Haley’s Top Listens in 2015

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

I’m a fan of Mindy Kaling and have been since she was on The Office. While I didn’t like Why Not Me? As much as her first book, I did enjoy her playful narration and funny anecdotes. I, like many women, really relate to how down-to-earth Kaling seems and that comes through in this book, especially in the chapter about how much work and money goes into making Hollywood stars beautiful. This is a great, quick, lighthearted listen.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Emily already wrote a wonderful, in depth review of this book, but I want to second it. I expected a comedic book, probably a memoir, from Aziz like all comedians seem to put out. Instead, I got a real look at the sociology of modern love. I was riveted to this book from the beginning and I think it taught me so much. I will admit, I was trying online dating when I listened to this and so a lot of the information pertained to my situation. I ended up following the statistics of successful online daters and, somehow, it worked out for me and my now boyfriend. I’m not saying this book will help you find love, nor does it aim to, but it provides a good look at the dating game. Even if you are not currently in the dating scene, Aziz’s humor peppered through the audio will be entertaining and informative. Plus, there’s something really meta and amusing to me about an audiobook narrator who mocks you for listening to the audio.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Although I love the Lunar Chronicles, I was on the fence about whether to read this novella. I decided I could listen to it while I drove, so it wouldn’t waste my time. I’m happy I did because I ended up really enjoying the backstory of Queen Levana. Rebecca Soler does a fantastic job with the narration and Meyer’s writing is stunning, as usual.

 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

This was not a 2015 release, but I did listen to it the first time this year. I had heard complaints from a friend that the written text was unpleasant to read, because it is written an odd dialect, akin to a very heavy southern accent. The audio version, however, was great. Saba lives in sort of sci-fi version of post-apocalyptic America. Her brother is kidnapped and she, along with her young sister, have to travel across the wasteland to find him. Young’s story is very original and will keep your attention, and the audiobook narration of Saba’s dialect added to the atmosphere of the story.


 Caz’s Top Listens in 2015

I’ve listened to a number of excellent audiobooks this year, which makes it quite difficult to pick just a few as my favourites of the year.  In fact, I’m going to cheat a bit, because one of my choices is in fact (almost) the entire output by one particular author/narrator team who are so, SO good, that it’s impossible to pick just one audiobook by them as a standout. 

I’ve already  chosen Lucinda Brant’s most recent book, Deadly Peril as one of my top ten books of the year, and now I’m nominating the audiobook versions of the earlier books, Deadly Engagement and Deadly Affair, and the audiobooks of entire (so far) Roxton Family Saga (Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage, Autumn Duchess and Dair Devil) as audio favourites of 2015.  The stories are incredibly well crafted and it’s clear that the author has a real love for the period she is writing about (the latter half of the eighteenth century) – her depictions of the fashion and customs of the day are superb and so well-integrated into her stories that it would be easy to believe she had simply conjured them from her imagination rather than putting a lot of painstaking research into the smallest detail.  In terms of the audiobooks, however, Ms Brant struck gold when she engaged British actor Alex Wyndham to be her narrator, as he is, quite simply, one of the best I have ever heard.  He has an incredible range of character voices, of expression and of emotional nuance, and listening to him is an absolute joy. It’s true that he has the most gorgeous voice, but he also has the artistry, technical ability and emotional intelligence to go with it – I’m gushing, I know, but he really is THAT good, and is the perfect match for Ms Brant’s beautifully written and plotted stories.

Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series is easily one of the best historical romance series, and I am in awe of the author’s ability to continue to create such wonderful characters and compelling stories.  Only a Kiss is the sixth book, and tells the story of the only female member of the club, Lady Imogen Barclay, who witnessed her husband’s torture and death at the hands of the enemy in Portugal.  It’s a slow moving story, but no less enjoyable for that, as it enables the listener to become thoroughly acquainted with the characters and for the author to fully develop the central romance.  It’s also no hardship to listen to the beautiful tones of the wonderful Rosalyn Landor, who has narrated all the books in this series (except the first one for some reason).  She is one of my favourite narrators, and has a real affinity for this sort of material, always managing to get to the heart of the characters and the story, and imbuing both with genuine emotion and nuance.

