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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016!

I love looking back at the end of the year and picking out a handful of books that really rocked my world. I read almost sixty books this year, and there were so many good ones that it was hard to narrow it down to just ten. Without further ado, I give you:

The Obsessive Bookseller’s Top Ten Books of 2016:


Shadows for Silence by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Brandon Sanderson is one of my top authors for his epic world building, amazing characters, and great writing. I’ve read (and loved) almost everything he has published and Shadows for Silence was just as good. I loved it because it had a perfect mix of characterization, setting, story, pacing, action, and resolution, all wrapped up into one neat little package. It felt like a snippet out of a fully developed novel, but was self-contained enough to stand completely on its own. I highly recommend it to Sanderson fans, and lovers of the genre in general. [Read Full Review]


Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Book Info: Morning Star by Pierce Brown

Genre: Science Fiction [adult]

Reason for Recommending:  As the conclusion to the Red Rising trilogy, Morning Star was my favorite of the series. Not only did all the moving parts converge for one epic finish, but it also provided more depth of character and had its fair share of heart-wrenching moments. This series is one of the most unique I’ve ever read, even though it’s comprised of many elements I loved from other top series. A next-generation continuation of the series (Iron Gold) is coming out August 2017, which is really exciting! [Read Full Review]


The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Book Info: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This series is an experience, and one of the most unique I’ve ever read. The world building is ridiculously creative and the characters are nothing if not atypical. The real brilliance lies in the writing, though. Jemisin weaves her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which is told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) Which is a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. This is one of those books I’ll reread. [Read Full Review]


Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Book Info: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for RecommendingIt has been a while since I’ve read a new fantasy that I liked as much as Blood Song. Even though the last two books in the trilogy take on a different direction, I still am really glad I read this series. The first one is easily the best of the three. It’s a compelling coming-of-age story that reminded me of the school setting and camaraderie of Harry Potter while being told with the same atmosphere and grit that made Game of Thrones so good. That might be overselling it a bit, but if you like fantasy, Blood Song is a must for your list! [Read Full Review]


Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Info: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Uprooted was a fun story about a girl apprenticed (against her will) to the stuffy local wizard. The two main characters had an awesome dynamic and really made the book special. This is the first book I’ve read by Naomi Novik, and I can tell you I liked it so much that it definitely won’t be the last. This stand-alone novel was incredibly well written. [Read Full Review]


Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Book Info: Elite by Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: I love it when high fantasy authors take on young adult literature. Elite is the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and it shaping up to be one of the best YA’s I’ve read yet. The first book takes a couple of chapters to get going, but after that it boasts smart characters, excellent pacing, and lots of action. This is definitely a great series to pick up if you’re still suffering from a Hunger Games hangover. [Read Full Review]


The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book Info: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Genre: Teen Fiction

Reason for Recommending: Imagine if ABC’s Scandal was re-envisioned as a young adult series, and you’d have The Fixer. It has a ton of political intrigue, interesting (if a little over the top) characters, and great writing. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is responsible for my all-time favorite series (The Naturals, which I think is absolute perfection), and The Fixer is just as good. It takes a few chapters to get going, but once it does, it doesn’t let up! [Read Full Review]


The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Book Info: Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: Yet another Sanderson to make my list. Bands of Mourning is book six in the Mistborn saga, three in the four book Wax and Wayne series. It brought ties from the first trilogy into play and was packed with lots of humor, adventure, and excitement. I know it’s going to be a while before the author has a chance to finish off this branch of the saga, but I can’t wait to see what he has in store next. [Read Full Review


No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Book Info: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending:  I love this series because it is truly a hybrid of genres – it reads like an urban fantasy, but the inclusion of dragons gives it a very low fantasy story line. And the characters and overall presentation is so fun and accessible that it could also fit in the YA genre. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is the third book in the series and my favorite so far because of how deeply it dives into some of the most interesting characters. I loved every moment and highly recommend this author as often as I can. [Read Full Review]


Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Reason for Recommending: This is a recent read for me, as I just finished it a couple of days ago. It’s a book three in the Kate Daniels series and I have to admit that I thought book one was fairly average and didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about it. Fortunately, my Goodreads friends urged me to keep reading and I am oh, so glad I did. It is shaping up to be one of my favorite urban fantasies – it’s fun, creative, and so funny on occasion that I actually laugh out loud. If Harry Dresden had a female counterpart, I feel like Kate Daniels would be it. I’m very new to this series, but things are looking good… [Review to Come]


There you have it – my best books of 2016! Did any of my titles make your top ten list?

by Niki Hawkes

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Top 17 Books You Might Like If You Enjoyed The Hunger Games!

