The Word Nerd Reviews
The Word Nerd's Best Audiobooks 2021
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
I only started listening to audiobooks in 2021. I remember back in the 90's listening to my grandmother's audiobooks and they were so monotone and boring I wondered how she listened to them. So, until this year I avoided them. Then, I happened to stumble across some outtakes by Michael Ferraiuolo for Alice Winter's How to Vex a Vampire, and I was so intrigued I grabbed the audio for that book. Well, that was the beginning of my very unhappy wallet, but I'm now firmly in love with audios and having so much fun catching up with the authors and narrators I've come to enjoy.
So although I'm only 12 months in to my audio journey, here are a few of my favourites so far. This list is in no particular order. I've also cheated terribly by listing a series as 'one book' - there is no way I could choose just one book out of these!!
The Forbidden Desires Series ~ Piper Scott & Virginia Kelly Narration: Michael Ferraiuolo
I think this was one of the biggest surprises for me this year. Up until late this year I had avoided the mpreg scene, but I'd seen so many people absolutely raving about this series that my curiosity was well and truly caught. I love the paranormal genre, plus, it was epreg (eggpreg?) so it sort of seemed not quite as intense as if it was a non-paranormal setting. It was also comforting to like and be familiar with the narrator and the authors. It's safe to say I fell in love with the entire Drake clan and their group of quirky mates.
By the time I got to this series, I was already a Michael Ferraiuolo fan; however, I think he truly excelled in this series. Over the seven (soon to be eight) books there is a very large cast, and every. single. one. has a unique voice. If I hadn't known that Michael was a brilliant voice actor before starting this series, this one would have certainly driven it home!
If you haven't read The Forbidden Desires series yet, do yourself a favour and get acquainted with Alastair & Nate/Iggy, Everard & Harry, and the rest of the crazy Drake clan ASAP. These audios will make you laugh (a lot), spring a few tears, and just leave you smiling with the romance of it all. I simply can't wait for the next installment!
The CU Hockey Series ~ Eden Finley & Saxon James. Narration: Alexander Cendese & Iggy Toma
The fact that the first book in this series, Power Plays and Straight A's, was released on my birthday last year just meant that the series would have to be a good one! :) However, I was a bit late to the game and the first two books had been released before I stumbled across them. This is a series I love in reading form and audio, although the audios just add that extra snap.
The CU Hockey series is so overwhelmingly popular I don't really need to discuss it in any great depth, except that these two talented Australian authors have taken to American hockey like they were born to it ,while giving us characters who are so very easy to fall in love with. This series is now complete, and I've loved every single book, but it will always be Forster and Zach for me! :)
This series was the first time I had listened to Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma. The voices of these two narrators work so well together. One problem I've come across with dual narration is when one narrator is voicing their opposite character. If they can't get a close match with their partner narrator the difference can be a bit jarring and take you out of the story, even if it's only momentarily. By half way through Power Plays, Alexander and Iggy had sorted themselves out and their voices while so very different, were blending so you could instantly tell which character was talking regardless of which narrator was voicing it at that moment. This duo is now very much an instant buy for me.
Four Kings Security & Kings: Wild Cards ~ Charlie Cochet. Narration: Greg Boudreaux
I started this series completely blind. The only experience I'd had with Charlie Cochet was her Paranormal Princes trilogy. The story sounded like it would be a lot of fun, but the seller was narrator Greg Boudreaux. With his narration I knew the story would be at least enjoyable. Well Charlie and Greg are a match made in heaven. This series was so much fun! Sure it had it's serious and teary moments, but for the most part it was light with an intense, but never heavy, suspense theme running through each one. I loved all the stories, but if I had to pick favourites Ace and Joker's stories were a highlight, but then I loved Lucky and King too. Don't make me choose! :)
By the time I'd gotten to this series, I was well and truly a Greg Boudreaux fan. As usual, he did a wonderful job giving voices to the crazy Kings and their team, as well as their partners. To my ear anyway, he did a great job of capturing Ace and Lucky's Spanish, as well as Mason's southern accent. With great comic timing, he brought all the humour created by the author and gave it life and vibrancy that had me laughing or grinning like an idiot (not a good look when on a crowded bus or walking down the street!).
I'd seriously recommend listening to the Four Kings Security series and its spinoff Kings: Wild Cards for maximum enjoyment. They are not really standalones as they are very interconnected and you'd miss a lot if you skipped around. If you haven't had a chance to listen to them yet, I can't recommend them highly enough. The men are whacky, quirky, and possibly insane, but so much fun!
