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


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


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.

Audiobook Review: The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

7 01 2013

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Luis Moreno

Recorded Books

Length: 18 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: The Troupe is one of the very few fantasies that I was completely enthralled with from the mysterious beginnings to its bittersweet end. It reminded me that there is magic still in this world, whether it’s in a song, or the touch of a loved one and most importantly within the pages of a well told story. You needn’t be a fan of Fantasy to find the joy and the magic in this wonderful world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created.

Grade: A

Note: This week I will be featuring books that I choose to listen to based on reviews and “Best of 2012…” posts by my fellow bloggers which I will be linking at the end of this post.

Stephen King once wrote that "books are a uniquely portable magic." This has always been true for me. I have lived a pretty stationary life, living the majority of it within the 50 miles of the place of my birth. I have yet to travel outside the country or even much past the Mississippi River. Yet, books have opened the world to me, and even better, other worlds both real and fantastic. As a child, I found just as much magic reading about a lone family crossing an iced river on their way to finding a new home on the prairie, as I did from a little girl entering a brand new world through a dusty old wardrobe. Yet, now that I’m older and much more experienced I find that reading doesn’t always have the same sort of magic as it did for me as a child. I think this is due to a combination of changes in me as well as a change literature. Magic is very often the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction, yet, much of the Fantasy I have read has given magic an almost functional feel. Magic becomes a process which practitioners access almost like a scientist in a lab. While I can appreciate this approach, I also feel it sucks some of the whimsy out of the genre. No longer is magic in a song, or present in the wind, but a force to be tapped through careful procedure. Magic serves a purpose, and is something that is there to serve a person or society, not to be experienced for the simple joy of the impossible. Yet, occasionally a book will remind me what it felt like to be a child, what it felt like to believe that that door may lead to somewhere grand, defying everything we think of as real. For me, The Troupe was one of these experiences.

George Carole is a young pianist who has run away from his small town in search for a mysterious Vaudevillian Troupe run by Silenus, a man he believes to be his father. Yet, when he finally caches up with The Troupe it doesn’t go as he expects, and he finds himself on the run from a strange danger and enlisted in an impossible quest by this callous man. The Troupe is everything a good fantasy should be with magic permeating every word. Every step you take with George on this journey opens new fantastic doors, unleashes strange new dangers, and broadens the scopes of you imagination. The heart of this story is Bennett’s brilliantly conceived characters. In many ways, you will feel like you have met them all before. There is the young orphaned boy with a special talent, a jaded and uncaring mentor, an exotic love interest and a mysterious disabled man, and as you meet each one, you can’t help but think, "Hey, I know them. I know their journey." Yet, you don’t. No character is what you expect, and each is explored in such depth, as Bennett tells you their secrets and explores their motivations. Each of their journeys touches all of your emotions, making you angry, sad and joyous all within the scope of a singe paragraph. What is simply beautiful about this story is I feel that Bennett has grounded this tale is so many recognizable tropes that is tickles the memories of each reader based on their own experienced. For me, The Troupe reminded me at times of everything from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus to Walter Moer’s Zamonia, even with touches of Horror Authors like King and Matheson. It’s not like these authors are influencers of Bennett, just the magic he reveals can’t help but remind your own individual magical experiences. For me, who is traditionally more of a horror guy than fantasy, Bennett also offers some of the most chilling moments I have experienced in a while. Right now, I can’t thing about puppets without getting a bit nervous, and I have always loved puppets. The Troupe is one of the very few fantasies that I was completely enthralled with from the mysterious beginnings to its bittersweet end. It reminded me that there is magic still in this world, whether it’s in a song, or the touch of a loved one and most importantly within the pages of a well told story.

In the beginning, I was a little under whelmed by the performance of narrator Luis Moreno. The early part of this novel was awkwardly paced, and there were some strange, overlong pauses throughout the production. His reading was relatively minimalist, yet as the audiobook progresses, and as each character became more and more real to me, Moreno’s narration filled out. I think that at some point Moreno found the character’s voices. More than just tone and cadence but essence. There was one scene where Collette, a dancer with an exotic back story deals with some ruffian types while playing pool, and then interacts with George that really stood out to me as a true moment in the audiobook where narrator and story blended together to capture the mosaic that the author was creating. Also, the character of Stanley, a mute who communicated through writing on a chalkboard started out pretty generic, simply a reflection of George reading his words, then actually began to gain a voice of his own. I think that Moreno had a pretty solid grasp on George and Silenus from the start, but when he began to capture the personalities of the others within the troupe did this audiobook really takes off. The Troupe is a must listen in my opinion. You needn’t be a fan of Fantasy to find the joy and the magic within this wonderful world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created.

What Others Have Said:

I first heard of The Troupe through Rob H. Benford on Twitter. Rob featured The Troupe in his 2012 Review post as well as his SFFWorld review.

Dave, from The Audiobookaneers my cohorts in SFF Audiobook love, listed The Troupe as his favorite audiobook of the year, and posted his review. 

Bookworm Blues listed The Troupe as one of her Top 10 Books of 2012. Check out her review and interview with the author. 

The Little Red Reviewer, whose recommendations I always value, told me that “If you are going to read one new-to-you author this year, make it Robert Jackson Bennett.”