2014 brought about my entry into reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine. My organization--or rather lack thereof--for this year has been the main obstacle for me getting those reviews here on the blog. The reviews for Audiofile focus on the production and not the story, so I have wanted to add additional information into the reviews to cover my reactions to the stories as well. I am hoping to do better in 2015 in this area so I can include those reviews here as well. In the meantime, those audios listed below that I haven't reviewed here, but have appeared at Audiofile will be linked to their pages on the Audiofile site. I hope you'll visit the site if you don't already.
My choices for favorite audiobooks--from the 35 I listened to this year--are based solely on the audio production, so some of the books listed below may not be (in my opinion) the greatest stories but they were stellar performances. They were enjoyable to listen to. So if the story wasn't that great then the narrator was extra wonderful in order to overcome that disadvantage and keep me engaged for the entire book.
FAVORITE AUDIOBOOKS OF 2014 ARE:
5. Midwinterblood (written by Marcus Sedgwick; narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt): this is a YA book, but can certainly be enjoyed by any listener. A strong atmosphere and Rhind-Tutt does a magical job with the irregular structure of this book. It's a collection of interconnected stories and he keeps the reader firmly entwined in that connecting thread. (Listening Library)
4. The Intern's Handbook (written by Shane Kuhn; narrated by Pete Simonelli): this particular book is showing up all over my lists this year. It's a wonderful, complete package. Simonelli didn't try to force drama into this book, he kept his reading dry to match the concept of the handbook--who's ever read a dramatic handbook? This may at first seem like the audiobook would be a boring listen, but quite the contrary. His approach enhanced the sarcastic humor and the suspense of the genius plot. (Simon & Schuster Audio)
3. Wait for Signs (written by Craig Johnson; narrated by George
Guidall): I'm utterly convinced that there is nothing Guidall can't do when it comes to narration, but he still continues to amaze me in his depiction of Craig Johnson's world of Absaroka County. Johnson's short stories are especially powerful with huge helpings of passion and meaning in small packages. Guidall made the opening of these packages a joyous occasion. He juggles the spiritual, the humorous, the respectful and the heartfelt without dropping a single ball. Sometimes he has to perform a magic trick and juggle them so they merge and then reappear as separate entities. He does it all without breaking a sweat--or at least without letting us hear he's breaking a sweat. He also shows up the individual who reads the introduction to this collection...the person who couldn't be bothered to find out how to pronounce Absaroka even though it appears half a dozen times in the text. How lame! (Recorded Books)
2. The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man (written by W. Bruce Cameron; narrated by George K. Wilson): This is a book I may very well have turned away from had I been reading it in print. It deals with a ghost trapped in the main character's head. Not my normal fare, but the presentation was simply so engaging and fun I was disappointed when the book ended. (Macmillan Audio)
1. The Morgue Drawer series (written by Jutta Profijt; translated by Erik J. Macki; narrated by Macleod Andrews): This is the only series this year that I started and HAD to continue to listen to--one right after the other. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get my hands on the second book, so I'll still be anticipating that one. I listened to the first book, Morgue Drawer Four, then the fourth, Morgue Drawer: Do Not Enter!, then the third, Morgue Drawer for Rent. They were absolutely wonderful even out of order. I'll have a full review for you soon, but suffice it to say these blew me away. The story concept is fabulous; the translation is brilliant--there's tons of slang and made-up words and Macki did an incredible job taking them from the original German to English; finally at the delivery Macleod Andrews was astounding. His timing, his attitude, his energy and intensity, they were all award-worthy. I love this series and the audiobooks are pure gold. (Brilliance Audio)
Debuts. I only read 11 debuts this year. I read books by 70 authors who were new to me, but only 11 of those were people writing their first books. So I'm leaving this list at only 3, which is still a large percentage of the total debuts, but I think these three deserve the kudos...and one you will see again tomorrow.
3. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton. A stunning portrayal of the Appalachian region, beautiful writing and a wonderful coming of age story. I look forward to more from Scotton in the coming years.
2. The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn. Geez, this book is like a bad penny, right? It keeps showing up everywhere. It's getting harder and harder to wow me with creative approaches to crime stories so when someone does, I celebrate it. Loved this book!
1. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. It continues to astound me that this book is a debut. I have recommended it to more people than any other this year and have had more people contact me about it than any other this year. It is beautifully written, funny, smart, heart-felt and it transcends time and place. It's set in Sweden but is relevant to anyone, anywhere, anytime. A Man Called Ove embodies why I love reading and love books.