📚 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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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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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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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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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

• RECOMMENDED FOR LOVERS OF:

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

• SUGGESTED AGE GROUP: 18+

• 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.

OVERALL SERIES RATING:
3.75 
Listening Options:

Free listening from Scribd

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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

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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

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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. ♣︎

📚 The Meg by Steve Alten

Meg, Book 0.5

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Sean Runnette
Length: 10 hours 32 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio⎮2014

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Guest Reviewer Susan⎮Jonas Taylor is an interesting character because he’s struggling. A few years back, his career tanked and he’s been kicking around since then between therapists and his hunt for the Meg. His wife, Maggie, has made her journalism career her priority and has turned rather nasty towards Jonas and his hunt. Meanwhile, the star of this story, Meg herself, inadvertently escapes from the warm water layer of the Marianas trench, up through the cold water section, into the upper warm waters of the Pacific. She’s on the loose and happy to be hunting.

I love stories that are just on the edge of possible when it comes to big dangerous beasties. We know so little about the depths of our oceans and that makes them a good breeding ground for stories of monsters. The Meg holds a lot of credibility since this proficient killer ruled the oceans for far longer than humanity has existed. Sharks as a species are hard to kill and Mother Earth has definitely tried…. and not always won. We still have plenty of sharks.

Terri and her father provide equipment and a pre-prepared California bay which might allow them to capture this prehistoric beast. Yeah, right! Right from the start, I knew this wasn’t going to happen as planned. And what’s more, the Meg appears to be pregnant! Yikes! The ocean’s animal social hierarchy will be changed forever! But I still hoped it would work.

After some sightings of the Meg and several deaths, the US Navy decides it’s best to put this beast down for good. Terri is in agreement with them but has to play for her dad’s team, which means teaming up with Jonas. There’s some playful flirtation between the two that comes off as rather forced and fake. I had high hopes that Terri would get to do some awesome stuff, but mostly she spends time on the sidelines.

The action ramps up and up and up… and it looks like things might just work out for those characters that are still left… and then stuff goes horribly wrong. Jonas ends up covered in blood and nearly drowned. More people die. Terri’s dad doesn’t get his prize. It’s a lovely mess of a situation.

The ending leaves us perfectly set up for the next book but closes off the main fights for this book. It also leaves us with a sappy romantic situation that I had trouble buying into even though I wanted some happiness for Jonas. Over all, 3.5/5 stars.

This particular audiobook version includes Book 0.5 Meg: Origins. It’s the story of how Jonas’s career tanked. I really liked this novella. Not only does it flesh out the bare bones facts in The Meg Book 1 but it also shows us that there are others who bumped into the Meg all those years ago. Jonas has mourned the loss of those scientists in the submersible with him that day but now we know how it all played out. This novella was written years after The Meg and it shows how the author’s skill has grown. 5/5 stars for Book 0.5.

The Narration: First, there’s a short bit from the author about his personal fascination with sharks, especially the Meg. I love when authors take the time to add a personal note like this and love it even more when it’s included in the audiobook. Sean Runnette was great as Jonas Taylor. He really does a great job portraying Jonas’s evolving emotions throughout the story. He starts off indecisive and dissatisfied with his life but as things heat up, the character focuses and becomes more and more sure of himself. Runnette did great with this. His female voices could use more femininity. He was great with Maggie’s venom and Terri’s assertiveness but they didn’t always sound like women. I liked his light Asian accent for Terri’s dad and how he made Terri and her brother sound all American. 4/5 stars

🎁 The Warp Clock by Nathan Van Coops

In Times Like These, Book 4

Reviewed Sep. 2018

Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Length: 8 hours 36 minutes
Publisher: Skylighter Press⎮2016

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4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I literally gasped with excitement when Narrator Neil Hellegers emailed me about reviewing The Warp Clock. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, except for the fact that I was sitting in the middle of a movie theater when I received the email!

I have reviewed all three previous installments of this time travel series, so I was eager to hear that there would be a fourth. I heard the third installment under the impression that it would be the finale to a trilogy, so there were multiple levels to my excitement. That excitement then doubled upon reading the synopsis for The Warp Clock. I mean, who doesn’t jump for joy at the prospect of their OTP having offspring?! Throw in time travel and this was bound to be fun.

