📚 The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Christine Lakin
Length: 12 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2013

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Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from best-selling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.75 Stars

3.75★ Audiobook⎮ I'm a big fan of Holly Black. I already heard of several of her titles, but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was so unlike any of them. It almost felt like she was experimenting. In some ways it worked and in others it didn't. But I've got to hand it to her, when Holly black does something, she does it her own way.

When I first started The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I was expecting it to be about zombies. I'm not sure what gave me that initial impression, but finding out that it was about vampires was a pleasant surprise. While back, I got really into Vampire Lit before indulging so much that I became burned out on it (that's a common theme with me). After that, I actively tried to stay away from vampire fiction. If I had known The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was about vampires, I probably still would have given it a shot just because of Holly Black, but I likely would have gone into it with a more guarded mindset.

I'm glad that wasn't the case, because my open-mindedness allowed me to accept whatever Black threw at me. She's such a talented writer with an inventive mind. A big complaint that I have about Vamp Lit is the cookie-cutter-ness of it all (for lack of a better term). Most vampire fiction feels the same. Sure, each author gives it their own flavoring, but it usually feels like they are working from the same recipe. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown did not give me that impression. This was trademark Holly Black from the start.

However, something about it just didn't line up for me. I really enjoyed the first 50-60%, right up until they arrived at the Coldtown. I was into Tana's story and the ragtag little group she assembled while journeying to the Coldtown. I really loved the folklore of it all. That's what Holly Black does best.

But once they reached the Coldtown, I got lost in the vampire politics. That angle really stalled the progression of the story and I had no interest in even trying to keep all of the Coldtown residents separate in my mind, much less their centuries long backstories. That part of it felt very Anne Rice to me, which was a major fail. As I've said, My favorite thing about Holly Black's writing is her originality, so seeing her try to mimic someone else was a huge disappointment.

At that point, I had become so disenchanted with the story that I actually stopped listening for several months. When I finally try to come back to it, I was unable to recapture my initial enthusiasm for the story. I appreciate what Black was trying to do with it, but I don't think vampires are her strong point.

Narration review: My favorite thing about Christine Lakin's narration was the tone of her voice. It was soothing and almost sensual, reminding me of a "whiskey voice". Needless to say, that's not something I often hear when listening to YA and I totally dug it. It made the character of Tana stand apart from all of the other teen heroines I've heard. She sounded dark and mysterious, which helped define her character.

Other than that, there's not much else to say about Lakin's narration. She did an adequate job providing character distinction for the secondary characters, but nothing extraordinary. The way she voiced the vampires put me off a little. It was too stereotypical (think Dracula). Overall, it was just sort of "Meh" for me, but so was the book. I'll have to hear Lakin perform another title to know how much my opinion of the story was influencing my assessment of her narration. ♣︎

📚 Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon


Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Davina Porter
Length: 55 hours 30 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2011

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The year is 1771. Claire Randall is still an outlander, out of place and out of time. But now she is linked by love to her only anchor: Jamie Fraser. They have crossed oceans and centuries to build a life together in North Carolina. But tensions, both ancient and recent, threaten members of their clan.

Knowing that his wife has the gift of prophecy, James must believe Claire, though he would prefer not to. Claire has shared a dreadful truth: there will, without a doubt, be a war. Her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through perilous years ahead – or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

4.5★ Audiobook⎮With the end of the year closing in and the fact that I am currently eight books behind in my listening challenge, a 55-hour novel was the absolute last thing I needed to be sucked into…  And yet, here I am. I began Fiery Cross last month and had fully intended to make it last possibly until the end of the year, or at least until the beginning of the next season of the show.  I nearly made it to that one, so I do deserve a little credit, I guess. I wasn’t necessarily speeding through Fiery Cross, however. It was more like I was reveling in it, taking a natural pace.

With it having been several months since I last visited this series, Fiery Cross seemed to renew my interest in Diana Gabaldon and the series. I got absolutely lost in Fiery Cross. Objectively speaking, I don’t think it was the best of the series that I’ve heard so far, but it may still be my favorite, judging by pure enjoyment.

