My Top 20 Audiobooks of 2013

23 01 2014

2013 was an up and down year for me. While I achieved some wonderful personal goals, I have also experienced some of the toughest trials and tribulations of my life. Some of that has been reflected on this blog and social media, where my presence is not as active as it once was. Typically, when I write this list, I give a statistical breakdown of my listening. While my overall consumption of audiobooks was up this year, my tracking, recording and reviewing of them were down. In 2013 I reviewed I posted 164 reviews of audiobooks, many of them including multiple titles. Roughly, I believe I listened to around 200 books his year, which would exceed my highest previous total.

2013 was a great year for audio. Any of the Top 5 titles in my list could have been contenders in any previous year. There were so many books that simply blew me away. It is always tough for me to choose my favorites. Instead of asking "What were the best books of 2013?" the question I asked, upon reflecting on the year is "What 2013 books affected me the most?" Whether through heart stopping action, stylistic writing or characters that stay with you, these are the books that lingered in my brain long after they finished. Some made me laugh, a few made me cry, and some made me cringe and want to grab on the closest person near me for a comforting hug.

When compiling this list, I also look for titles that truly stand out in the audio format. Scanning over this list, there is only one title I would say that the narration didn’t enhance the experience, yet that book was full of such awesomeness that the less than amazing performance couldn’t keep it off the list. For a bit of a surprise, there are no Zombie titles and only one true apocalyptic title, so those of you who have pigeon holed me as the "zombie apocalypse guy" may be a bit shocked. Don’t worry, my favorite Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Audiobooks of 2013 list will be on its way.

So, thanks for sticking with me through 2013, and be sure to keep injecting stories into your brain through your earholes for the rest of 2014.

 

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 35 Min.

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

What I Said: Brilliance is a smart blockbuster movie for your brain, with a complex and engaging main character, a stunningly created world, and so much action you should probably keep your cardiologist on Speed Dial. It’s a a straight thriller with enough science fiction elements that I want to force all my Speculative Fiction friends to read, at gun point if necessary. I absolutely loved this book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Read by Will Patton

MALE NARRATOR PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 18 Hrs 35 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Doctor Sleep is an audiobook that will linger with me for a long time, a wonderful and moving story combined with one of the favorite narrator performances of all time. Doctor Sleep is a prime example of just how special the medium can be.

 

Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger, Bk. 5)

Read by Ray Porter

Macmillan Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Science Thriller

What I Said: Extinction Machine is like a sick blend of The X-Files and 24, amped up on meth, laced with cocaine, marinated in Jolt cola and mainlined directly into my brain through my earholes. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a novel so tailored to my likes that I briefly wondered if my 2-year-old self was correct and the world actually does revolve around me.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Read by Benjamin Percy

Hachette Audio

Length: 21 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Literary Horror

What I Said: Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon tells the tale of the afflicted, the demagogues and the victims that this world of werewolves has created. It combines the detailed political and social alternate history of Harry Turtledove or Robert Conroy with the gut level horror of Stephen King told with a literary flair that escalates the novel beyond its influences.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Hachette Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 34 Min

Genre: Fiction

What I Said: Life After Life is a novel that defies easy categorization. It’s a genre busting look at life in the 20th century through the eyes of a normal women given the extraordinary ability to relive her life. Life After Life is one of the most fascinating novels I have read in a long time, and while at times I felt dragged down by the melancholy of the tale, by the end, I wanted to keep experiencing the many lives of Ursula Todd.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

FEMALE NARRTOR PERERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Harper Audio

Length: 19 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Horror

What I Said: Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

Read by Bronson Pinchot

Audible Frontiers

Length: 17 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Alternate History Urban Fantasy/Steampunk Superheroes.

