Book Recommendations, Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment: Addendum

Yes, I know I said the audiobook experiment was concluded, but I have a short update I want to share with you, so bear with me πŸ™‚

When I started my audiobook experiment, it was because I wanted something to entertain me while I mowed the lawn, which in reality meant gardening work in general. And now I’m moved into the new house (LOVE IT!) and have done some garden work (even if my plan isn’t to do too much this year, but weeding still needs to be done. Stinging nettles need to be eradicated!) and decided to test my theory.

Is gardening work more fun while listening to audiobooks?

I put on my headphones and started listening to Assimilation, Love, and other Human Oddities by Lyn Gala (because John Solo is my most recent audiobook narrator crush and because Liam and Ondry are fan-fucking-tastic) and went to work.

And let me tell you; battling the stinging nettles with my handheld trident gardening tool thingy (yes, that’s the official name of this thing) as Liam attacked the kawt (Rownt predator creature) with the reialet (Rownt club) was fun. I felt fierce as hell, and the more Liam fought, the more I attacked. Listening to a book while doing it gave me energy and stamina and I kept going for hours.

So I’d say that the experiment was a smashing success!

Also: something I didn’t know when I started the experiment was that I was going to apply for a job, get said job, and start commuting an hour in the morning and and an hour back in the evening Monday through Friday. And listening to audiobooks while on a train, makes the commute much more bearable. Especially considering I’m commuting at the same time as kids going to school, and the one morning I was forced to listen to four teenaged girls arguing about homework for 20 minutes straight taught me to always always bring my headphones on the train.

One more thing before I conclude the experiment again: I mentioned that I listened to Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities, which is the second book in Lyn Gala’s Claiming series. I also listened to the first book, Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts, which made me happy because the short prequel Prelude to Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts (that I hadn’t read before) was included in the audio. I loved hearing how Liam and Ondry met the first time and traded.

I’ve read books 1 and 2 before, a long time ago, before book 3 was released, and I really loved them, so when I saw that John Solo was narrating them, I decided that a re-read (re-listen?) was in order. And gawd, John Solo does an amazing job; I love his voice for Ondry, I love how he infuses so much sensitivity into Liam, and I adore how he narrates the grandmothers.

If you haven’t read these books, you really should. They’re awesome. And I say this as someone who

  • doesn’t read sci-fi
  • doesn’t really like series
  • definitely doesn’t like series that follow the same couple over several books

But Liam and Ondry are the exception to the rule, they’re just that fabulous…which is why I’m going to listen to book 3, Affiliations, Aliens, and Other Profitable Pursuits, too. It’s included in my Nextory subscription, but even if it wasn’t, I’d spend an Audible credit on it. That’s how much I like them.

And this is the conclusion to my audiobook experiment.

…I think 😁

Book Recommendations, Book Talk, Meet Cute Chronicles

International Tea Day

Today is International Tea Day! There are some weird “holidays” floating around, but a day celebrating tea? I can get behind that!

Here on the blog, I’m celebrating with tea (duh!) and books where tea features prominently. Let’s start off by pouring a cup of our favorite tea. Here’s mine.

My favorite tea: matcha genmaicha. Look at that color! 😍

Many of my characters drink tea, because I’m a tea lover and I project that onto my MCs. But no one but Viggo in They Met in the Woods makes their own tea. No wonder MΓ₯ns falls for him, right? I would, too, if I lived in that world 😁

MΓ₯ns Elemander had A Plan. A researched and well-thought-out one, devised to help him avoid getting lost while foraging for mushrooms in an unfamiliar forest. But his cell phone battery didn’t get the memo, died unexpectedly, and thwarted The Plan, leaving MΓ₯ns with a basket full of mushrooms, but no idea where to go. Until the sounds of someone chopping wood reaches him.

MΓ₯ns follows the sound and finds a quaint cabin…and its owner, Viggo Moberg. Viggo is kind, understanding of the situation, and willing to help. He’s also smoking hot and their connection is instant, threatening to ignite and burn down the woods. Will the sparks burn fast and fizzle out, or will the attraction grow roots, just like the trees in the forest?

M/M Contemporary / 17 388 words


But wait. I know I write pretty short books, so if you still want more after finishing They Met in the Woods, if you’re in the mood for a really long and cozy tea-drinking and tea-reading session, I’ve got you covered. Here are three more books featuring tea.

Amy Tasukada’s Blood Stained Tea isn’t a romance, unless you count the relationship between Nao and his tea. But if you’re in the mood for a bloody thriller about crazy, murderous yakuza and excellent tea descriptions, Blood Stained Tea is just the book for you.

Tattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin: if you’re in the mood for opposites attract, age gap, and a charming relationship-focused book. I haven’t read it in years, but I remember loving it. Maybe today is the perfect day for a re-read?

Taking Stock by A.L. Lester might not have the word “tea” in the title, but it’s full of the stuff. It’s a book set in Britain, written by a British author after all, so tea is expected. And it’s there, in every little aspect of daily life, and as a tea lover myself, this is something I really appreciate. But it’s the quiet, lovely romance between the two men that’s the real star of this book, despite all the tea goodness.

Nao took the cup and let the tea warm his hands. The astringent oolong filled his nose with an undertone of plum from that particular blend. Tea always calmed him, and he was more thankful than ever that Father had called for it. Nao pressed the cup to his lips and drank. Bitter, probably from too many leaves stuffed into a tiny infuser.

After making tea in my only, beautiful teapot and finding proper teacups and saucers to drink it from, I loaded up a tray with the tea-making paraphernalia and some proper Scottish shortbread and joined Chris under the duvet that he’d brought through to the sofa.

Laurie was thin under the soft cotton. They stood for a while, doing nothing but breathing and looking out the window. Gradually, Laurie relaxed and as he did, he swayed back, just a little, until some of his weight was resting on Phil. It felt nice, to take the weight for someone else.

Eventually, Laurie dashed his good hand over his face. Wiping his eyes, Phil thought. “Tea’s getting cold,” Laurie said.


Tell me; which is your favorite book where tea features prominently?

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment: The Conclusion

This is the final installment of my audiobook experiment, and I thought I’d summarize my experiences. But first, if you’ve missed the previous four installments, here are the links if you want to catch up:

Part 1 :: Part 2 :: Part 3 :: Part 4

All sixteen audiobooks I’ve talked about in the previous installments

The Practical Stuff

During this experiment, I’ve listened to books on Storytel, Nextory, Scribd, and Audible. Storytel and Nextory are great because there’s no limit to how many books I can listen to. Scribd apparently makes books temporarily unavailable for me when they feel I’ve listened to too many, and Audible…Well, I signed up because one of the YouTubers I follow is sponsored by Audible and I got a free credit, so I thought why not? But seriously; 1 credit/month for $14.95? When I can listen to unlimited books every month for 169SEK (about $19) on Storytel? I don’t know if I’ll keep my Audible membership, but we’ll see πŸ™‚

The Verdict

As I’m sure you’ve figured out if you’ve followed this blog series, I’m a convert! I’ve gone from Audiobooks, no thank you! to being a huge fan. The whole reason for me starting the experiment was that I need something to entertain me while I mow our new huge lawn, and audiobooks are going to be perfect for that. As a matter of fact, I love how I can listen to a book while doing chores; cooking has never been this much fun. Nor has cleaning or doing laundry. And I predict all garden work will be much more fun if I can listen to a good story.

But Nell, you said audiobooks are too sloooooooow!

I did, and it’s still true. I can finish a book much quicker when reading it with my eyeballs than when listening to it. But I can’t make dinner and eyeball-read, so this is a clear win for audiobooks. I’ve also tried speeding it up, but I don’t like it. I feel like a lot of the nuance of the narration is lost if I listen to it at a higher speed, and I don’t want that. A really great narrator adds so much to every sentence, and it feels disrespectful of me to not pay attention to their hard work.

Speaking of great narrators…

I hadn’t expected the importance of the narrator, how the narrator can make or break a book. Literally. I’ve listened to and enjoyed books I never would have read had it not been for the narrator. And I’ve listened to and not enjoyed books I’ve previously read and re-read several times that didn’t work for me in audio format because of the narrator. In one case I even deducted a star from my previous rating because of this. Whether you like a narrator or not is of course a personal preference, and I’ve read reviews bashing narrators I’ve loved, and I’ve read reviews glorifying narrators I don’t like, so really. Personal preference is the deciding factor when it comes to the narrator.

But these four gentlemen are my favorite narrators so far (in no particular order): Chris Chambers (managed to make me really like Ranch Daddy despite that I disliked the sample I downloaded), Teddy Hamilton (his narration of Deacon in Without You made me cry), Greg Boudreaux (I didn’t think I could love Invitation to the Blues more than I did when I read it, but Greg Boudreaux proved me wrong), and Kirt Graves (he slays me narrating Felix in Raze). 😍

Saving the best for last?

