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 😁

Book Talk

The Audiobook Experiment

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know that I don’t listen to audiobooks. Not that I have something against them, on the contrary. I have a dyslexic friend who didn’t read a single book since high school, but who discovered audiobooks and became an avid reader.

My problem is that I’m a really fast reader, and audiobooks are slooooooow, which makes my mind wander and I lose concentration and have no idea what I’ve listened to. So I’ve stayed away from audiobooks and instead read the old fashioned way: on my e-reader 😁

But we’ve bought a house, and in April I’ll move into a huge house on a huge plot of land with lots and lots of grass that will require mowing. It’s so much grass I’ll have to use one of those mower tractor thingies and that will surely bore me to death if I don’t have anything to do. So my daughter introduced me to podcasts (no, I haven’t listened to podcasts either until a few weeks ago). And when I liked that (she knows me and knew what to recommend), I thought Maybe I should give audiobooks another try?

And since I have a Swedish book subscription service that doesn’t have a lot of M/M romance ebooks, but a good selection of M/M romance audiobooks, I didn’t have to pay extra to try it. So I picked a book I’d downloaded a sample from because I was curious about it, and started listening to it instead.

The book was Tallowwood by N.R. Walker, and while I liked the narrator, Antony Ferguson, at first, he annoyed me after a while. He was fine narrating the mystery part, but not so great when it came to the emotional parts. But when I realized that, I was invested in the book so I bought it as an ebook and finished it that way.

But since it was the narrator that had bugged me and not the audio format, I decided to give it another try. I picked another N.R. Walker book, Taxes and Tardis, that I’d already read. And since it’s narrated by Nick J. Russo, who came highly recommended by my audiobook listening friend, Kris T. Bethke, I decided to give it a try. And he was great! I listened to the book while cleaning the bathroom, laughing out loud so many times my husband eventually stuck his head into the bathroom and asked if I’d taken a sudden and unexpected liking to scrubbing the toilet and if that was why I was so happy.

When I was done with Taxes and Tardis, I moved on to Bishop by A.E. Via, another sample I’d downloaded. And OHMAGAWD the narrator!! His voice!! It’s deep and rumbly and I can feel it in my stomach when I listen to him speaking. Tor Thom is one of those people who could read the phone book (remember those?) out loud and I’d listen to it. And while I ended up liking the book in the end, there was a part that bugged me so much I considered DNF:ing it, but continued listening because I wanted to hear the narrator speak 😁

And finally (for this blog post at least), I listened to Raze by Roan Parrish. It was my first dual narrated book; one of them was the aforementioned Tor Thom and the other Kirt Graves, and this was the best experience by far. I absolutely loved the book (I’ll gush more about it in a separate blog post) and the narration was excellent. I read a lot of reviews where people said they preferred Kirt Graves over Tor Thom and would have liked it better had KG narrated it alone, but I don’t agree. I loved the different voices for the two characters. Tor Thom was a perfect Dane and Kirt Graves an even better Felix. He made me cry. Several times. And I sincerely think that this reading experience was better because of the narration. I’m sure I would’ve loved the book if I’d read it, too, but the narrators added something extra. Something special. Something that made me want to clean the house and do the dishes so I could continue listening. And that was something I never expected.

The conclusion to my experiment (four books in) is that as long as I keep busy doing something else while listening, something that I can do without having to think, audiobooks are great! Which means it’ll be perfect for riding the lawn mower tractor thingy, and if I find more books like Raze, we’ll have the most frequently mowed lawn in the region.

Tell me: do you listen to audiobooks? Do you have a favorite narrator you want to recommend? πŸ™‚

Book Recommendations, Book Talk

JAFF – Jane Austen Fan Fiction

Her Particular Friend by JL Merrow and Lucas by Elna Holst

Last year, I read a short Jane Austen F/F story, Her Particular Friend by JL Merrow (and wrote about it here). I was surprised by the ship: I could never imagine Mary Crawford and Susan Price from Mansfield Park ending up together, but it worked really well.

So when I stumbled upon Lucas by Elna Holst, also a F/F Jane Austen fanfic, I thought Why not? I downloaded a sample and liked what I read, so I bought the whole thing, and I’m really glad I did. Lucas is Pride and Prejudice fanfic, and it’s about Elizabeth Bennet’s friend, Charlotte Lucas, who’s been married to the dreadful Mr. Collins for three years at the start of the book. Then a new lady, Ailsa Reed, moves to the neighborhood, and the connection between Charlotte and Ailsa is instant.

Lucas is written in epistolary format, as letters Charlotte addresses to Lizzy but never sends (if you read the story, you’ll understand why) and I love epistolary novels. There’s cheating in the story (which didn’t come as a surprise considering Charlotte is married at the start of the book) but although I usually don’t like cheating, I didn’t mind it here, because let’s face it: Mr. Collins is awful! But it is a romance after all, so there’s a HEA. A very interesting, unexpected HEA.

The story was very well written and I enjoyed it immensely. I warmly recommend it.

Buy links:

Her Particular Friend | Lucas

After I finished Lucas, I was in the mood for more Jane Austen fan fic, so I went on Goodreads and searched. (Also, I’ve learned the very useful acronym JAFF, meaning Jane Austen Fan Fiction. Much quicker and easier to write πŸ™‚ )

And OMG, there are a lot of JAFF out there. A lot of it isn’t so great, but there are good stories to find if you have the patience to look, which I had.

