. If you’ve read/listened to it, you know exactly which twist I’m talking about. Still, the comeback attempt wasn’t enough to compete with ACOTAR, which had a very balanced and well-paced attack. It also wasn’t enough to warrant 5 stars, but I still think 4 stars is a fair rating for this rookie (debut) installment. It has a promising world and, now that I know the kinds of punches Sara Raasch is capable of pulling, I’m eager to move on to the next installment (which is out now!). With a perfect score, A Court of Thorns and Roses is the heavyweight champion of this Fantasy Face-off! ♣︎

📚 Change by Chris Selna

22060994Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below this review. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Ron Herczig
Length: 2h 19m
Publisher: Chris Selna⎮2015

4.5 ★ AudiobookChange is not the type of story that I have typically listened to in the past, so I was initially unsure of what to expect. The first thing that caught my attention before the listening experience even began was the length of the audiobook (less than 2.5 hours long). I’m used to listening to audiobooks that are anywhere from 8 to 22 hours long. I couldn’t imagine how an author could produce a literary journey in barely over two hours. Again, I went into this with a completely open-mind and no previous assumptions as to the direction this story would take. And let me tell you, I was entirely unprepared for the emotional effect Change would have on me.

The only thing I knew from the description was that it was about a man (Robert) who wakes up one day having been transformed into a bug. Yes, a bug. Sounds sort of sci-fi, no? It’s actually a modernized version of Franz Kafka’s early 20th century novella The Metamorphosis. I never had the opportunity to read The Metamorphosis in high school, but even if I had, I don’t think I would have given it proper appreciation. I generally try to review immediately upon completion oven audiobook, but this was a story that I had to “sit on” for a while after finishing in order to process my multitude of thoughts and emotions. The retelling was incredibly easy to comprehend and modernized in a way so that the average 21st century individual can not only understand its message, but relate to it, as well. I think that was the most surprising part. That the main character, who is a bug, is so relatable. Robert is never seen in the story in human form. He is an insect from the very beginning, yet he retains his core humanity which is what so endears him to the reader/listener. As a psychology student, the family dynamic in this story was extremely interesting from a more clinical view, as well. Even now, I don’t think the whole of this story’s message has registered with me yet and I doubt that Change is something I will be able to shake from my thoughts very soon. This is a story that will be with me for a while.

Narration review: The second most immediate thing that caught my attention about this audiobook (after the short length) was the narration. Now, don’t go thinking that I’m blowing smoke just because of the little disclaimer down below. I don’t play like that. If I don’t like something, I’ll say so (see previous reviews as proof). If you still don’t believe me, go to listen to a sample of his work. Ron Herczig is the real deal, y’all. I knew from the audio sample that this man was a true performer. And that’s exactly what this was, a performance. It actually feels like a disservice to call him a “narrator” because the term voice actor feels so much more accurate. I don’t think I have ever heard a narrator voice actor put so much emotion into an audiobook. His Boston accent alone had me hooked in the opening minutes (very Kennedy-esque) and constantly made me smile throughout. His voice was a pure joy to hear, even if the story was heartbreaking. I hope to be able to hear more of his work soon. ♣︎

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

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback) and Audible

Series Review: The Maze Runner series

Installments (3+*):

The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure The Kill Order (0.5), The Maze Runner Files

6186357 7631105 7864437 

*New prequel installment (0.6) to be released on September 27, 2016

Individual ratings & information:

Recommended for lovers of:

The Hunger Games, Divergent, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Action, Fast-pacing, Conspiracies

Suggested age group: 14+

{I’m doing a compiled review for this series because I completed it before becoming a full-time reviewer.}

I’ve seen a lot of people DNF-ing this series and it totally befuddles me. This was one of the first audiobook series I ever completed (way back in 2014) and, although a lot of the details have slipped away from me, I clearly remember my level of enjoyment being sky high. This series is super fast-paced and really unique. I tend to burn out on dystopians pretty quickly because a) it’s mostly formulaic with little originality b) the author focuses too much on the dystopian setting and doesn’t devote enough time to character development c) I can’t make myself care about the welfare of the characters. I did not have any of those issues with this series. The setting (especially for the first two installments) was incredibly original. The intensity factor was amazing. I was completely invested in the well-being of the characters and each of them had very distinct personalities. The plot, the plot, THE PLOT. This plot was so addicting. It grabbed me from the beginning of the first installment and refused to let me go, so much so that I even did something I hardly ever do and listened to a 0.5 story (a mini-installment). I only do that for series that I am insanely invested in! After finishing The Death Cure, I wasn’t ready to let the incredible world that James Dashner created go, so I scrambled to get my hands on The Kill Order and enjoyed every single second of it. For some reason, it seemed to provide more closure than the ending of The Death Cure. I’ve just found out (via Dashner’s Twitter) that he will be releasing another prequel story The Fever Code, “the story of how the maze was built” this September. I am so excited to be jumping back into the world The Maze Runner. In preparation, I think I will finally see The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials movies that were released a while back and try to get my hands on The Maze Runner Files mini-installment to jog my memory!

Narration review: Mark Deakins

The fact that I can think of this audiobook series and instantly recall the narrator’s name (Mark Deakins) is probably a good sign, eh? I have been known to gravitate towards certain audiobooks based on narration alone and discovering that Deakins narrates part of Reawakened is definitely making me want to give it a higher priority placement in my TBR. ♣︎

Overall series rating:

4.5 (rating for The Kill Order not considered, since it wasn’t a full installment)