Almost as untouchable as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins sparked a love for dystopian and post-apocalyptic books in millions of readers, myself included. Hunger Games was definitely not the first of its kind, but it was the series that launched dystopian storytelling into the mainstream and led to an explosion of followers in the YA market. Even though the concepts had been told before, Collins reinterpreted them in a way that was exciting, accessible, and fun. After selling thousands of copies to customers every year, I quickly realized that I needed to be prepared for when they came back with “Ooooooh! I loved it so much! What can I read next?” From that question was born this list:

Top 17 Books You Might Like If You Enjoyed Hunger Games!


The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Book Info: The Testing by Joelle Charboneau

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: concept, character, atmosphere: The Testing series is one of my favorite recommends on this list. It reminds me of Hunger Games from a conceptual standpoint because both were stories that felt fresh and original (with a strong dystopic feel). I also love how the main character from the series compared to Katniss when it came to resourcefulness. Even thought the first book was fairly average compared to the rest of the series, the second book is one of my favorites ever. Overall, it’s definitely worth your time if you’re a Hunger Games fan.
                                                                                                                                                                     

red risingBook Info: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Genre: Science Fiction [adult]

Reason for Recommending: story, atmosphere: even though this book is an adult science fiction, it still reminded me strongly of Hunger Games. It had the same elements of overcoming oppression, deadly competition, and overall intensity that made the Hunger Games so memorable. I even liked the last book (Morning Star) more than I liked Mockingjay, if you can imagine…
                                                                                                                                                                     

Not a drop to drinkBook Info: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: writing, character, atmosphere: even though this book is more of a post-apocalyptic than a dystopian, it’s one of my favorite survival stories, possibly because of how brilliantly it’s written. I’ve always appreciated Katniss for her ability to adapt and do what was necessary to survive. Lynn in this story was just as determined, and I found her added bit of snarkiness particularly endearing. The book also has the same feel of desperation and urgency that made Hunger Games such a page-turner. I loved this book and would probably recommend it even if you didn’t like Hunger Games.
                                                                                                                                                                      

partialsBook Info: Partials by Dan Wells

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: character, atmosphere, love story: The Partials Sequence has long been one of my favorite teen books to recommend (even though the third one felt a little rushed). I loved the main character for how clever she was, I loved the premise of the story and the excellent momentum it gained throughout each book, and I loved the world building for its creepy, post-apocalyptic feel. It also had a compelling Katniss-loves-Peeta type of romance that came about more organically than most teen books. All of these things add up to a no-brainer when trying to recommend titles. Read it.


angelfallBook Info: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: originality, relationship: To steal from what I said above, Hunger Games was definitely not the first of its kind, but it was the series that launched dystopian storytelling into the mainstream and led to an explosion of followers in the YA market. Even though the concepts have been told before, Collins reinterpreted them in a way that was exciting, accessible, and fun. In my opinion, if Angelfall had been a first-mover in the industry, I feel as though it’s unique twist on post-apocalyptical setting and excellent writing could have shaken up the market as well. Additionally, the main character and her younger sister reminded me strongly of Katniss’ relationship with Prim. That said, I only felt this way about the first book – the remaining two of the trilogy let me down a bit (but were still good).


Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Book Info: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: character, writing, story: Ann Aguirre is one of my favorite writers. Her characters are phenomenal and, in my opinion, every bit as memorable and well-rounded as those in Hunger Games. This post-apocalyptic “zombie” story brings to mind the same savage fight for survival that made Hunger Games so intense. Overall, it’s a great trilogy with a new spinoff coming out in 2017.
                                                                                                                                                                        

Legend by Marie Lu

Book Info: Legend by Marie Lu

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: story, character, love story: Legend has the same rising-from-oppression appeal as Hunger Games, but offered POVs from both the oppressed and privileged ends of the spectrum. I especially appreciated how clever the main characters were, thought the love story was convincingly organic, and enjoyed all three books pretty equally. When ranking dystopians, Legend always lands in the upper half of my list.
                                                                                                                                                                      

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Book Info: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: atmosphere, originality, character: The Darkest Minds was one of the more unique dystopians I’ve read and definitely gets an A+ for cool concept. Overall, it had the same gut-wrenching dystopic feel that satisfied that Hunger Games hangover for me. It also had fantastic characters and a fast-paced storyline.
                                                                                                                                                                      

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Book Info: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Teen Fantasy/Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: competition, action, character: Hunter is one of my favorite books from this list – I loved almost everything about it. It has a clever main character who always thought things through (hello, Katniss – no harebrained heroines here!), And a competitive storyline with loads of action. Add to that a dystopic society where viewers revel as these teens fight monsters, and you have a series that captures many of the things I loved about Hunger Games while standing solidly on its own. I loved it.