But a lot of plot related things still nagged at me, particularly where Roger was concerned.  Honestly, I can’t believe Gabaldon allowed him to survive this novel! I thought for sure she had it out for him. By about the 4th time that he practically asked for trouble, I almost had it out for him too. Fiery Cross definitely brought Roger down a few notches in my eyes. Not for any significant reasons, just mainly out of sheer annoyance and overexposure. It felt like half of the story was told from his perspective and I’m just sick of him, at this point.

And speaking of overexposure, Gabaldon’s breastfeeding kink was out in full force in Fiery Cross. I was counting the references, but I quickly lost count. Talk about overkill. Sheesh, woman. Try something else on for size.

But I’m so glad of Ian’s return.  He and Rollo were favorites of mine in the past and I find him hilarious. Next to Jermaine, Ian is definitely the best comic relief. Although, there was a particularly hilarious scene in which Claire explains the nature of “sperms” to Jamie. That had me in stitches and it had better be in the show! I love the flashes of light-heartedness Gabaldon inserts to relieve the nearly constant tension.

Claire and Jamie were still the stars. I never get tired of those two. It’s funny how my adoration of them has grown since hearing the first book, which wasn’t the biggest hit with me, to be honest. But this is the kind of series that really grows on you. The more you get to know the characters and the setting(s), the more it becomes a part of you and vice versa. I have to keep reminding myself that this series is more historical fiction than science fiction,  despite time travel being the catalyst for everything. I love science fiction and time travel, so greedy little me is always wanting more of it from Gabaldon and, graciously, she complied near the end of Fiery Cross. The return of Ian and the tantalizing bits of sci-fi mystery he brought with him are seriously making me itch for the next book. Even though starting it would most certainly mean sacrificing my goal of 100 audiobooks in 2018. But if an average book is 8 to 12 hours  and this one was 55 hours, I should rightfully be able to count it as approximately 4.5 to 7 books, yes?

Narration review: You know, I’m really beginning to resent Davina Porter for ruining all other audiobook narration for me. I’ve been listening to her for so long (55 freaking hours) that I swear my own internal voice has taken on her cadence. That’s either creepy or  awesome. I’m not sure which… My enjoyment of her narration should be argument enough for sacrificing my challenge and immediately going on to the next book. ♣︎

📚 The Colorado Kid by Stephen King

Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Jeffrey DeMunn
Length: 3 hours 40 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2005

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On an island off the coast of Maine, a man is found dead. There’s no identification on the body. Only the dogged work of a pair of local newspapermen and a graduate student in forensics turns up any clues.
But that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Because the more they learn about the man and the baffling circumstances of his death, the less they understand. Was it an impossible crime? Or something stranger still…?

No one but Stephen King could tell this story about the darkness at the heart of the unknown and our compulsion to investigate the unexplained. With echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and the work of Graham Greene, one of the world’s great storytellers presents a surprising tale that explores the nature of mystery itself.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.5 Stars

3.5★ Audiobook⎮ I started The Colorado Kid because of my recently discovered love of Haven. Haven is a sci-fi TV show currently available for streaming on Netflix. During the opening credits, Haven says it is inspired by Stephen King’s novel The Colorado Kid so, naturally, I picked it up.

Even before beginning The Colorado Kid, Haven’s Stephen King connection was obvious to me. With multiple mentions of Derry, Maine and other Easter eggs, Haven has Stephen King written all over it. Actually, I think I’ve read that King actually had a hand in writing or producing the show (or something to that effect).

Even though “The Colorado Kid” is frequently mentioned in the show, the narrative is very different. The only things The Colorado Kid and Haven have in common are 1) The setting (Maine), 2) Two characters (Vince and Dave), and 3) The mystery of “The Colorado Kid” (sort of). So, if you’re picking this up based on a love for the TV show Haven, you might want to steady your expectations. It’s really nothing like the show.

With that said, this isn’t a terrible little story. Judging it on its own and not against the show, I kind of enjoyed it. Granted, the short length had a lot to do with that. I pretty much thought “Eh, why not? It’s Stephen King.” and decided to continue. Although I don’t necessarily recommend this to the fans of Haven, I do recommend it to those true fans of mystery. I’m talking to the purists, because The Colorado Kid is the epitome of a mystery.