As I’ve said before, “fun” is the perfect word for this series. It’s brimming with Van Coops’ trademark wit and humor. His is one of the most unique takes on time travel theory that I’ve heard, yet it still manages to not take itself too seriously. I’ll admit, the science sometimes makes my head spin with all the multiple times streams and whatnot, but Nathan Van Coops writes with such an ease of manner that the narrative itself is easy to follow. That’s what counts here.

The Warp Clock definitely isn’t hard science fiction, so no PhD’s are necessary to listen. The book does it take itself too seriously, so the listener shouldn’t either. It’s a hoot, so just enjoy the ride. With that said, I strongly recommend hearing the first three installments in order before this one in order to fully appreciate the set up. Hearing the first three allowed me to become invested in the characters. The Warp Clock played into my fantasies for these characters so much that it almost seemed like fan service, not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you.

The plot seemed a little less structured than what I’m used to hearing from Van Coops. There was a lot of jumping around, reminiscent of The Chronathon. This wasn’t my favorite installment in this series, but perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had heard it immediately after the previous installment. If you have the chance to hear all four volumes in succession, I recommend binging them. Honestly, I’m tempted to go back to the beginning and re-listen to the entire series just for kicks.

Narration review: These are the only audiobooks I’ve heard from Neil Hellegers, so he’s pretty much synonymous with Ben Travers to me. If we spoke on the phone, I’m pretty sure it would throw me for a loop, subconsciously trying to separate him from the character.

Returning to this series and hearing Hellegers’ voice again was incredibly comforting. I was instantly flooded with all of the warm, fuzzy feelings I accumulated while hearing the past three installments. It was sort of like flipping through an audio photo album full of cozy feelings. I’m glad he’s still around narrating the series. If another narrator had taken over, I would have been devastated. ♣︎

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

📚 Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

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Aurora Teagarden, Book 1

Goodreads⎮Reviewed July 2018

Narrator: Therese Plummer
Length: 6 hours 7 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2009

Synopsis: Though a small town at heart, Lawrenceton, Georgia, has its dark side – and its crime buffs. One of them is librarian Aurora “Roe” Teagarden, a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It’s a harmless pastime – until the night she finds a member killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss.

As other brutal “copycat” killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects – or potential victims.


3.75★ Audiobook⎮After breezing through the Harper Connelly series last week, the Aurora Teagarden series seemed like a natural progression. I got excited after discovering that this series has been adapted by Hallmark into a series of movies starring Candace Cameron Bure (Full House).

I was easily able to make it through Real Murders and two more installments in just a couple of days. This series was even easier to hear than Harper Connelly. However, it’s simply just wasn’t as interesting. There are no paranormal elements to this series. Aurora Teagarden is just a regular, albeit obnoxious, protagonist who is always at at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t even call her at a crime solving protagonists because She really just sort of “lucks into” the information she finds out.

The mystery plot for Real Murders was set up pretty nicely. The series of murders that take place are all copycat murders based on famous cases from the past. Our protagonist, Aurora, is a member of a club called “Real Murders” that meets every so often to discuss famous killings and cold cases. To me, that’s more than a little bit strange. It reminds me of when I accidentally stumbled across the corner of Tumblr that worships serial killers…

But that wasn’t what put me off. I get that fires are lit by all sorts of things and, in this case, it actually worked to nicely set up the mystery. But even with Charlaine Harris at the helm, Real Murders just didn’t do it for me. It was ultimately weighed down by an annoying heroine. I think if Aurora had been more endearing, I would be more willing to put up with little annoyances. As it was, I just couldn’t connect with her. She seemed very two-dimensional and so unlike Harris’ other heroines.

This is my fourth series from Harris and it happens to be my least favorite. It’s the only one that doesn’t have some sort of supernatural angle, so I wonder how much that factors into my dislike of it. Even so, I’m a big enough fan of Charlaine Harris’ other work to not want to shut the door on this series completely. I’m open to circling back around to it at some point in the future, possibly after I finish the Sookie Stackhouse series.

For lovers of cozies, especially clean mysteries, this series is an excellent choice. Aurora comes across as a “doe-eyed do-gooder”, perfect for Hallmark. My Gran would love this. In fact, I’ve already recommended the movies to her.

Narration review: I’ve heard several other stories from Therese Plummer, so I was excited to see that she narrates this series. As it turned out, her narration was my favorite part of the audiobook. Plummer excels at providing characterization. When voicing a six-year-old character, it sounded like she was plugging her nose during his dialogue, which was effective and humorous. Plummer is an excellent performer and, if you are planning on giving this series a shot, I highly recommend trying it on audiobook. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com