Monday, November 9, 2015

Catching Up on Audiobooks

I have been terrible about getting my audiobook reviews on the blog this year. I am listening to them regularly and reviewing for AudioFile Magazine, but neglecting to get them up on the blog once they've appeared in the magazine. Part of this is because my intention was always to rewrite them with a bit more about the content of the book. My reviews for AudioFile focus on the recording. Time just hasn't allowed that, so I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you from this year with AudioFile's permission. So, let's take a look:

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

Deviating from her bestselling non-fiction, Judith Flanders tries her hand at mystery in this debut novel. Susan Duerden gives voice to Flanders' narrating protagonist, publishing editor Samantha Clair. With consistency and emotion she creates a high level of authenticity in the reactions of a woman unaccustomed to big money book sales, let alone murder and mayhem. Duerden maintains a swift pace without hurrying and her dialects are distinct as Sam travels by foot, train and plane throughout Europe searching for clues about her missing author, Kit Lowell. Edgier than a traditional cozy, Duerden offers a light tone, while still delivering the occasional profanity with spunk. The only disappointment in this enjoyable recording is a flat delivery of the novel's sharp humor.

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

Hold on to your sun screen and shades, Florida's own Serge A. Storms is back and so is his versatile narrator, Oliver Wyman. A cast recording isn't necessary with Wyman at the helm. The wrinkles and white hair on a crew of plucky senior women ride the waves of Wyman's geriatric sound as assuredly and confidently as Mahoney's smooth gumshoe jive rolls off his tongue. Whether it's Coleman's dawdling drugged diction or Serge's speeding caffeinated chatter, Wyman is seamless in his delivery, highlighting subtle nuances in each character. Dorsey's series is famous for the wacky humor and Wyman delivers it with verve, leaving listeners chuckling heartily throughout. Veteran listeners or newbies are sure to enjoy this addition to the Serge A. Storms oeuvre.

Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

Gerard Doyle returns to Adrian McKinty's Detective Sean Duffy series to give a stunning performance in his reading of the fourth installment, GUN STREET GIRL. The plot, involving a suspicious murder-suicide possibly connected to arms dealers, is packed with subtle nuances and passions that underlie a tired, beat down, highly complex RUC inspector. Simultaneously Duffy's protégé, Alexander Lawson, possess the unrestrained wonder and eagerness of an optimistic youth. Doyle narrates these mirroring roles with an elegant grace that makes listeners forget he's even there. From the subtle changes in dialect to McKinty's distinct writing cadence--and most especially the dark humor--Doyle hones in on and perfectly enacts all the minute details making this police procedural engaging and a joy to listen to.

Night Life by David C. Taylor

Keith Szarabajka ferries his audience back into David C. Taylor's McCarthy-era New York City with such authenticity they may start seeing their surroundings in black and white. Taylor's richly atmospheric debut crime novel, NIGHT LIFE, is only enhanced by Szarabajka's vast range of meticulous dialects, reflecting the diversity of the period. Szarabajka also subtly teases out the harsh ugliness of a nation in fear and leaders who profit from it. He delivers Taylor's stellar dialogue with a gritty grace befitting hardened cops and dirty politicians while never missing a beat of the deadpan humor that serves as the icing on this delectable performance. A brilliant pairing of narrator and story makes NIGHT LIFE a superb audiobook.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman's stunning tribute to life, death and fairy tales chronicles the story of Elsa, a seven-year-old tasked with delivering apology letters for her grandmother after her death. Joan Walker reads this delightful novel with a perfect balance of reverence and playfulness, bringing out Backman's wonderfully authentic child's-eye perspective as well as his heart-warming humor. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is populated with a rainbow of eccentric characters, and Walker provides each a distinct persona. Elsa's dialogue is, unfortunately, the most disappointing. Often Walker sounds as though she is over-reaching for a childish high-pitch instead of expressing Elsa's character. This small glitch aside, the audiobook is utterly enchanting and a must for anyone who appreciates story.

The Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron

David Colacci reveres the wolf in his narration of W. Bruce Cameron's The Dog Master. Guiding listeners through three time periods, multiple early tribes of humans and the wolf packs, he keeps the momentum of the plot swift, the characters distinct and the atmosphere rich. The tensions, anxieties and frustrations of both these early people and their canine counterparts are palpable in Colacci's boundless reading of a tale about the first dog. Without resorting to exaggerated dramatic effects, he builds an authentic tone of constant danger in an uncertain world of hunter and prey while also establishing passionate relationships--human to human and human to wolf. Exciting, engaging and enjoyable, The Dog Master should have a wide appeal for many audiobook listeners.

These have all been audios--and books--I thoroughly enjoyed. Here's a list of a few that I probably wouldn't recommend to anyone, but if you want to check out my reviews, click on the links to the Audiofile site:

The Empire of Night (Robert Olen Butler)
The Swimminer (Peter Ganim)
Ruins of War (John A. Connell)
Second Life (S.J. Watson)
Eeny Meeny (M.J. Arlidge)
After the Storm (Linda Castillo)
City on Fire (Garth Risk Hallberg)

If you haven't checked out the AudioFile site, I encourage you to do so. Sign up for their newsletters and subscribe to the magazine if you're an audiobook lover like I am. I've discovered great audiobooks through them and I hope these that I've shared here have been of interest to you. Thanks and happy reading/listening!


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