I can understand why the majority of reviewers seemed frustrated with The Colorado Kid. We’ve come to expect most mysteries to have a resolution, satisfying or not.  In one way or another, things are usually tied up at the end. But that’s not realistic, is it? And that’s the whole point of The Colorado Kid. True mysteries are open ended. They leave us wondering. That’s the point Stephen King is trying to make here and he makes it frustratingly well.

Don’t start The Colorado Kid if you’re going to see it as a waste of time. Just enjoy some good Stephen King writing. That was enough for me.

Narration review: If Jeffrey DeMunn is from anywhere other than Maine, I’d be stunned. His New England accent sounded so authentic that I had to strain to understand what he was saying. That’s both good and bad, as a listener. On one hand, I appreciated DeMunn’s authenticity (or portrayal), but on the other,  it really did take a lot of extra concentration just to focus on following the story. At one point, I actually wondered if he was still speaking English or had slipped into some other dialect. However, my mental image of Vince Teague never faltered. ♣︎

📚 City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Cassidy Blake, Book 1

Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Reba Buhr
Length: 5 hours 2 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2018

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From number-one New York Times best-selling author Victoria Schwab comes a sweeping, spooky, evocative adventure, perfect for fans of Stranger Things and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead…and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.

When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift”, she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil – and herself.

And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

New York Times best-selling author Victoria Schwab delivers a thrillingly spooky and action-packed tale of hauntings, history, mystery, and the bond between friends (even if that friend is a ghost…).

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

4★ Audiobook⎮You see the part of the synopsis that recommends this for fans of Stranger Things? I zoomed in on that part and immediately started listening without even realizing this was a middle-grade story. Admittedly, I don’t have the best record with middle-grade stories and Victoria Schwab is usually hit or miss with me anyway. But I will say that my listening experience improved significantly once I realized that City of Ghosts was written for middle-grade children.

That realization occurred about 50% through the audiobook and it nullified nearly all of my complaints up to that point. Perspective is everything.As a middle-grade book, this was actually pretty great. It was certainly better than those I’ve heard in the past. I think I even liked it better than the Miss Peregrine series and I definitely liked it better than the Percy Jackson series.

It also didn’t hurt that the audiobook was only five hours long. So when I finally realized what I was hearing, I was already 2.5 hours in, with another 2.5 to go. That, plus the fact that I am currently 8 books behind in my Goodreads challenge, heavily factored into my decision to finish this book. When you’re that far behind and the end of the year is quickly approaching, short, fast-paced books are the way to go! City of Ghosts was a super easy listen and, once I made up my mind to push through it, I was finished in no time. This could easily be heard in a day.

A lot of that had to do with Victoria Schwab’s writing. Schwab wrote the protagonist, Cassidy, in such a way that her age wasn’t that obvious. I was pretty surprised to find out she was only 12 years old! I’ve read stories with teenage and adult protagonists who were way more immature than Cassidy. She didn’t go around making nonsensical choices that left me rolling my eyes and she wasn’t a whiny brat.

Let me put it this way: If all middle-grade books were written this well, I wouldn’t be as wary of the genre. I’m not saying this was fantastic or the best thing I’ve heard this year, but it was better than I expected it to be. If I were recommending middle-grade audiobooks for an adult, City of Ghosts would be atop my list. With that said, I’m still undecided about whether or not to continue with this when the next installment is released. City of Ghosts wasn’t a bad listen considering my circumstances, but I don’t know if I would voluntarily return to the middle-grade genre. But, then again, I won’t rule it out entirely…

Narration reviewCity of Ghosts was my first-time hearing Reba Buhr narrate. Before I realized this was a middle-grade audiobook, I thought Buhr’s narration sounded a tad bit juvenile and just a little overdramatic for what I assumed was a YA audiobook. But after realizing the audience for which it was intended, Buhr’s narration seemed most appropriate. In fact, she had a lot to do with my positive assessment of Cassidy’s maturity level. Along with Schwab’s writing, Buhr’s narration made Cassidy seem older than 12 and much more likable. Even the extra vocal flair she provided seemed fitting for a middle-grade audience. I think it actually helped keep my attention too! ♣︎

📚 Lasher by Anne Rice

The Mayfair Witches, Book 2

Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Kate Reading
Length: 28 hours 30 minutes
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2015

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From the day her first Vampire Chronicle was published, critics and readers – readers by the hundreds of thousands – have been mesmerized by the writings of Anne Rice. And with the publication of The Witching Hour, she created for us yet another world and legend, and both the chorus of praise and the multitudes of her readers and listeners once more increased.

