📚 First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Charley Davidson, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

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

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Summary

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

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

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Fever, Book 1

Reviewed Jan. 2019

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 Series Review: The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries

Installments (13+)

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

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

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

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

RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Highlights: Triangles, Television, & World Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🎙 Narration Review

Johanna Parker

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

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

Overall Series Rating

4.25 Stars

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

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

Where To Find This Series

Audiobooks.com

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

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

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

Your other option for hearing this series is, of course, Audible. If you don’t yet have an account with Audible, consider signing up through the banner below to get an extra audiobook with your free trial. Doing so will give me a small commission, but won’t cost you anything.

To sum up: You can get all or part of this series for free and help support The Audiobookworm!

📚 Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Reviewed Jan. 2019

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

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

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

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander, Book 0.5

Reviewed Dec. 2018

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

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

📚 As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Reviewed Dec. 2018

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

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

Audiobooks.com

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

📚 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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Summary

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

OUTLANDER, BOOK 5

Reviewed Oct. 2018

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

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Summary

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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Summary

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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Summary

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! ♣︎