There’s one audiobook I’m really looking forward to listening to; The Remaking of Corbin Wale. I freaking adore this book (my review, in case you missed it), and when I saw that Chris Chambers narrates it, I gasped. Out loud. This must be good. Great even. The holy grail of audiobooks. A unicorn! So I’m saving it for a really awfully bad day when I need cheering up. No pressure or anything, audiobook version of Corbin Wale! πŸ˜€

The ones I haven’t talked about

I’ve also listened to these books, but they haven’t made it into my previous posts (except for Invitation to the Blues that I’ve mentioned). Strong Enough was the book mentioned above that got a star deducted from my rating. Evolved was peculiarly narrated, something that both fit the story and annoyed me a little. Born Again Sinner is one of those books I’d never have listened to had it not been for the narrators (Chris Chambers + southern drawl = 😍 ). I’ve also been on a Roan Parrish binge as you can see. I loved all three of her books below, even if there were too many pets in Better Than People (I couldn’t tell them apart!), and some of the music elements in Riven bugged me (as the wife of a musician). Invitation to the Blues was pure perfection, though, so listen to it if you haven’t already.

The Conclusion

And that’s it for this audiobook experiment. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as I’ve enjoyed conducting it. And if you listen to a really great book, feel free to recommend it to me anytime, even if this experiment is officially ended.

TL;DR

Nell Iris was wrong about audiobooks. Audiobooks are great. Nell Iris loves audiobooks. πŸ™‚

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment pt 4

Welcome to part four of The Audiobook Experiment. Audiobooks have been my best friends these past weeks when I’ve been focused on packing our stuff in preparation for the move; listening to a book make packing bearable and I’ve been a lot less grumpy than I expected πŸ™‚

This installment has a theme: follow the narrator. I’ve listened to enough books now to have found a few favorite narrators, so I’ve searched their names and picked the books I’ve listened to because of them, not the authors. So this time, I present four books I wouldn’t have read had it not been for the narrators.

Football Sundae by Daryl Banner – I liked Sean Crisden’s narration for Play It Again by Aidan Wayne (in part 2 of my audiobook experiment) so I decided to try this book despite the fact it has “football” in the title. And let’s face it: this book had the odds stacked against it. It’s new adult (which I rarely read anymore) and jock/nerd theme (which I’ve never read because jocks are SO not my thing), and then there’s the dreaded football on the cover (I’m really really really not a sports fan. At all!) But I thought What the hell, why not give it a chance? It’s included for free in my subscription! so I started listening to it. And without the narrators, I would never have bought the book after reading the sample. And Sean Crisden wasn’t even the highlight of this book, the second narrator, Chris Chambers was. Holy crap, I loved him! But despite that, I couldn’t finish the book and it wasn’t even because of the football. I threw in the towel at 50%, because it really wasn’t for me; I didn’t gel with the writing style, I cringed when the young men spoke like jock-y young men (“wanna taste my spruce juice?” really??) and well…I’m not sure there was a single thing I liked aside for the narrators so I had to DNF it.

Tough Guy by Rachel Reid was another sports story I decided to try because I wanted to listen to Tor Thom’s deep voice (that I fell in love with in my first installment, specifically when listening to Raze by Roan Parrish). This book also had all the odds stacked against it. Third book in a series where I haven’t read the previous two. A hockey romance. And I’d never heard of the author before. That in itself isn’t something that would deter me from trying a book, but combined with the hockey stick and the nearly headless torso on the cover this is a book I never would’ve given a second glance if I’d been looking for something to read with my eyeballs. But despite all that, I ended up enjoying the book. MC Ryan, the hockey player, is a gentle giant and you know I love characters like that. It won’t be on my “Best of 2021” list, but I gave it a solid three stars.

And can someone answer a question I’ve had for a loooong time: why are there so many hockey romances nowadays? I feel like half of the books that are released are either hockey romances or fake boyfriends, and I dislike both. Can we retire them now, please? πŸ™‚

I downloaded a sample of Ranch Daddy by Silvia Violet a while ago, but it didn’t appeal to me so I ended up deleting the sample from my Kindle app. But when I saw that Chris Chambers (my new favorite narrator from Football Sundae) was the narrator for this book, I decided it was definitely worth a second chance. And I’m glad I did: I ended up liking the book after all and gave it four stars, but my rating wouldn’t have been so high without Chris Chambers. Because gaaaaawd, listening to him makes me weak in the knees, and now I want to send all my favorite MM romance books to him so he can narrate them for my listening pleasure. I just need to save some money first πŸ™‚

I picked Let There Be Light by A.M. Johnson because of Teddy Hamilton (one of the narrators of Without You from part 2). This is yet another book I probably would have overlooked if I’d just scrolled by it because, like Football Sunday, this is a new adult book with a sports theme (MC Royal is on the swim theme in college). But gaaaawd, am I glad I decided to give it a try because I ended up loving it. The writing was so lyrical and beautiful and emotional and it frequently made my heart clench and my tears well up. The characters WANT to stay together, despite difficulties, and this is always something I love. And the narrators! Holy crap, they were fantastic! I love Teddy Hamilton even more after this book. Aaron Shedlock, the second narrator, was new to me, but he made Camden’s voice intense and touching and it was perfect. Fantastic writing + stellar narration = ten freaking stars!