Now, Anne Rice brings us again – even more magically – into the midst of the dynasty of witches she introduced in The Witching Hour.

At the center: the brilliant and beautiful Rowan Mayfair, queen of the coven, and Lasher, the darkly compelling demon whom she finds irresistible and from whose evil spell and vision she must now flee. She takes with her their terrifying and exquisite child, one of “a brood of children born knowing, able to stand and talk on the first day”.

Rowan’s attempt to escape Lasher and his pursuit of her and their child are at the heart of this extraordinary saga. It is a novel that moves around the globe, backward and forward through time, and between the human and demonic worlds. Its many voices – of women, of men, of demons and angels, present and past – haunt and enchant us. With a dreamlike power, the novel draws us through twilight paths, telling a chillingly hypnotic story of occult and spiritual aspirations and passion.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.75 Stars

3.75★ Audiobook⎮ This series is so weird, but I can't deny that I'm into it. That's the scary part- I'm in too deep and there's no going back. I can't tell you the number of times I thought "This is so f---ed up". I even said it out loud a few times. And it truly is. Parts of it made me really uncomfortable, especially the pedophilia. It's a Lolita type situation. But like, why? Why is that even necessary? I would love to hear Anne Rice's explanation of that. I know she's given a lot of interviews, but I wonder if any of them touch on that situation, specifically.

And yet, here I am, about to start the third book. The funny thing is, until I finished it, I thought Lasher was the final book. It felt final and I was okay with that. Relieved, actually. I can't remember the last time I was relieved at the thought of finishing a series. And when I discovered that there was a third installment, I felt both excitement and trepidation. I'm telling you, this series does weird things to your mind.

Lasher wasn't nearly as good as The Witching Hour. It started off okay, though. I heard about 25 hours straight (over a few days) until it got to the part where Lasher tells his tale. You wouldn't think it, since his origins are at the heart of the mystery, but Lasher's origin story nearly bored me to death. It went on and on and on and on and it wasn't a particularly interesting. Only the last bit seemed relevant.

That's when I decided to take a break from Lasher for a while. I put it down for several months before committing to finishing it. I pushed through the rest of Lasher's story and the narrative finally came back to the present. That's when I started enjoying it again. After that, I was easily able to speed right to the end of book.

As I said, the ending felt very final. Things seemed to tie up nicely, with almost a "happily ever after". And from the few reviews of the third book that I've scanned, I'll probably end up wishing that I had stopped at the end of this book. But, I feel compelled to finish the trilogy/series. I'm not really sure if it's a true trilogy. After the third book, the series seems to merge with another of Rice's series. I was looking forward to beginning The Mummy after this, because I've recently seen that movie, but it looks like The Mummy will have to wait until after I complete Taltos. Only time will tell if I decide to dive into The Vampire Chronicles.

Narration review: I want Kate Reading to read me to sleep each night. She has one of my favorite voices. And the things she can do with it! I've heard for narrate several different titles from different authors at this point, but this series is my favorite from her. I feel like she goes just a little bit further with it than with the others. The characterization she provides is magical. I seriously doubt I would be this captivated by the series if she weren't reading it. Even if you've already read this series in book form, I still recommend picking it up on audio to see what you've been missing. It's an entirely different experience thanks to Kate Reading. ♣︎

📚 The Delphi Resistance by Rysa Walker

The Dephi Trilogy, Book 2

Reviewed Oct. 2018

Narrator: Kate Rudd
Length: 14 hours 13 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2017

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What if your mind became your worst enemy?

Struggling with evolving psychic abilities, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan and her equally exceptional friends are on the run from the ruthless Graham Cregg, leader of a covert operation known as the Delphi Project. Cregg has already killed repeatedly to test Anna’s ability. Now, he and his father, a presidential contender, will stop at nothing to recapture the Delphi adepts, whom they see as weapons to be controlled – or destroyed.