Pure by Julianna Baggott

Book Info: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian [adult]

Reason for Recommending: atmosphere, intensity: Pure is most definitely NOT a young adult series, but I think Hunger Games fans would like it just the same. It’s gritty and ugly and yet somehow beautiful all at once and definitely one of the coolest books I’ve ever read from the genre. It’s also a very odd book, one that will probably stick with you long after you put it down. Overall, if Mockingjay was your favorite of the trilogy and you loved that gut-wrenching intensity, this series might be the one for you!


Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Book Info: Uglies

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: concept, genre appeal: Uglies was one of the first movers of the teen dystopian genre and one which has always been easy for me to recommend to customers. It has a great concept (even though it’s not totally original, it was executed well), a well-imagined society, and a storyline that’s incredibly memorable. I consider it a staple for the genre, so if you love dystopians and haven’t yet picked it up, do it – do it now!


The Fifth Wave by Ricky Yancey

Book Info: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: character, story, atmosphere: if you want a story with a heroine as convincingly kickass as Katniss, this is a great place to start. The 5th Wave also offers a similarly unique storyline with loads of action and moments of high intensity. I don’t think it built relationships quite as well as Hunger Games, nor did it maintain the same momentum throughout all three books, but it still definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.


Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Book Info: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: competition, atmosphere: basically, if Hunger Games were watered down a smidge and geared towards a slightly younger audience, you’d have Fire and Flood. This is not my favorite book on the list, but still merits a spot because, despite a few shortcomings, it was still a fun read. It had that competitive atmosphere I loved so much in Hunger Games and even brought to life several fun “arenas” for the contestants to race through. The ending of the second book led me to believe there was going to be a third one, but it has been a long time coming and there’s still no news on the horizon…


The Bane by Keary Taylor

Book Info: The Bane by Keary Taylor

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: character, action, love story: The Bane is another post-apocalyptic story with an excellent and resourceful main character. It has a much more prominent love triangle than Hunger Games (likely because all three spent a lot more time together than they did in Collins’ novels), so if you wanted more romance admdst all the fighting, this is the series for you!


Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Info: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: story, atmosphere: admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with this book (the first half was awesome, the second half not so much) but I seem to be in the minority, so it made the list. It has a similar caste system as Hunger Games (extravagantly rich vs. the dirt poor), but it’s determined by blood color (red vs. silver) rather than district, which is an interesting twist.


Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Book Info: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Genre: Teen Post-Apocalyptic

Reason for Recommending: atmosphere: Under the Never Sky is futuristic and post-apocalyptic and the characters go through a similar desperation for survival (albeit a tad watered down). It also had that “not everything is as it seems” vibe that made Hunger Games so interesting. This one may not fully satisfy your Hunger Games cravings completely, but I bet you’ll still enjoy it.


divergent

Book Info: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Reason for Recommending: story, character – yes, I’m including this on the list even though, realistically, if you had any interest in it you’ve probably already picked it up by now. The Divergent Trilogy had a lot of good things going for it and is still worth a read if you liked Hunger Games because it will give you that same overall “feel.” It’s unfortunately not at the top of my recommendations. While I love to the first two, the third let me down enough to suck the wind out of my “series enthusiasm” sails.

                                                                                                                                                                         

I hope you find this list helpful and enjoy these titles as much as I did! I’ve added all of them to a shelf on my Goodreads page if you’d like to go read more about them. Happy reading! :-)

Have you read any good books similar to Hunger Games?

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Ten Goals of 2016!

top ten tuesdayI really like setting and achieving goals, and declaring them publicly always seems to give me that extra bit of motivation I need to make them happen. Last year, I managed to knock out 5 of my 10 goals (all the reading/blogging ones… the writing ones didn’t go so well). This year, I’m hoping for 10/10!