Man Up ~ Felice Stevens. Narration: Kale Williams
When I first started the Man Up series I was already a fan of Felice Stevens' work, but it was the first time I'd listened to anything by her in audio, and it was my first experience with Kale Williams as a narrator.
I was drawn and engaged by Kale Williams' narration from the beginning. I was particularly drawn to his interpretation of Rhoades, but all the characters had their own individual voices and accents, which were used consistently throughout the series. I thought he did a wonderful job of bringing the cast to life
Felice Stevens never has any trouble making her characters live a breathe on the page, and in the Man Up series this is so very important. All the main characters both the men of Man Up and their prospective partners are damaged in some way. The highly emotional nature of these stories means that you have to be 100% captivated by the characters or it will just be too heavy.
Felice's writing and Kale's nuanced narration ensures that Austin & Rhoades, Frankie & Aaron, Cort and Harlan, and James & Malcolm are not only vibrant characters in their own right, but resonate strongly with the listener ensuring that you are completely invested in their HEAs.
The Paranormal Princes ~ Charlie Cochet.
Narration: Greg Boudreaux
This was my first experience with Charlie Cochet, and the entire series was just so much fun. It had its serious moments, but overall it was a light romantic adventure. Greg Boudreaux captured the humour of the series and ensured that it moved at a fast and hilarious pace. Highly recommended series!
Black & Blue Series ~ Lily Morton. Narration: Joel Leslie
I had initially read this series and absolutely adored it! So much so that I didn't want to 'ruin' it by associating it with a narration by a narrator I wasn't familiar with. You know, how sometimes you read a book love it, then watch a terrible movie based on that book, and despite trying very hard the movie affects how you now enjoy the book? Same thing.
But, so many people raved about Joel Leslie's work in this one, and to be honest, my mother wouldn't stop nagging me about it, she was completely smitten! :)
So, only a couple of weeks ago I listened to Blue. Oh wow, everyone was right!! I don't think anyone but Joel Leslie could have managed to create that level magic with that story. He took everything that was already magnificent - beautiful characters; smart, fast, and witty British humour; a sensual love story; and don't forget the spine tingling chills, and made it a true experience for the senses.
If you haven't experienced the Black and Blue series in audio yet, take it from someone who was initially reluctant - don't wait, listen now!!
#Love Wins ~ Ana Byrde. Narration: John Solo
I have read and listened to this series, and honestly, I love them either way! This is such a quirky, hilariously funny, and utterly romantic series. Ana Byrde has a fantastic sense of humour and doesn't shy away from providing as many second hand embarrassment moments as she can,
I'll admit I haven't listened to a lot of John Solo's work, but what I have, I've enjoyed immensely. He has a deep husky voice that works with many of these characters and the result is often an increase in the steam level!
This series is very light with only very low levels of angst, often caused (but not always) by elements outside the central relationship. If you are looking for a light funny listen, I'd recommend this series.
Vampire Related Crimes ~ Alice Winters.
Narration: Michael Ferraiuolo
The Vampire Related Crimes (VRC) series is one of my favourites. How to Vex a Vampire was my first ever audio, and it started the ball rolling on my love for audios. Alice Winters is a great author, I love her quirky sense of humour and her ability to create characters that you just want to bundle up and love on. Although, I really enjoyed reading her books, I've found that her humour works really well actually acted out rather than just read.
I'm a huge fan of Michael Ferraiuolo, he is a voice actor rather than just a narrator. He has a great range of voices, accents, and inflections that ensures that each character has a unique voice. There are two standout performances in this series, both for different reasons. The first is in the first two books, but more so in How to Elude a Vampire. I'm happy to admit I had no clue whatsoever who the 'big bad' was, it came as a complete shock to me, but the voice used for this character when in his evil persona, even now, gives me the chills! It was the compete opposite to the this characters 'normal' voice which is why I think it took me so long to connect the dots. The second standout is Alexei's monologue in How to Lure a Hunter. It brought me to tears to hear the desperation and fear coming from a character that is usually quite stoic, when he's not being a snarky sarcastic jerk. These are just two examples of the great vocal talent of this narrator.
There are probably not a lot of people who enjoy paranormal stories that haven't read this one yet, but if this is you, don't hesitate to grab the audio version. You won't be sorry!
The Hedonist Series ~ Rebecca James.