Navigating an increasingly hostile landscape, Anna and her friends form a resistance to rescue those still in the Creggs’ fatal grip. As more gifted kids vanish and public awareness of the Delphi Project grows, so does the opinion that getting rid of the adepts may be a necessary evil.

Yet even as they face off against cold-blooded killers, government operatives, and a public intensely afraid of their psychic powers, the greatest threat to Anna and the resistance may come from within themselves – and their own mysterious abilities could spell their ultimate downfall.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ Audiobook⎮Whoah. If I was unsure about immediately jumping to the next installment, the ending of The Delphi Resistance just made up my mind. It's been a while since I heard The Delphi Effectbut I didn't really have a hard time slipping back into the series. That's how much I love Rysa Walker's writing.

I heard the first 80% of this audiobook several months ago, before somehow becoming distracted enough to put it down. Although I didn't enjoy The Delphi Resistance as much as The Delphi Effect, I didn't put it down because it had become unenjoyable. From what I remember, I intended to return to it quickly, but it got lost in the shuffle of my ever expanding TBR.  It's normally so hard to get back into something after being away from it for this long, which is why I think I kept putting off returning to The Delphi Resistance. 

But I have recently vowed to cleanup my TBR, beginning with my mostly finished audiobooks. My first thought when picking up The Delphi Resistance again was "Why did it take me so long to come back to this?". This is a great series. It's not quite as great as The Chronos Files, but it's not far from it. Rysa Walker's imagination astounds me.

I will say that The Delphi Resistance  did drag just a little bit in the middle, which made it easy for me to be distracted by something shinier. I wasn't into the Magda/Cregg storylines. I think it got a little too big at that point. It seemed like the more characters that were added, the more I lost interest. But Walker began to scale things back towards the end, bringing the focus back to the more familiar characters.

My favorite thing about Rysa Walker is that I never know what to expect from her. I was again reminded of that at the end of The Delphi Resistance. That cliffhanger made me glad that I already have The Delphi Revolution pre-ordered. It comes out in six days, so my timing could not have been more perfect!

Walker's books are some of the most binge-able that I've heard. It's the perfect time to pick up this trilogy and zip through it. And while you're at it, give The Chronos Files a listen as well. By the way, both series are available on Scribd!

Narration review: Kate Rudd has narrated all of the Rysa Walker audiobooks I've heard and I never tire of hearing her. She's a phenomenal narrator and she also happens to narrate the exact type of books that I love. I've heard her narrate a lot of Young Adult books and I love the way she approaches that genre. Her protagonists never sounded immature or annoying. If anything, they sound older than they are, which is refreshing for YA. ♣︎

📚 Year One by Nora Roberts

Chronicles of The One, Book 1

Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 12 hours 20 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2017

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A stunning new novel from the number-one New York Times best-selling author – an epic of hope and horror, chaos and magic, and a journey that will unite a desperate group of people to fight the battle of their lives…

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed – and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river – or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.75 Stars

3.75★ AudiobookYear One was a strange one, for me. Nora Roberts is one of the biggest names in fiction and I was excited to finally experience her writing. But her library of work is so large that I didn't know where to begin. Year One is her most recent release and after reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded perfect for me.

But before even pressing play on this audiobook, I made two mistakes that greatly impacted my listening experience. The first was setting my expectations too high. Whenever I first read a "household name" author, I always end up being disappointed because I just cannot contain my expectations. They run away from me. It happens every time and Year One was no exception. Oh, the writing was beautiful, to be sure. Roberts certainly has a way with words. But the story itself was just a little too much for me.

My second mistake was not understanding what I was getting into regarding Year One's genre. The synopsis gives off a strong Dystopian vibe and it's possible that, after picking up on that vibe (and digging it), I didn't fully comprehend what else was being said. In other words, the Fantasy (magical) theme completely blindsided me. Don't get me wrong, I like Fantasy just fine. I just didn't know how to deal with this odd (to me) combination of Science Fiction/Fantasy.