What I Said: Larry Correia brings the arc than began in Hard Magic to a natural and completely satisfying conclusion in Warbound. With a combination of amazing storytelling, wonderful characters and one of the best narrator performances I have experienced, The Grimnoir Chronicles has earned it place as perhaps my favorite all time Speculative Fiction Audiobook series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Read by Neil Gaiman

Harper Audio

Length: 5 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: I loved every moment of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is the rare book that from the wonderful start to the bitter end, kept me enthralled in its words, a prisoner to the next sentence and situation. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminded me of why I read.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Graham Winton

Recorded Books

Length: 22 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: Robert Jackson Bennett takes on the American Dream, and twists it in so many bizarre ways it becomes a kaleidoscope of what-the-fuckery. An engaging plot full of wonderful characters, that Bennett sends on one of the weirdest, wildest sciency fiction adventures my poor brain has ever had to process. Some narration issues may have held back some of it’s overall potential, but it’s still one heck of a good listen.

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Monroe, Bk. 3)

Read by Hillary Huber

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 46 Min

Genre: Thriller

What I Said: In The Doll, Taylor strips away the trappings of her writing and presents a balls to the wall fast paced action thriller that will leave the reader awash in adrenaline soaked bliss. While her normal touches are still there, her vivid international setting, her complicated character’s unique skill set and her spin on typical action hero motivations, the action in The Doll is crisp and mean which makes it the most satisfying entry in an already excellent series.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Read by RC Bray

Podium Publishing

Length: 10 Hrs 28 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: The Martian is probably my biggest surprise awesome audiobook this year. If you like realistic space travel tales, with cursing, 70′s pop culture references, laugh out loud one lines and plenty of fascinating creative science and engineering problem solving, download this sucker now. It’s really good.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett (The Demon Cycle, Bk. 3)

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

Length:  26 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Fantasy

What I Said: The Daylight War is not just a wonderful edition in perhaps my favorite fantasy series, but the proof of the validity of the trust I have put in Brett as a unique storyteller. The Daylight War continues with the characters and themes we loved in the first two novels, yet also manages to take the story in a whole new direction. While the clash of cultures is brilliantly done, and the increased menace of the demonic enemy even scarier, it’s the intricate relationships that Brett has built that is the true beauty of this novel.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Read by Kate Rudd

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

What I Said: : The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a melancholy near future tale of love, family and robots, told on a canvas of a fascinating post disaster world. She fills her world with fully realized, flawed characters that filled me with joy as they were pissing me off. Clarke has managed to create a wonderful science fiction tale with a romantic tilt that I totally bought into. which isn’t the easiest of feats.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Mickey Haller, Bk. 5)

Read by Peter Giles

Hachette Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 49 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Connelly continues to prove he is a master of both plotting and characterization as he guides his broken creation, criminal defense lawyer Mickey Haller, along a bumpy road to redemption. Connelly redefines the concepts of innocence here, both legally and morally, while creating a compelling procedural tale. Giles continues to give a masterfully subtle performance that captures the nuances of Connelly’s writing.

The Thicket by Joe Lansdale

Read by Will Collyer

Hachette Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 19 Min

Genre: Historical Western/Thriller

Why I Chose It: I tend not to be a huge fan of historical/western tales, but The Thicket simply blew me away. Lansdale’s writing has a way of sneaking up on you. There are no bells and whistles, just straight forward storytelling, that surprises you with it’s emotional depth, colorful characters and dark humor. Collyer is quickly becoming a go to narrator for me. His performance of 16 year old Jack Parker manages to balance the naiveté and maturity of a young man forced to grown up due to tragedy.

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

Read by Vikas Adam and Priya Ayyar

Blackstone Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Literary Post Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The City of Devi was never an easy tale for me, I often felt uncomfortable with not just the action but my reaction, yet, it was also a lot of crazy fun. For me, this tale worked on so many levels, creating a sort of beautiful mosaic of apocalyptic themes, strange love, and over the top absurdity.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Read by Michael Beck

Random House Audio

Length: 20 Hrs 50 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Why I Chose It: Grisham returns to Clanton and his Jake Brigance character in a tale that rivals the A Time To Kill. Honestly, if you told me that Grisham would appear on my Top 20 list, I would have yelled OBJECTION! but Sycamore Row manages to be a effective legal thriller as well as a socially poignant tale. What makes matters even better is Michael Beck’s narration which is emotionally charged and pitch perfect. His performance enhances this novel, giving it a bump over a few other stellar legal thrillers this year, like Sheehan’s A Lawyer’s Lawyer and Ellis’s The Last Alibi.