Through a Different Lens by Riana Everly and Mr. Darcy’s Vice by Lin Mei Wei

I found two Pride and Prejudice variations, retelling Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s story, that I read and liked. Through a Different Lens by Riana Everly and Mr. Darcy’s Vice by Lin Mei Wei.

Mr. Darcy in Through a Different Lens is on the autism spectrum which explains his behavior. Lizzy recognizes it because she has a cousin (one of the Gardiner children) with the same problem, and she teaches him techniques that are meant to help him, that she learned by being around her cousin. The story is not a modern version, it’s still set in the regency era, so the words autism or Asperger aren’t used in the story itself, instead they are described as “different.” Through a Different Lens starts during Lizzy’s visit to Charlotte and Mr. Collins, before the disastrous first marriage proposal, and it follows all the plot points in the original novel, but altered to fit the idea of Darcy on the autism spectrum. It’s a lovely story and an interesting way to look at Darcy.

Mr. Darcy’s Vice tells the story of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Elias Bennet, because I had to read a M/M adaptation, didn’t I? It follows the plot points of the original novels pretty faithfully, but adapts it so the story fits a male Bennet. The story is told from Mr. Darcy’s POV, and I loved following his thought processes and his character development after this version of the disastrous marriage proposal (which isn’t a proposal ofc, because gay and regency). Elias Bennet is a delightful character and I thought the author had done a good job at adapting Elizabeth Bennet to Elias. I loved how the whole Lydia-Wickham situation was handled considering Elias being a man instead of a female without agency like Lizzy in the original. This, too, is a romance with a HEA, and a clever and believable one at that. I was very happy when I finished the story.

BUY LINKS:

THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENS | MR. DARCY’S VICE

Finally, I read a couple short, free fanfics over at AO3 that I wanted to share. They are both Sense and Sensibility variations, one M/F and one M/M, and neither of them were about a canon couple.

Elinor Dashwood and Colonel Brandon

An Unexpected Attachment by umbrafix is the story of Elinor Dashwood and Colonel Brandon falling in love, which in my mind makes much more sense than Marianne and Brandon. Besides, I’ve always found Edward Ferrars a bit boring, so I’m definitely shipping Elinor and Brandon. It starts when Marianne is ill after having her heart broken, and tells a lovely story about their connection, about Colonel Brandon being attentive toward Elinor, and they live happily-ever-after, of course, since this is a romance after all. And yes, I imagined Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman as Elinor and Brandon from the 1995 movie the entire time I read the story, hence the picture above. Because, hello, Alan Rickman!! 😍

Willoughby and Edward Ferrars

The last story is about an even more unexpected ship than the one that got me started on this whole journey; Mr. Willoughby and Edward Ferrars. It’s called Heart of Stone and is written by user Lessandra. The story starts after Mr. Willoughby has broken Marianne’s heart, and I never expected I’d like to see him redeemed because he really is an ass to Marianne, but this was a great little story about him and Edward Ferrars connecting and falling for each other. I found the way the story progressed very believable, and how being around Edward made Willoughby better himself. If you like redeemed scoundrels, this is definitely the story for you.

Phew. That was a long blog post. And I admit to having lots of more JAFF samples in my Kindle app, so who know, maybe there’ll be a part 2 of this blog post one day.

Tell me: have you read any JAFF? If yes, anything you’d like to recommend? πŸ™‚

Oh, and of course I had to watch Pride and Prejudice on Netflix, too.

Final scene from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie

Book Talk

Trope Tuesday

Are there any tropes you’re not really a fan of? That you steer clear of and don’t want to read? I have a few of those, but today I thought I’d talk about a particular one. The fake boyfriend (husband/girlfriend/wife/life-partner, take your pick) trope.

I’ve mentioned it before, back when I read – and loved – Honeymoon Sweet by Allison Temple (I wrote about it here). Like I wrote in that post, I read a few short excerpts from the book over at Addison Albright’s blog and I liked them so much that I took a chance on the book even though I usually don’t like fake BF, and I’m glad I did because I loved it.

But, here’s the thing. A while back, Addison gave me a recommendation of another Allison Temple book; she said I’d love it and that it has all the elements I want in my stories. The book in question is Boyfriend with Benefits.

bfwb

Addison knows what I like by now – I trust her, – I loved the other Allison Temple book I read, and the cover model on this book is so cute, so went to Amazon and downloaded the sample.

I absolutely loved it. The writing is excellent, the few pages I read made me laugh and when I reached the end of the sample I wanted to read more. And yet, I can’t make myself buy it. Because of the whole fake boyfriend thing.

That’s really stupid, isn’t it? But the thing is I don’t really like fake anything, and fake boyfriends? That’s just…too much? And I try to imagine someone doing it IRL, asking someone to be their fake partner and I just…can’t. Would you do that? Ask a friend/roommate/someone to be your fake partner to a thing if you didn’t have a real partner?

I couldn’t.

I know a big part of reading is suspending disbelief, but I guess fake boyfriends is my limit?

It still makes me feel stupid though. It would have been different if I hadn’t liked the sample, but I did. But when I go to the store thinking Don’t be an idiot, Nell, buy the damned book, my finger just hovers over the one-click button and I think Nah and back away.

Is this just me, or do you have a trope that you hesitate to read? If yes, tell me about it, make me feel less alone in the world. And feel free to tell me I’m an idiot, because I sure feel like it πŸ˜†