That's partially on me for not realizing what I was getting into, but I also think a lot of it was on the storytelling. Even after I figured out what was going on ("Oh, okay. Apocalypse + Witches= Year One. Cool."), I still couldn't get into it. There were too many seemingly random themes sewn together with the thinnest of thread. There are only so many times I can say something like "A magical baby savior?! Okay, cool." What I'm saying is that Year One pushed me to the limits of my ability for suspension of disbelief. At a certain point, I actually thought "What's next, zombies?!". And honestly, I wouldn't have been completely surprised if zombies had shown up out of nowhere, but maybe Roberts is saving that for the next book...

With that said, I did have an easier time adjusting to what was thrown at me once I stop listening for a while, processed what I had heard, and came back to the audiobook. I made it through 11 of the 12 hours before tabling the audiobook for a few months. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I didn't want to finish the story (and review it) in that frustrated state of mind. As it turned out, I enjoyed the last hour more than I thought I would. Because of that, I won't 100% rule out the possibility of continuing the series. At least now I know what I'm in for.

Narration review: Julia Whelan was the best thing about this audiobook. I feel like I've said that exact sentence before, but what else can I say about her that I haven't already said? The woman is unreal. She's easily one of my favorite narrators and I've heard her carry so many audiobooks, just on sheer talent alone. If you love audiobooks, but have yet to hear Whelan perform, you need to reevaluate your priorities. Thank me later. ♣︎

📚 Series Review: Harper Connelly Mysteries

Harper Connelly Series by Charlaine Harris

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Installments (4)
Paperback covers


Midnight, Texas series, Ghost Whisperer, Paranormal Mysteries, Charlaine Harris


• Individual ratings & reviews:

◦ Grave Sight (#1): 4.25 stars

Full review here.

◦ Grave Surprise (#2): 3.5 stars

Grave Surprise was the installment that change the way I viewed the series. There were plenty of words eaten from my first review. And Grave Surprise certainly dispelled the notion of this being a cozy mystery series. The tone shifted to something much more intense and unsettling, more reminiscent of horror.

Grave Surprise was also where romantic shenanigans of a Greg and Marcia Brady variety began to appear. In my review of the first installment, I expressed delight and relief that Harris seems content to have the two main characters remain in a step-sibling role. It was indeed refreshing, until it wasn’t. Ick factor aside, the romance was developed quite nicely. There was plenty of internal struggle, which seemed realistic, given the situation. Once I (and the main character) got past the not-quite-incest aspect of it, it actually turned out to be a quality romance, as one would expect from Harris.

I liked that the mystery in this installment wasn’t built upon something that had happened in the past, before the series began. It wasn’t as if these two characters suddenly sprang to life at the beginning of series. They have a personal and professional lives before it and both were impacting the current events in the book. Just any author couldn’t pull this off, though. If it were executed incorrectly, the reader would be left feeling like they had missed something in a previous installment. But Harris is a master of world building and character development, so she was able to fill in the gaps in a natural and subtle way.

However, the “whodunit” was just too obvious. Before the halfway mark, I had already decided not only the “who” but also the “why”, therefore I quickly became bored with the plot of this installment. Grave Surprise was easily my least favorite book in the series.

◦ An Ice Cold Grave (#3): 3.75 stars

If Grave Surprise was my least favorite, An Ice Cold Grave had to be my next favorite installment. Not only did it take place in my home state of North Carolina, but it scared me silly. An Ice Cold Grave had the most intense mystery and setting of the entire series: An ice storm in the mountains with a serial killer targeting children. {shiver}

I don’t know if I wouldn’t necessarily call this horror, but it was definitely spooky.

To offset some of the intensity, Harris granted a larger role for the Bernardo’s. Manfred Bernardo was already familiar to me as the main character in the Midnight, Texas series, which is set after this series ends. I unknowingly read that series before this one, but it did not impact my understanding of either. Actually, I was delighted by the crossover. I guess you could technically consider the Midnight, Texas series to be a spin off of this one. It was great fun meeting Zilda. She is referenced in the Midnight, Texas series, but does not appear in it. I learned a lot more about her background and zany personality in An Ice Cold Grave and also met her daughter, Manfred’s mother. The Bernardo family is so fun, I’m glad Manfred got his own series.