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Audiobook Review: The Racketeer by John Grisham

15 11 2012

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Read by J. D. Jackson

Random House Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller/Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Racketeer is a highly complicated tale which is less of a legal thriller and more of a mix of confidence game and revenge thriller which pushes right up to the line of implausibility. I loved every minute of it.

Grade: A-

I have always had a bit of a strange relationship with John Grisham books. I remember oh so many years ago, when a friend of mine who never read gave me a copy of The Firm and told me I just had to read it. I did read it, and liked it. Then the movie came out, and the whole world loved it, but I kind of found the whole thing sort of a let down. It wasn’t until a few years later, after college, when one of my housemates had a copy of A Time to Kill that I gave Grisham another go. I loved A Time to Kill, and eventually began working my way through his books. For a while, it was great, and then I lost interest. There is a weird sort of experience with an author who has had so many of his books turned into movies. Outside of A Time to Kill, I don’t think I ever liked both the book and movie version of any of Grisham’s novels. I either loved the book, but hated the movie, like in The Runaway Jury, or found the book kind of "meh," like The Rainmaker, but then fell in love with the movie. Now, every year a Grisham novel comes out, and every year I find myself not caring. Yet, someone will say something, or I will read a review or article, or see John on an interview, and end up reading or listening to the novel. I was totally on the fence about Grisham’s latest, The Racketeer. I’ll be honest, the cover sort of made it look like an old time gangstery noir novel, which isn’t really Grisham’s bread and butter. What actually turned me around and decided to give this one a go was discovering it was narrated by a favorite narrator of mine. Sometime that’s all it takes.

Malcolm Bannister was a small town lawyer until he took on the wrong client. Now doing a 10 year stint in prison, swept into a RICO case he knew nothing about, Malcolm has lost everything. When a Federal Judge is murdered, Malcolm sees his chance for freedom. Armed with information that the FBI wants, Malcolm strikes a deal with the feds for his release and witness protection. Yet this is just the first step in a complex plan that Malcolm has set in motion. The Racketeer is a highly complicated tale which is less of a legal thriller and more of a mix of confidence game and revenge thriller which pushes right up to the line of implausibility. I loved every minute of it. Grisham has created a wonderful character in Malcolm Bannister. A simple small time lawyer whose experience being railroaded by Federal Government embitters him, while unleashing his inner criminal genius. Malcolm’s genius is a slowly burning, deliberately plodding type of genius that takes a long time to unfold. There are moments of The Racketeer that seems simply ludicrous. Series of events that have to happen just the right way for the story to work, but let’s face it, if it all crumbled apart it wouldn’t make much of a story. In the past, Grisham will often use a novel to highlight a social ill, yet, in The Racketeer, Grisham gives us mini-glimpses of a plethora of Government incompetence, from bloated and wasteful prison budgets, to the drug culture that is feeding the beast, with stops for Public corruption and single minded law enforcement along the way. Yet, most importantly, it’s simply a lot of fun. I think that there will be a huge split among Grisham fans, many will love it, but plenty will loathe Grisham’s complicated and often harebrained plot. I totally came down on the loving it side. While I won’t try to paint this as one of Grisham’s greatest novels, it’s the most fun I have had reading Grisham in many, many years.

JD Jackson reads The Racketeers with a slow, deliberate pace that perfectly matches the meticulously deliberate character of Malcolm Bannister. Jackson definitely gave a lot of thought to the approach he would take with this novel, and I feel his choice here was just right. Jackson always seems to find the music of the novel, whether it be a bit of funk, or some jazz, and he often serves as conductor of the rhythms of the novel as much as he does it’s voice. Here Jackson reads The Racketeers as a slowly developing piece of classical music, allowing the plot to build slowly through its characters until a wonderful dénouement. Along the way his tones a rich and pure, bringing flavor to the many characters you meet along the way. JD Jackson was the perfect choice for this novel and gives another performance to remember.