Goals Achieved in 2015:

1. Continue my 1500 for 1 reading challenge.

In which I keep track of the number of pages I read, and as soon as I hit 1500, I’m allowed to buy a book. The previous year I’d been trying a 4 for 1 method, but all that did was encourage me to read the shortest books first. This method has been working splendidly for me – not only does it completely moderate my book spending, but it also curbs that almost addictive need to buy new books, as I read enough to get a new package in the mail once every few weeks. I’ve also noticed that it makes me more selective on what I bring home – after all, I only have one book “credit” to spend at a time, and I want to make sure I spend it on something I’m going to love!

2. Get rid of all the books I didn’t like:

This goal involved getting rid of books that I’d already read, but kind of hated. This one was really difficult for me because each read book on my shelf represents a little badge of accomplishment. I tackled this goal in baby steps, starting out by removing all of these titles from my shelves. I soon discovered that having bookcases only filled with both books that I absolutely loved and ones that I am super excited to read made gazing at my library a lot more rewarding than when I was having to stop constantly to lament how much I didn’t like a particular title. It sounds weird, but hey, whatever works, right?

3. Only review the books I feel strongly about.

I achieved this goal, but in a different way than I’d intended. Initially, I was thinking to review only the extreme ends of the spectrums, you know, the loves and hates. I discovered that sometimes, the ones smack dab in the middle of those extremes are the ones I felt the most strongly about. In any case, I feel like my reviews in 2015 were stronger than they’ve ever been because I wasn’t just going through the motions to get my opinion of the titles down – I genuinely felt passionate about every review I shared. I will definitely be continuing this as I go forward.

4. Add a few more buttons to my social media taskbar.

Done! It took me six hours and a lot of hair-pulling, but I’m glad I finally sucked it up long enough to get it done. And you know what? I like them. :-)

5. Stop being a phantom follower.

I still don’t comment as often as I could, but I feel good enough about my progress towards this goal to call it a win for 2015. I probably commented (with thoughtful and sincere comments) more last year than I had in my previous three years of blogging combined. This year will probably be even better.

Like I said, all of my blogging/reading goals were achieved, but for various reasons, I didn’t complete any of my writing goals. This year, I decided to make all of my goals reading/blogging/creativity related.


Niki’s Top Ten Goals of 2016!

1. Be Creative!

2016 is the year of creativity! In which I plan to do some sort of creative expression every day. I’m ready, too. I have a fresh set of paints, gorgeous high-quality colored pencils (and a nifty adult coloring book), a beautiful crossstitch project, and an organized arsenal of countless other supplies and possibilities! My first focus is to finish a gorgeous Royce Frogs crossstitch project that I started during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

9 & 1/2 frogs down, 2 (and a ton of back stitching) to go!

2. Dance to the beat of my own drum!

From a reading/blogging standpoint, of course. I’ve been kind of doing this throughout 2015 anyway, but I’d like to make an official goal for 2016.

Notes to self: [1] don’t feel like blogging this week? Whatever. I doubt it will hurt anyone’s feelings (if they even notice. I’ve seen a few of those “I’m back” posts where I went “oh, yeah… Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen a post in a while – glad you’re back!” [2] feel like posting 10 times in 2 days to effectively burn yourself out? That’s cool, too, just apologize to your readers for BOMBING their inboxes. [3] miss posting/writing a weekly feature post (like Top Ten Tuesday) that you’d wanted to do? HOW ANNOYING!!! Find a way to cope with your OCD and post it anyway. I don’t care if it’s Friday.

It’s an oddly liberating thing to finally realize that this is MY blog and I don’t have any rules or constraints on my creativity other than what I place on myself. Although, ultimately, I would love to dance to my own drum AND make my readers happy at the same time. I think it’s possible.

3. Finish out priority series.

This was an unofficial goal last year, and I’ve made a lot of progress with it. It goes along nicely with my “Read the best books first” mantra and has helped me focus primarily on the authors I claim as favorites. I also feel weirdly compelled to finish these outstanding series before I dive fully into new ones. Like I won’t enjoy the new ones until I finish the old ones? It doesn’t make any sense, so it’s probably just my OCD trying to rationalize this compulsion from my subconscious. I’m choosing to indulge it.

