📚 Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

23734628Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 13h 42m
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2015

4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮I honestly don’t know where to start with this review because I’m not really sure what the hell I just heard. But I do know that I liked it. Throughout the entire audiobook, I kept telling myself that this story is like a mystery flavored Bertie’s Bott Flavored Bean. It’s good (as long as it’s not bogey flavored), but no one really knows what they are ingesting. Is it supposed to be fanfiction? Written by Cath? Is it supposed to be part of the original Simon Snow series from Fangirl? All of these questions (and many more) kept popping up while I was listening and I had to keep reminding myself to just go with it. The one thing I am sure of is that this story is too glaringly similar to Harry Potter to be brushed off as a coincidence. Anyone that insists otherwise is fooling themselves. But bless my Harry Potter-loving heart, I don’t even care. It’s been almost a full decade since the last Harry Potter book was released and I will take what I can get, even if it means devouring watered-down knockoffs. To me, it seems that Rowell obviously knew this book would be seen as an imitation of Rowling’s work and decided to take things a bit further by almost making it a work of satire. Certain elements of this story were so ridiculous that I felt Rowell was coming dangerously close to making fun of the reader. Now, that may be pushing it. Maybe I just didn’t “get” Rowell’s point in writing this. I did really enjoy almost every other element of this story. Rowell has something great here, but naming spells “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat” and other completely asinine things made it difficult to take seriously (yes, I know it Fantasy). At times, it seemed like she was treating the entire book as a spoof and that didn’t sit particularly well with me. But that’s my only beef and if it hadn’t bothered me so much throughout the story, I wouldn’t have mentioned it all. I enjoyed this audiobook so freaking much, that I found myself delaying it sometimes just to prolong the experience. I also came to realize that Simon and Baz happen to be the first male/male couple in one of my audiobooks (yeah, I really need more diversity on my TBR). About halfway through this audiobook, I began to ship them SO HARD. Although I liked this story way more than I liked Fangirl, I definitely think I identified more with Cath after listening to Carry On.

Narration review: The narrator (Euan Morton) absolutely made this audiobook. His voice was so comforting and gave me “warm fuzzies”. For the most part, he did a good job of changing his voice and/or accent to help the listener distinguish between the characters. By the way, this audiobook included a little melodic piece before and after the beginning of the audiobook (as some do). It was only after completing the audiobook that I realized how similar the Carry On melody is to the tune used in the Harry Potter films (you know, the one probably playing your head right now). ♣︎

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📚 Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor


84901121Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1

Description⎮Reviewed Oct. 2015

Narrator: Kristine Hvam
Length: 12h 32m
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2011

4.25 ★ Audiobook⎮My rating for this is somewhere between 4 and 4.5. I’m in love with this series already. If I could, I would start the next installment immediately. This is unlike anything I can remember reading. I am so tired of reading about angels, vampires, werewolves, and witches. Although there are angels in this series, they are done very uniquely and are only half of the fantastical species this trilogy focuses on. There is a slight case of what appears to be “insta-love”, but all is made up for in good time. In short: No werewolves. No vampires. No witches. And best of all, no love triangle. The writing is beautiful. This is fantasy done right and it definitely lives up to the hype. I just hope the next two installments are as great as this one!

Narration review: By the way, the narrator of this audiobook (Kristine Hvam) has instantly made it onto my favorites list. Her accents were incredible! ♣︎

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📚 Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


Caster Chronicles #4

Description⎮Reviewed Oct. 2015

Narrator: Kevin T. Collins, Khristine Hvam
Length: 11h 21m
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2012

4 ★ Audiobook⎮This installment reaffirmed why I love this series so much. Don’t get me wrong, it was heart wrenching, but I loved every second of it. Other authors take note: THIS is how do you finish off a series and leave your readers happy. I was left with a feeling of closure after reading this. Closure at the end of the series is practically a luxury these days. It still left me wanting more, but only because I didn’t want the experience to the end (not in a “loose ends” sort of way). Thankfully, I remembered that there are a few novellas floating around out there!

Narration reviewI cannot say enough about the audiobook experience for this series. It has made Kevin T. Collins one of my favorite narrators and to make it even better, Khristine Hvam joins him in Beautiful Redemption to voice Lena’s POV. Hvam was already on my favorite narrator list (Frostbite, Shadow Kiss, Daughter of Smoke and Bone series). But even more than the narrators, this audiobook series excelled at creating and maintaining the mood of the story through music and sound effects. Well done all around! ♣︎

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

📚 Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


Caster Chronicles #3

Description⎮Reviewed Oct. 2015

Narrator: Kevin T. Collins
Length: 16h 15m
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2011

3.5 ★ Audiobook⎮I’m still enjoying this series, although the ending (among other things) made the whole book seem a little bit like a bridge novel to get to number four. Book number three in a series tends to be my favorite for some reason (Eclipse, A Storm of Swords), usually because it is action-filled, but this one really wasn’t. Although you do get a lot backstory, which I appreciate.