Audiobook Review: The Litigators by John Grisham

13 12 2011

The Litigators by John Grisham

Read by Dennis Boutsikaris

Random House Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 33 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Despite some flaws, The Litigators is a highly enjoyable novel which should rank up there with Grisham’s best. Grisham offers some of his quirkiest characters in a while and taps into the dark humor that has been missing from some of his more recent releases.

Grade: B

While John Grisham definitely did not invent the modern Legal Thriller he definitely helped bring them to mainstream success.  I remember when The Firm first came out. The hype surrounding the novel was huge. I had friend who never read telling me I just had to read the novel. I did, and I enjoyed it. I even saw the movie which I didn’t like nearly as much as the book. Yet, I wasn’t as blown away with The Firm as I was with novels such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent or Clifford Irving’s Trial. I found it an exciting thriller about a lawyer, more so than a true Legal Thriller. It wasn’t until I went back in time a bit and read Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, did I really become a fan of his. I always prefer Courtroom Thrillers over simple thrillers involving lawyers. Since those first few books, Grisham has been hit or miss for me. I loved The Rainmaker and actually really enjoyed its movie adaptation, but since then, I haven’t really found Grisham to be the instant draw that some thriller writers like Michael Connolly and George Pelecanos are. With those novelists I make it a priority to read their novels as soon as they come out, with Grisham, I sometimes find time to fit his latest in. Yet, I always hold out hope that there will be another great Grisham novel. While The Litigator’s isn’t it, it does come pretty close.

Grisham’s latest The Litigators is the story of young Harvard educated Lawyer named David Zinc who has a breakdown amidst the stresses of being an associate at a major Chicago law firm, and goes on a bender.  Eventually he ends up at the "boutique" law firm of Finley and Figg, run by two ambulance chasing, ethically challenged surly lawyers and their sarcastic legal secretary Rochelle. Zinc declares his intention to work for them, and then basically passes out drunk. Despite the way the novel starts out, David is quite a bit of a boyscout. He can be an almost annoying good at times, but you quickly begin to like him, and cheer for him. While happy to be away from the big firm, he is almost immediately turn off by the way the two partners practice law and live their life. The Litigators takes this odd partnership and puts it up against the backdrop of big time litigation against a major Pharmaceutical company.  The Litigators is a fun novel, probably my favorite Grisham tale since The Rainmaker. . Grisham takes you on an interesting and unique tour of Tort law and big time Pharmaceutical litigation, and in no way is it truly clear exactly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, but one thing is clear, it’s the public that is damaged by both sides. Grisham also offers one of the more unique Courtroom sequences that I have read in legal thrillers in a long time. While fun, The Litigators is not without its flaws. As with a lot of recent Grisham novels, The Litigators is ripe with unnecessary side trips and pointless superfluous characters that show up suddenly then disappear without really contributing to the overall story. Also, I have always thought that Grisham does a good job writing small towns. Here in The Litigators the novel is set in Chicago, but he never truly gives it the gritty urban feel that novels set in big cities need. In many ways Grisham’s Chicago just feels like one of his small town settings, only bigger. Despite these flaws, The Litigators is a highly enjoyable novel which should rank up there with Grisham’s best. Grisham offers some of his quirkiest characters in a while and taps into the dark humor that has been missing from some of his more recent releases.

A lot of the fun of this novel shines through because of the excellent narration by Dennis Boutsikaris. Boutsikaris does a wonderful job capturing the quirky feel of the characters, especially ambulance and skirt chasing ethically challenged lawyer Wally Figg. He paces the novel well, allowing the absurdity of the courtroom scenes to easily come to light as well as doing a good job covering up some of the author’s meandering moments. Boutsikaris took what could have been some annoying moments, and grating characters, and made them fun for the listener. I was definitely glad that I experienced The Litigators in audiobook form.