One thing that hit me when I started reading Let There Be Light, though, is that voices of fully mature, grown men, narrating young men in their late teens/early twenties can be a bit jarring. But Royal and Cameron were more mature than their actual age, so it worked. Maybe that’s one of the things that made me put down Football Sundae? That the immature language didn’t fit the fully adult voices?


Today’s question: if you’re an audiobook listener, have you ever tried new books you maybe wouldn’t have read otherwise if it hadn’t been for the narrator?

There will be a fifth installment: the conclusion of the experiment and what I’ve learned while listening to stories for hours and hours. Stay tuned! πŸ™‚

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment pt 3

My audiobook experiment continues and I’ve discovered two new advantages with audiobooks:

1: My hubby likes watching TV and I don’t; I prefer reading. I can read to a lot of shows or movies, but some are just too noisy. For example when they’re dialogue heavy, or loud comedies (for example Family Guy) make it impossible for me to concentrate on what I’m reading. But now, the problem is solved: I put on my headphones and listen to an audiobook and hubby can watch whatever he wants without disturbing me πŸ™‚

2: I’ve started packing up our apartment since we’re moving to a house in the country on April 16, and listening to audiobooks while packing, makes packing a whole lot less hell-ish. So yay!

But enough about that. Here are four of the books I’ve read since my last installment.

(And if you’ve missed the other parts of my experiment, here are the links to part 1 and part 2)

Promises, part 2 by A.E. Via taught me that a good narrator (and Aiden Snow is a very good narrator) can keep me interested even if I find the book just so-so. Aiden Snow’s voice for Quick, his southern drawl, made me swoon, and listening to him narrate sex scenes while I was grocery shopping might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had πŸ˜‚ On the other hand: I tend to skim the sex scenes in books, especially if they’re numerous, and it’s a bit more difficult to do in audiobooks than when reading with my eyeballs. Not impossible of course, but a bigger hassle than just letting my eyes glaze over until they stop going at it.

Unfit to Print by KJ Charles (my first KJ Charles book, am I last to the party?) taught me that it’s easier to look up an unfamiliar word when reading with my eyeballs than when I’m listening to an audiobook. In an ebook, I can just copy the word and paste it into google (or even use the built in dictionary when available) but hearing the unfamiliar word presents a bigger challenge. It’s not impossible, but complicated enough for me to be bothered. Especially if unsure of the spelling. πŸ™‚

Upside Down by N.R. Walker made me want to go to Australia, find narrator Glen Lloyd and kiss him! Gawd, he was fantastic. The Aussie accent. The way he narrated Jordan’s blurting motor mouth. His distinct and easy-to-follow voices for the different characters. He was perfect. And the book was super cute and over the top and I loved it. Not even the little miscommunication part could get me to not love it, and that says something, considering it’s my least favorite trope in the whole wide world.

Color of You by C.S. Poe taught me that Greg Boudreaux is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators. (I listen to another book narrated by him, Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish – a re-read – and adored it). When it was bedtime on the day I read it, I had two hours left of the book and was in the middle of a very tense moment and couldn’t go to sleep without knowing what happened. But I also couldn’t stay up for two more hours, so what to do? I ended up eyeball reading the the last part (fast reader, remember, didn’t even take me an hour) since the ebook was also available in Scribd, and after that I could go to sleep. But the next morning, I was a bit disgruntled that I hadn’t heard the last part, too, because the narrator did such a stellar job with the voices, so I decided to finish listening to it, too. It was definitely worth it, even if I already knew what was happening. And Greg Boudreaux narrated that part just as beautifully as I’d suspected he would.


I’m very happy with how this experiment is progressing, and I admit I can no longer say I don’t listen to audiobooks, because I do. But I plan on a fourth installment before I deliver my final verdict, so come back. You don’t want to miss it.

And as always: feel free to recommend me your absolute favorite audiobook in the comments. I have an Audible credit to spend 😁