◦ Grave Secret (#4): 4 stars

Grave Secret nearly gave me whiplash with all of its twists and turns. I would be looking in one direction and then get blindsided by something else. The first three installments in this series had been building towards this all along, but I wasn’t expecting such a punch. Grave Secret started out with Harper on a job, just like the other installments, but soon became about Harper’s missing sister and her family backstory. Harper’s family background had been disclosed little by little throughout the series, like breadcrumbs leading to this installment and Grave Secret opened the floodgates.

🎙 Narration Review: Alyssa Bresnahan

Alyssa Bresnahan is the fourth narrator of Charlaine Harris’ audiobooks that I’ve heard and I can’t say she’s my favorite. She did an adequate job of narrating this series, but after hearing Johanna Parker, Susan Bennett, and Therese Plummer, I have to say I was slightly disappointed.

“Adequate” or maybe even “on par” are good descriptions for the narration of this series. I wasn’t blown away, as I was with Johanna Parker’s narration of the Sookie Stackhouse series, but there’s nothing overtly significant that I can point a finger at as particularly unenjoyable. The characterizations provided where (again) adequate. They were just enough to get the point across, but not overly helpful. I think perhaps Bresnahan’s tonal range may be limited.

She approached the protagonist, Harper Connelly, with an air of distance, maybe even frigidity. That type of approach was initially perfect for the character, but I would have liked to have heard some sort of warmth creep into the character’s voice as the series progressed. Granted, Harper’s emotional growth is subtle, but it’s there.

I would be curious to hear Bresnahan narrate another author’s work, maybe even another genre, to see how she approaches it differently. Despite all of this, I still think the series is worth listening. Not much is added, but there’s not a lot taken away either.

Listening Options:

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You can also get the first two installments of this series from Audible (or any other two audiobooks) for free and  help support The Audiobookworm!

📚 The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Imogen Church
Length: 14 hours 14 minutes
Publisher:Simon & Schuster 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.



From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game comes Ruth Ware’s highly anticipated fourth novel.

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person – but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an addictive thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ AudiobookThe Death of Mrs. Westaway was my introduction to Ruth Ware. I was intrigued by the comparisons to Agatha Christie and, after having completed this novel, I can confidently agree with them. At times, it seemed like Ruth Ware did Agatha Christie better than Agatha Christie.

That may be a slightly exaggeration, but it was based on my feelings while listening to The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I got into this story so quickly that it was almost like I had heard it before. Ware’s writing evoked a sense of familiarity that was instantly comforting. It took no effort at all to slip into the story and be carted off.

If anything, I think The Death of Mrs. Westaway may have been slightly easier to follow been anything written by Christie. That could be due to slight modernizations of speech and setting. However, such modernizations were not overtly obtrusive to the story. They subconsciously oriented the listener without sacrificing anything from Ware’s writing style, which clearly hearkened back to Agatha Christie’s.

However, I’m baffled as to why this audiobook was so easy to hear. I couldn’t describe the writing as simplistic or concise, yet it seemed almost “laid back”, for lack of a better phrase. Ware’s descriptions weren’t necessarily detailed, but they were explained at length. Perhaps, if Agatha Christie had written this, it would have only been a three or four hour production. I did notice that The Death of Mrs. Westaway seemed to drag on, but not necessarily in an unpleasant way.

In the past, I have been somewhat frustrated by the brisk and seemingly abrupt resolutions penned by Agatha Christie. By contrast, Ware took her time building up to several different revelations, providing adequate explanations, and dealing with their fallouts. On the whole, I think Ware’s method is far more satisfying. However, it may not appeal to certain readers who wish for her to “get on with it”.

In the end, I was grateful that Ware went the extra mile in explaining the “whodunit”. The mystery was so intricate that I had about 10 different theories formulating in my mind at any given time and it wound up being a combination of nearly all of them. This was very much a “show” not “tell” story, with clues being dropped along like breadcrumbs. It was very considerate of Ruth Ware to tie things up so nicely.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway was a very “rainy autumn day” type of listen. It wasn’t exactly scary, but the suspense was practically palpable. I’m pleased to have discovered Ruth Ware right here on the cusp of autumn. I’m sure I’ll be hearing much more of her in the next three months.

