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: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

6 06 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read by Fenella Woolgar

Hachette Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 34 Min

Genre: Fiction (Beyond that, you decide.)

Quick Thoughts: 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.

Grade: A-

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was a book that was barely even on my radar. Sure, I had heard of Kate Atkisnon. I knew she wrote some curious dog book or something. I had heard the news that two books with the same name were released on the same day. I placed all this information in that nice box where you put information about books that other people will be reading in, and wrapped it up with one of my twisted, nano-infused bows and forgot about it. Slowly, I begin hearing rumors that people were calling Life After Life a speculative fiction novel, and that may have tickled a bit part of my brain, even if I wasn’t quite sure which Life After Life they were talking about. It really wasn’t until I read Devourer of Books review that suddenly the box was ripped open, the nano-bow thrown to the side, and my interest was piqued. My first reaction upon reading her excellent review was that this book reminds me of one of my all time favorite novels, Replay by Ken Grimwood. Now, I knew Life After Life wouldn’t be anything like Replay, in reality, but it seemed to share its genre defying classification and use of metaphysical Time Travel. The idea that we can relive and redo out lives has always fascinated me. If I could have one thing, it would be a restart button, where after I screw something up royally, I can just reset the game and start again. Yet, how much would remain? What lingering effects would choices made in one play of the game affect the choices after we flip the switch? How different would my life by if I changed one thing, or avoided one event? 

On a snowy day in 1910, Ursula Todd was born, and then died before barely even taking a breath. On a snowy day in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, this time to take that breath. Thus begins the many lives of Ursula Todd. Through heartbreak and tragedy, war and trials, Ursula Todd lives and dies, each life taking different paths. 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. It would be easy to say Life After Life is a novel about fate, about how choices and events shape a person, greatly affecting the lives we lead. While it’s true I also I think this is an oversimplification. What Life After Life is truly about is character. With each life, each direction, Ursula remains Ursula at her core. There will be no perfect life, no time where she makes all the right choice, finds the love of her life, and lives happily forever after. Like every human that has ever lived, Ursula is flawed, and destined to live her life as she will. Sure, there are huge life altering moments, both experience and avoided, that send her spiraling down entirely different paths. Part of me wondered if major events in one life began to leave psychic scars for her next life, thus preventing her from ever achieving full success in any one area of her life. Atkinson uses the format she creates to manipulate us on an emotional level. She balances extreme melancholy moments, with moments of shocking morbid humor. 8 year old Ursula will, for reasons she’s not even totally sure of, take drastic steps to prevent family members from interacting with people during the outset of the Spanish flu  She finally gives Ursula a true Romanic side, a true storybook romance, except the man she falls for just happens to be a Nazi. At the center of this all is a very turbulent historical epoch that Atkinson captures wonderfully. Her tales of the London Blitz were especially well done, cultivating the conflicting emotions of that time, and truly presenting a harrowing, apocalyptic vision of WWII that we often gloss over in out American History classrooms. There is an unevenness to Life After Life, that I think actually ends up serving the tale. Not every moment will work for every person. I struggled with some of Ursula’s lives, while others completely enthralled me. Overall, this unevenness created a fascinating mosaic of life choices and core values that made Ursula a character that sticks with you well after the final page. 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.

The unique story structure of Life After Life creates challenges for audiobook narrator Fenella Woolgar. It takes a while for the listener to adjust and buy into the format of the story. For me, it was a good hour before I started getting my brain around things, and probably another hour before I really became ensnared in the story. Woolgar does an excellent job easing the listener into the story. There is enough pause, and change in tone to indicate the transitions of the tale, and while at times disconcerting, Woolgar does a good job picking up Atkinson’s cues and emphasizing them as each new life begins. What I really loved about Woolgar’s performance was her ability to allow her characters to mature, and keep it consistent. She manages to tailor her characters voices to fit their age and station in life, and keeps her vocalizations fluid from life to life, while maintaining the core of each person. Woolgar did an excellent job bringing Atkinson’s tricky tale to life, making it an audiobook worth investing a part of your life in.

Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this titles for review.