Narration review: With that said, the audiobook experience (narration, sound effects, music) was absolutely amazing! This is a series that I believe is actually enhanced through audiobook. Awesome narrator and the music really sets the “mood” for the story. If choosing between the physical book or the audiobook, I definitely recommend the latter for this entire series. ♣︎

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

📚 A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray


Firebird #1

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 9h 18m
Publisher: HarperCollins⎮2014

5 ★ Audiobook⎮I picked this up thinking it would be a YA Contemporary story (based on the cover, I suppose). Boy, was I surprised! This story perfectly captured how I envision alternate universes. It was really everything I wanted A Darker Shade of Magic to be, but not nearly as slow. The pace was perfect. The writing was straightforward and to the point without being dull. There was so much action that there wasn’t a lot of time for in-depth character development or a whole lot of backstory, but I honestly didn’t mind since I was more invested in the AU storyline than the specific characters. I loved the AU descriptions and each universe was better than the last. This was an extremely easy and pretty fast read.

Narration review: The audiobook narrator (Tavia Gilbert) did an excellent job of distinguishing voices/accents between characters and between universes. This element brought an extra layer to the audiobook that the physical book just could not have. For example, having Marguerite think in an American accent and speak with a Russian accent while in the Russian AU was absolutely brilliant! I definitely think the audiobook has a leg up on the physical version. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book DepositoryAudiobooks.com and Audible

📚 Tempting Fate by April White


Immortal Descendants #2

Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Gemma Barrett
Length: 15h 0m
Publisher: April White⎮2015

4.5 ★ Audiobook⎮I’m giving this installment of the Immortal Descendants series .25 less of a star than the first because, although I am still completely enthralled by Saira and her world, the premise of this particular story (time-traveling to Tudor England) just did not captivate me quite as much as Jack the Ripper did in the first installment. The story seemed to slow down when Saira was in the 16th century and I found myself longing for her to return to St. Bridget’s. I’ve fallen so much in love with the world and characters April White has created that I hardly wanted to depart from it/them in order to move the story forward. This was surprising to me since I am such a lover of royal history and the primary reason I was initially looking toward this installment was because of the Elizabethan storyline. While I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with that part of the story, the historical elements weren’t as enticing to me as in the last book. Luckily, everything else was and I became even more invested in Saira (and “Ringo”) in this book. I still love the concept of Time, Nature, War, Fate, and Death being portrayed as people and having modern day descendents with special abilities. However, I’m still not crazy over Saira’s romantic interest being a vampire (did he have to be a vampire? Really?). This series has so much uniqueness going for it that a vampire love interest feels a bit like settling for mediocrity. Thankfully, this author is not keen on shoving love scenes down her readers’ throats. The very minor parts of this book that I did not fully enjoy were definitely overshadowed by those that I did, so I really have no reason to complain. This is still an extremely under-appreciated series that deserves more so much more exposure than it gets.

Narration review:  Now, onto the part of this review I have been just itching to write: the narration critique. As my name suggests, I primarily listen to (and review) audiobooks and this is an audiobook I absolutely cannot recommend. This was, by far, the worst listening experience I have ever had with an audiobook. It bears no reflection on the story itself (which was reviewed above), but on the narrator and whomever approved this audiobook. Firstly, I have no earthly clue as to why someone thought it was a good idea to hire a British-accented narrator to voice a Californian protagonist. Seriously, no clue. It made this book feel like part of a completely different series than the first. But I could get over that. The worst part was that I could hear audible swallowing from the narrator. That may not sound like a big deal, but after the first five minutes I wanted to claw my eyes out from sheer frustration and annoyance. It took every ounce of will I had to stay focused on the story. If this story had been even the tiniest bit less incredible, I would have given up on it in under an hour, just because of the narrator. This audiobook sounded like an amateur recording on YouTube. So, unless you have the patience of Job, read the physical book.

Update: Just to clarify (because it isn’t very clear in my original review), my annoyance was with the production/audio quality and not the narrator. I am certainly not faulting her for swallowing/ being human. I was simply annoyed that those noises were picked up by the microphone, which was disruptive to my listening experience. Gemma Boyle has a lovely voice and none of this has to do directly with her or her narrating ability. I am happy that the third installment seems to have none of these issues! ♣︎

$ Available at The Book Depository (paperback) and Audible

📚 A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

A Darker Shade of Magic #1

Description⎮Reviewed Nov. 2015

Narrator: Steven Crossley
Length: 11h 34m
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2015

4 ★ Audiobook⎮Despite my hearty loathing the audiobook’s narration, this is still a four-star story. This was almost everything I’ve ever wanted from a parallel universe story (and what I was hoping A Trial by Fire would be more like). I just wish there had been more time devoted to the world-building aspect of the story. I still feel like I only know the bare bones about each London. There is so much potential for story expansion that the sheer idea of it is overwhelming. I want to know more about Kell’s backstory and see more of him in Lila’s London. Oh, and I want to know more about Lila’s backstory as well. It is for these reasons that I will be picking up the sequel pretty soon after its release.