Narration review: Imogen Church absolutely killed it. She killed it, y’all. Hats off to her, seriously. She really brought it with the character distinctions. More than once I thought, “This is one woman doing all of these voices!”.The Death of Mrs. Westaway was one of those books that could easily have tripped up a less skilled narrator. Several of the characters were of a similar demographic and she could have easily phoned it in with one “snooty middle-aged British guy” voice. But no, Church provided clear distinctions between all four of them, even though three of them were brothers. I can’t tell you how much this helped in my listening experience. It’s like the difference between driving with and without a map.

Despite having her on my radar for quite sometime now, this was my first audiobook from Imogen Church. But it certainly won’t be my last. I think I’m more excited to tear through her list of audiobooks and than I am Ruth Ware’s. This is going to be an awesome Fall for audiobook listening. ♣︎

📚 Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 11 hours 2 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio⎮2010

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



When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her… a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards… and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

4.25★ Audiobook⎮Despite having sworn him off multiple times, I usually to listen to Nicholas Sparks about once a year. This year, I somewhat indiscriminately chose Safe Haven as I was frantically downloading audiobooks in anticipation of the power outage hurricane Florence would bring. Hurricanes are an inevitable part of life when you live in eastern North Carolina and something about it just made me want to hear a Nicholas Sparks book.

Sparks sets all of his books in eastern North Carolina, usually around New Bern. Safe Haven, however, was set in Southport, near Wilmington. But that wasn’t the only thing unusual about Safe Haven. From the very beginning, Safe Haven had a slightly different vibe from Sparks’ other works. Each of his books is unique enough that I wouldn’t dare cry monotony, yet they all have similar undertones. This one, less so.

To my knowledge, I don’t think Sparks has ever dealt with domestic abuse in one of his books and that was a heavy theme in Safe Haven. It wasn’t necessarily graphic, especially in comparison to others I’ve heard, but I still found it a little hard to hear at times. Sparks has a way of emotionally tying you to his characters, so much so that if one of them even gets a paper cut, you involuntarily empathize. Therefore, he did not have to be unnecessarily detailed or graphic about the abuse in order to have it hit home.

In comparison with his other titles, Safe Haven isn’t my favorite. I felt like I spent the entire time feeling guarded, waiting for the emotional hammer fall. Sparks is notorious for manipulating his readers’/listeners’ emotions and he has broken my heart on more than one occasion (i.e. The Best of Me). So, naturally, I approached Safe Haven with caution. It may have been because of that caution, but Safe Haven felt just a little more shallow than what I’m used to from Sparks. Which, by the way, is not exactly a criticism. In comparison to other authors’ work, the depth of Safe Haven is to be exalted. Sparks is a tremendous writer and he absolutely excels at character development.

But I just didn’t fully click with the characters in Safe Haven, probably due to my own trepidation. But, domestic violence aside, Safe Haven was extremely easy to hear. Sparks stands out in my mind as someone who writes beautifully, yet understandably. He doesn’t need verbal garnishes. His storylines are easy to follow along with and can be heard a while doing almost anything. In other words, they don’t require a lot of mental focus to follow. There’s never a “Wait, what’s going on?” moment, much less a “What the hell is happening now?!” moment. He simply takes the listener by the hand and guides them every step of the way.

Based on this listening experience alone, I’m definitely more inclined to hear Sparks again, maybe sooner rather than later.

Narration review: Now that I think about it, it’s possible that my selection of Safe Haven wasn’t as indiscriminate as I thought. As I was quickly scanning the Nicholas Sparks titles available on Scribd, Rebecca Lowman’s name caught my eye. I remembered how much I enjoyed her narration of Eleanor & Park and knew that, as a narrator, she would be a “sure thing”.

I couldn’t have been more right. I enjoyed Lowman’s narration just as much as I did when I first heard her two years ago. Her character distinctions were subtle, but perfectly effective. She fully embodied each character, sending messages about emotions and personality with each intonation. I look forward to the next time I hear her work. ♣︎