4. Respond to comments ON MY OWN BLOG!

Ugh. How embarrassing. I mean, I managed to comment on other blogs this year while awkwardly neglecting my own. This is unacceptable behavior for me because of how much I appreciate anyone who takes the time out of their busy day to visit and interact with me. I feel ultimate shame. It’s one of those situations where I read the comment in the email WordPress sends me, formulate a reply in my head, then promptly forget to actually respond. #fail

5. Get my eyes healthy.

Really, this should be my first goal this year. ANY other goals I set for reading or blogging are absolutely pointless if I can’t focus long enough to achieve them. This stupid mofo injury has had me down and out for the past 6 months and it has been MISERABLE. Imagine your 3 or 4 most favorite things to do in the world. Do they require eyes? ALL of mine do! Woe is me. I miss reading, I miss blogging, I miss TV, I even miss driving. Okay, I’m done bitching.

6. Create templates for my posts.

Why haven’t I thought of doing this before? There must be some form of brain damage to blame because it would save me SO MUCH TIME! And it only took me 4 years of blogging to figure this out… Sheesh.

7. Host a MASSIVE giveaway.

Thus far, I have over 50 titles to give away that I’ve been hoarding for the last year. Some are new, some used, some are signed, and some lack SKUs (ARCs), and they all need a new home. More to come…

8. Figure out what to do with signed (and personalized) editions of books I didn’t like.

It’s what I get for not being brave enough to say “signature only, please,” fearing it might hurt the author’s feelings or something. Does anyone have some suggestions? Should I include them as options in the giveaway? Help, lol.

9. Rate titles on Goodreads.

This shouldn’t take me too long. I’ve been assigning “no rating” to all my 2015 titles so I could more easily remember which ones I hadn’t reviewed. The trouble is, I’m so far behind in reviewing that it’s getting ridiculous. Also, per last year’s completed goal of “Only review the books I feel strongly about,” there are more than a handful of meh titles that probably won’t get reviewed ever. My reviewing habits have clearly changed, it’s time my Goodreads account adapted with me.

10. Continue my Read 1500 for 1 challenge.

Because I love it and because it works.


What goals do you have for 2016?

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases in Early 2016!

top ten tuesday

Yeah, yeah – I know I missed Tuesday again. 2016 might be the year I dance to my own drum. In any case, here’s a look at the new releases in 2016 that I am just dying to get a hold of:

Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases in Early 2016!

With so many good options, how do I pick a favorite? It might come down to the new Mercy Thompson book against the new Selection book… thank goodness I don’t have to buy just one!

What books are you most excited for?

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2015!

top ten tuesday

Okay, I know I missed Tuesday, but this is one of my favorite topics, so I’m doing it anyway:

Niki’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2015!

I’m sure the caliber of authors doesn’t surprise anyone – they’re popular for a reason, after all. What surprises me is how difficult it was to narrow the list down to just ten titles. “Read the best books first, for you may not have the chance to read them all” really is a mantra worth having. It is really difficult to pick a favorite, but if push came to shove, I select Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb.

What were your favorite reads of 2015?

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Top Ten Favorite Audiobook Experiences!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This is a freebie week for the TTT feature, and since I’ve had this post up my sleeve for a few months now, I’m tickled to finally have an excuse to share it. When evaluating an audiobook, it seems like you have to consider more than just the basic writing, character, setting, etc. that you usually do with a book. You also have to consider the voice of the reader and their overall performance. I’ve listened to several books that came alive in a way that words on a page just couldn’t. Conversely, I’ve listened to many that seem to take all of the things I loved about the written version and poo all over it. I find myself on an endless hunt for new audiobook series that have the perfect mix of amazing story and performance, but here are the ones I’ve discovered so far:

Niki’s Top Ten Favorite Audiobook Experiences!

The Harry Potter Series – Jim Dale
The Kingkiller Chronicles – Nick Podehl
The Stormlight Archive – Michael Kramer & Kate Reading
The Gentleman Bastards – Michael Page
The Expanse – Jefferson Mays
The Red Rising Trilogy – Tim Gerard Reynolds
The Dresden Files – James Marsters
The Hunger Games Trilogy – Carolyn McCormick
The Game of Thrones Series – Roy Dotrice
The Riley Jensen Series – Justine Eyer

I think taking a chance on an audiobook is almost more risky than taking a chance on a new book – it certainly costs a lot more (generally) and there’s that extra performance-quality factor to consider. Thank goodness Audible offers guaranteed listens, that’s all I’m saying.

What are some of your favorite audiobook experiences?

by Niki Hawkes