Narration reviewWith all of that said, I don’t think I can recommend this narrator. He’s just okay for the most part, but his voice as “Lila” is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Actually, I can’t stand how he voices any of the women. If choosing between the physical book and the audiobook, go with the physical book. ♣︎

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📚 The Shining by Stephen King


The Shining #1

Description⎮Reviewed Oct. 2015

Narrator: Campbell Scott
Length: 15h 49m
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2005

4 ★ Audiobook⎮Seriously, does this guy ever disappoint?! Stephen King is always a sure thing for enjoyable reading and a guaranteed cure for a reading slump. This book was somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars. It was a great Halloween read that left me adequately spooked, but still able to sleep at night. He always strikes the perfect balance for me between spooky and terrifying. This story was amazingly simple, yet thought-provokingly complex at the same time. If every other author on Earth could take notes from him on this, that would be ideal. This novel also paired nicely with AHS: Hotel. I had it in my mind to save the sequel for next October, but I highly doubt that will actually happen. Let’s see how close I can get to next October without reading Doctor Sleep…

Narration reviewI very much enjoyed listening to this narrator (Campbell Scott), a pattern I have noticed among Stephen King audiobooks. If his voice sounds familiar, it’s because Scott is actually and accomplished television/movie actor, as well as narrator. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book DepositoryAudiobooks.com (paperback) and Audible

📚 Unhappenings by Edward Aubry


Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Josh Hurley
Length: 12h 6m
Publisher: Audible, Inc.⎮2015

4 ★ Audiobook⎮Whew. This was a trip! And by “trip” I mean an absolute roller coaster ride. It was extremely enjoyable and fairly easy to comprehend. The author obviously took great care to ensure the story’s comprehension for all types of readers (even those not particularly scientifically-minded, like myself), while still maintaining a certain degree of plausibility. As someone who looks for the logic in all things, I greatly appreciated the detailed, yet lay explanations provided in this book. The parts of it that did feel a tiny bit far-fetched (evil mastermind Carlton) did so on their own, not as a direct result of the time travel premise. For the first 2/3 of the story, I was hanging on the narrator’s every word. Things got a little weird towards the end with all of the apocalypses and it felt like the story was in fast forward mode with so much back and forth through time. The epilogue was satisfying in a bittersweet sort of way, but I commend the author on resisting the urge to give it a “happily ever after” ending. I wouldn’t have complained if he had, but this type of ending somehow seems more appropriate for this particular story. In retrospect, this story was a lot darker than I realized whilst reading it. The somber ending definitely stayed true to the book as a whole. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as my last time travel book, Time After Time, but significantly more than The First 15 Lives of Harry August.

Narration review: Josh Hurley was a good narrator. There weren’t any special effects to enhance the experience (like with Illuminae or The Beautiful Creatures series), but I could hear the emotion in the narrator’s voice, especially in the end. It added so much to the story. ♣︎

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📚 My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga


Description⎮Reviewed Jan. 2016

Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 8h 14m
Publisher: HarperCollins⎮2015

5 ★ AudiobookMy Heart and Other Black Holes was a rare combination of simple and complex. The topic it addressed (teenage depression/mental illness and suicide) is definitely a profound issue, yet I was able to breeze through this story fairly easily. Warga’s writing brings a somber reverence to the discussion of life and death that is extremely thought-provoking, but I never felt overwhelmed by the subject (as can often happen when discussing something so “heavy”, such as death).

I can understand how My Heart and Other Black Holes could be triggering to certain individuals who may be battling depression and/or mental illness. I liken it somewhat to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (which I thoroughly enjoyed, as well). Both stories tackle serious (and potentially triggering) issues, but do so in a way that is extremely realistic and compelling. I can also understand how someone would need to be in the “right mood” to read this type of story. If you are looking for a light hearted and frivolous beach read, Honey, this ain’t it! But if you want something on the more serious side to make you really think about life, then My Heart and Other Black Holes is absolutely perfect. To me, it was better than The Fault in Our Stars.

Narration reviewCoincidentally, the narrator for this audiobook (Rebecca Lowman) also narrated Eleanor & Park. Lowman’s voice lent an extra air of sobriety to the words. She was the perfect choice for narrator. Someone with a more “perky” or lilting voice would have undermined Warga’s work and been completely wrong for Aysel. Lowman is fast becoming one of my favorite narrators. ♣︎

$ Available at The Book DepositoryAudiobooks.com and Audible