Narration: Christopher Rain
This series of books (8 in total) are based upon the members of the Hedonist motorcycle club. I like to think of this series as MC light as the members of the club are not the dark, morally ambiguous men that is usually associated with a MC book. Instead the Hedonists are good men, not innocent by any stretch, but they do no harm and help those that need it.
Christopher Rain, in these books at least, has quite a unique voice, but I soon came to love his narration of these books. All the characters had unique voices that suited their personalities and it was an addictive experience. I was so upset when I found out that only the first two books were in audio, I would love to see the rest of the gang come alive vocally.
This is a surprisingly emotional series, but with humour to break it up so it's never heavy. I've enjoyed my time with the Hedonists and I revisit often.
Demon Magic ~ Alice Winters. Narration: Greg Boudreaux
This list wouldn't be complete without Havoc, Miles and the quirky 'scooby gang'. I think I was a minute into the sample for Happy Endings before deciding to buy it, and I never looked back.
Greg Boudreaux worked his magic to bring Alice Winters' characters to life with her signature humour and snappy dialogue. Miles and Havoc are two of my favourite characters and I loved listening to them come alive.
If you haven't listened to Alice Winters yet in audio, this is a great place to start.
Reckless ~ Kiki Clark. Narration: John Solo
This is another one I'd classify as MC light, although it does start off a bit darker with Tank's initial club. This is a beautiful story of acceptance and love. John Solo was fantastic in this one, he really made Tank and CJ and whole gang people you could easily visualise in your mind. This one is very hot though, so unless you have a good poker face (I don't) make sure you don't listen to it in public.
The Husband Gambit ~ L.A. Witt.
Narration: Greg Boudreaux & Michael Ferraiuolo
This is my narration dream team! Although both Michael and Greg have distinctly different voices from each other, they worked seamlessly, each copying fairly closely the other's voice for their character. This was my first experience with L.A. Witt, but I've gone on to read many of her titles now. This is a beautiful story of finding love where you don't expect it.
Featherbed ~ Annabeth Albert. Narration: Alexander Cendese & Kirt Graves
The first book of the Vino & Veritas series set the scene for all the books to follow. Featherbed is an age-gap, low angst story about learning to live for the present not the future. This was my first experience with Kirt Graves, but his voice suited the softer and haunted Harrison, while Alexander Cendese captured the essence of Finn who was trying to fill his father's shoes, and in his mind, couldn't quite do it. This was an amazing start to a memorable series.
The Road Home ~ L.A. Witt.
Narration: Michael Ferraiuolo & Greg Boudreaux
Apart from the narration team, this one is a favourite because it made me think. It dealt with a few issues I really hadn't thought much about before: pornography and it's effect on families, and living long term with HIV. Ultimately, this story is about learning that your family is not necessarily the one you were born into, and instead a found family is everything you need.
Beyond the Sea ~ Keira Andrews.
Narration: Greg Boudreaux
Keira Andrews is one of my favourite authors, and this story is a perfect example of why. The ultimate story of survival, Beyond the Sea is a compelling adventure and an example of finding love where you least expect it. Greg did an amazing job taking this already amazing story to the next level.
Luca ~ L.A. Witt. Narration: Michael Ferraiuolo
Luca is the first of a new but now complete series. Unfortunately it is the only one in audio, but I've got my fingers crossed that others will be converted this year. Luca is just one of those sweet, but very steamy, stories that just make you happy. Michael once again did a wonderful job capturing the strength but hidden vulnerability of both Luca and Ethan.
Update: It's been confirmed the full series is coming to audio in the coming months!
As You Wish ~ Isobel Starling. Narration: Garry Furlong
As You Wish is actually the first book of the Shatterproof Bonds series, but since I haven't finished the entire series yet I'll only list the first book, and my favourite so far. This was my first experience with both the author and narrator. Isobel Starling created wonderful characters with a lot of subtle witty humour. Gary Furlong took these characters and this world and made it come alive. His vocal range of accents and comedic timing took this really good story and made it amazing.
Honey from the Lion ~ Jackie North.
Narration: Greg Boudreaux
Honey from the Lion acts as a prequel of sorts to Jackie North's Farthingdale Ranch series where the characters are often mentioned. It is a time travel romance that crosses time, as Laurie a modern day guest of the Ranch is transported back to 1891, a time where it is survival of the fittest, and being gay is not only not accepted, it is a life sentence. Greg Boudreaux did a memorable job of expressing the emotion in this intensely sensual and passionate tale. I'll admit I really teared up when I came across the part of the story where the name of the book comes from. This one really just has to be experienced.