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 Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

25 02 2013

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

Quick Thoughts: 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.

Grade: A

Throughout my life there have been many things that I have wanted to be, but I can honestly say that a protagonist in a novel is not one of them. Authors are quite rough on their heroes, at least the author’s I read. It seems all heroes must be born through tragedy, their stories uninteresting until something horrible happens to them. This seems especially so in epic fantasy. Rarely do our heroes come from nice, middle class, traditional families. They are orphans, raised by abusive parents, lied to about their true heritage, forced to watch loved ones killer or kidnapped, or homeless whelps forced to survive in the worst sections of already brutal cities. Yet, they often tend to scrap their ways up, find some level of success, and obtain some level of happiness, whether it be through love or station. Then, of course, our authors strip it all away from them. They are betrayed, their children stolen, their wives murdered and they are thrown down into the muck once again. It’s really not easy being a hero and they know it. At some point, they must realize they are the heroes of some sick and twisted mind of a Fantasy writer. They begin to avoid anything but the briefest of relationships to fulfill their base needs. They just know in order to achieve their heroic goals, they must become isolated. They believe any friends or loved one will become harmed by being associated to them, so they toss them away. This is what I expected out of The Daylight War. Our hero, The Warded Man, would remain the gruff, isolated man obsessed with his mission, and if his thoughts were to stray to the young woman who captures his heart, she would be brutally killed, or kidnapped by his enemies. Yet, for some reason, Peter V. Brett laughed at my assumptions. Laughed uproariously like a half mad bard drunk on his own art.

The Daylight War is the third novel in Peter V. Brett’s epic fantasy series about a world where demons rule the night and the scattered remnants huddle behind warded magic protecting them. Yet, a prophecy declares one day a deliverer will rise, claiming old magic to drive the demons away for good, reclaiming the night for humanity. Yet, two men arise, from different cultures, the closest of friends and the bitterest of rivals, both the scourge of demons, both claiming ancient magic. Peter Brett’s Demon Cycle is perhaps my favorite modern epic fantasy. Of course, I am not really a huge Epic Fantasy guy, so take that as you will. In fact, when I first was recommended this series, about three years ago, I had expected something closer to John Shirley’s Demons that A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, what I got was something different. Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle is a blending of Arabian and Medieval Fantasy with Apocalyptic Americana creating one of the most unique and colorful fantasy series available today. Brett takes a unique storytelling approach with each entry. While telling the continuing story of the Final War between Humans and Demons, with each volume he expands the story of a character from the preceding book, adding depth to the overall narrative. In The Daylight War, he tells the story of Inerva, Dama’ting of the Krassian people and first wife of Ahmann Jadir, the ruler of Krasia and potential Deliverer. I loved Inerva’s story. It was beautiful and tragic, often hard to take, but revealed a lot about one of the most mysterious antagonists of the earlier novels. One of the things I love about this series, is the contrast between the worlds of the Krasians, where to poetry of the language often conflict with the brutality of the culture, and the Thesans, whose surface simplicity masks a darker undertone. Brett plays off both these cultures beautifully, blending them together more and more with each novel.

One of my major issues with multi-POV epic fantasies is that the author jumps too quickly between characters, often leaving me disconcerted. While the shifts were quicker than in The Dessert Spear, Brett still allowed each story to gain traction, and stay with it as needed, so when the shifts did come, I didn’t find myself distracted by untold questions of other characters. Yet, the true beauty of The Daylight War, and what makes it my favorite fantasy read in a long time is how Brett handles the character of Arlen, the so called Warded Man. Brett actually allows his character to grow and change, and not by becoming more socially isolated. Brett turns the character outward, creating more entanglements. Too often we see heroes try to isolate themselves, but instead Brett’s focus on the changed Arlen, allows us to see how the relationships he is building, especially with his intended Renna, makes him better suited to the task. Balance this with Brett’s tale of Inerva, Jadir’s first wife, and The Daylight War becomes less about two heroes, and more about the relationships that shape these two pivotal players. I found it refreshing, and added a lot to an already wonderful world. My only complaint is the end. While it was a brilliantly executed breathtaking finale, if Brett thinks that this will take the pressure off of the clamoring for the next novel, right now… well, he’s sorely mistaken. Even I, who is an advocate of accepting that every author needs the freedom to write at their own pace, can’t help but feel an overwhelming desire to start clamoring for the next book, right away. I will practice restraint, but Mr. Brett… you are not making it easy. 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.

Pete Bradbury continues the work he did in the first two novels with another great performance. Bradbury has a wonderful voice, well suited for Fantasy. He has a deep rich tone, yet one with enough potential for the exotic that is needed for the tale. Brabury has a storyteller’s soul. You could tell he put a lot of work into getting the details just right for this world, with not just proper pronunciation, but a true understanding of the text. One of the things he does best is his transitional work. When the story shifts settings, it’s not just the names and characters that change, but the feel and flavor of Bradbury’s narration. There’s a sort of magical poetry that simmers off the surface when he’s reading the Krasian POV’s yet, when he moves to Arlen or Leesha, he grounds the tale in a simple salt of the earth storytelling. And, his reading of Rojer’s performance of The Battle of Cutter’s Hollow gave me chills.  I enjoyed Bradbury’s performance so much that there were a few times I actually rewound the recording to listen to key moments again, and this is something I never do. The Daylight War is a wonderful listen, and if you have yet to experience the worlds of Peter V. Brett, you better get started soon. You’ll be in for a wonderful trip.





Audiobook Review: Brayan’s Gold and The Great Bazaar by Peter V. Brett

13 12 2012

Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

Length: 1 Hr 54 MIn

Genre: Fantasy

The Great Bazaar by Peter V. Brett

Read by Pete Bradbury

Recorded Books

1Hr 29 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: For fans of Brett, these tales add depth to the stories you already know and are just enough of a taste of his world to get you ready for The Daylight War. For those who have yet to experience Brett’s creations, these stories are a great introduction to one of my favorite Dark Fantasy authors.

Grade: B+

As we are about to embark on the year 2013 it seems appropriate to start getting excited for next year’s releases. There are a ton of books I am really looking forward to in the early part of 2013, like Myke Cole’s next Shadow Ops novel, a new Robert Crais stand-alone, and the latest entry in the tales of our fun loving serial killer Serge Storms. Yet, the book I am really looking forward to most of all is The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The Daylight War is the third book in Brett’s Demon Cycle, about a world where humanity’s only protection from demons that rise from the earth every night is the use of magical wards. I listened to the first two novels in this series before I actively began blogging about audiobooks, but the second book, The Dessert Spear was in my Top 20 Audiobooks of 2010, which was one of my first posts on this blog almost two years ago. Since then, I have followed Peter V. Brett on Twitter, and really enjoy his blog which is full of some excellent fan art and fun contests that makes me wish I was more creative. I was also happy to learn that Brett is a big supporter of the audio version of his novel, and an avid fan of Pete Brabury, the series narrator. As a lover of audiobooks, I always enjoy authors who support the medium.  Now, with the release of the newest book in the series less about two months ago, I must deal with one of the harder aspects of being an audiobook blogger, hearing all my favorite speculative fiction bloggers gushing of their ARCs of The Daylight War. Knowing that this would cause me angst, I patiently waited to listen to the two audio novellas that Recorded Books released this year set in the world of the Demon Cycle. This allowed me to satiate my love of the world, as well as prepare me for The Daylight War.

Brayan’s Gold takes us back to the early days of the series, as Arlen, the eventual Warded Man, is working as an Apprentice Messenger. Arlen is sent on a trip aside a full messenger to deliver precious cargo to a mining town run by a powerful Count. Along the way Arlen must deal with brigands, betrayal and one of my favorite "characters" from the series, the one armed rock demon. In The Great Bazaar, Arlen is now a fully trained Messenger with a reputation for taking on dangers other messengers won’t. In the city state of Krasia, Arlen makes a deal Abban, the accomplished merchant who is stigmatized by his culture for not being a warrior, to uncover secret knowledge that may be vital in the war against the demons. I often look at novellas such as these as a gift to the readers of the series. These two novellas act like deleted scenes in a movie, adding more depth to tales we already know. They also offer a taste of the dark beauty Brett puts into his world. Typically, I wouldn’t recommend stories like these to people unfamiliar with the world, but here, these tales stand well on their own and I can’t help but believe that anyone who gives them a listen wouldn’t want to learn more about this world. Both tales are full of adventure and wonderful characters and Brett’s penchant for imagery and detailed world building come shining through. The Demon Cycle is a work that should appeal to a broad audience from fans of epic fantasy, to those of horror and dark fantasy. For fans of Brett, these tales add depth to the stories you already know and are just enough of a taste of his world to get you ready for The Daylight War. For those who have yet to experience Brett’s creations, these stories are a great introduction to one of my favorite Dark Fantasy authors.

Peter Bradbury has the perfect voice for Peter Brett’s World. The World of the Demon Cycle has a broad range of cultural influences which include Western Americana and Arabic, and Bradbury has a wonderful range of tones to his voice. It many ways, his range takes you by surprise. His base narrative voice is sort of gruff and gravelly, yet he manages to find an almost musical rhythm to each culture he is portraying. His pacing is precise, yet manages to flow with the story. I think these two tales really highlight his skills, showing you how he manages to enhance each setting through his tons and rhythms. I was quite excited when I heard Bradbury would be on board for The Daylight War, making my anticipation for this upcoming book even greater.