I was really gripped by Tracy Anne Warren’s The Bedding Proposal, which took a divorced woman as one of its protagonists, something very rarely found in historical romance given that divorces were incredibly difficult to obtain.  The story starts on a fairly light note, with young and handsome Lord Leo Byron spying the lovely – and older – Lady Thalia Lennox at a party and deciding to make her his next conquest. But what starts out as a flirtation and, on Thalia’s side, unwanted attention, gradually becomes something else as the couple falls deeply in love.  The story is intense and quite dark in places, and Ms Warren does a terrific job of showing the harsh truth of Thalia’s situation as a social outcast through no fault of her own.  The narration by Barrie Kreinik is excellent; I hadn’t listened to her before, but her very “1940s BBC” enunciation works really well for the principal characters, and she injects the right amount of humour and sensuality into the interactions between the protagonists, accurately reflecting the strong chemistry between them.  I haven’t had a chance to listen to her again yet, but I certainly intend to do so.

Romance audio fans have once again been treated to some wonderful audiobooks from another favourite author/narrator team, that of Loretta Chase and Kate Reading.  Of the handful of releases this year, my favourite is The Last Hellion,but Miss Wonderful, Mr Impossible and Lord Perfect are very close runners up, and each of them is an utter delight.  Kate Reading really “gets” Ms Chase’s humour and has a wonderful way with the deadpan turn of phrase which is one of her trademarks.  The Last Hellion features two strongly drawn, quick-witted and well-matched protagonists in Ainswood and Lydia, both of whom have suffered terrible losses and who hide the truth of themselves behind created facades, he of the devil-may-care rake, she of the imperturbable harridan. Ms Chase charts the development of their unwilling attraction brilliantly, showing – never just telling – the listener that these two people really need each other in order to become the people they are destined to be.  And Kate Reading is with her every step of the way, delivering a superbly characterised and emotionally resonant performance.


Melanie’s Top Listens in 2015

I’ve been listening to so many audiobooks recently, and absolutely loved William Shakespeare’s A New Hope, along with the sequels, The Empire Stricketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. The adaptations are by Ian Doescher, and have the feel of a classic Shakespeare play combined with the familiar story, characters, and setting of Star Wars. As a bit of a fangirl, I highly recommend them.
I really enjoyed Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy and Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), both read by their respective authors. What both of these books, and these women, have in common is that they are utterly open about the mental issues they’ve faced over the years, how they’ve overcome, and how they continue to fight. While Day’s book is probably more geared to those of us who have lived on the fringes of the internet (specifically the gaming and fandom fringes, though others are certainly applicable), both are entertaining, and it is wonderful to hear them in the author’s voices.

Also on my list of great audiobooks is The Martian by Andy Weir. Astronaut Mark Watney is accidently left behind on a manned mission to Mars when his crew thinks he is dead. He must survive, alone, on a planet that basically wants to kill him, for over a year if he is to make it back to Earth. If it sounds familiar, that’s because the movie came out this past year, and does a surprisingly good job of capturing what I see as the two themes of the story: “The human spirit endures” and “Let’s science the shit out this.” The narrator does a fantastic job of combining the fairly heavy but still approachable science with the almost joker attitude of Watney as he goes from “I’m fucked” (pg1) to “How do I fix this problem so I can live another day?” (pg2 to the end).

And finally, for a little romance, I have been listening (and re-listening and re-listening) to Richard Armitage read Classic Love Poems, which I got as a Valentine’s Day freebie from Audible. I think it’s something like $5 or $7 now, but totally worth it for the 30 minutes of Armitage read wonderful poems like Poe’s Annabelle Lee and “The Passionate Shepard to his Love” by Christopher Marlowe. After all, I can’t be the only one who wants to hear Richard Armitage say “Come live with me, and be my love.


Shannon’s Top Listens in 2015

Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

Nothing equals good listening like Loretta Chase plus Kate Reading. Ms. Chase writes wonderful historical romances and Ms. Reading brings them to life. I loved the chemistry between the leads, and the supporting characters were wonderful too. Lord Perfect has long been one of my favorite Chase books in print, but the audiobook is even better.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

This is a wonderful family drama. The narrator did a wonderful job voicing each of the characters. The book dealt with a serious subject in a sensitive and realistic manner. I highly recommend this.

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent


Menagerie is the first book in a new series by Rachel Vincent. The world building is wonderfully unique. The plot is spell-binding. I cheered Delilah, our heroine, on from the very beginning. Gabra Zackman is a very skilled narrator, who added an extra element of excellence to an already outstanding story.


Dabney’s Top Listens in 2015

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

As I listened to Eleanor and Park, I raved about it. And everyone I mentioned it to said, “Yes, it’s incredible. Hadn’t you read it?” No, I hadn’t and yes, it’s incredible. As Jenna said in her DIK review at AAR,

This book will haunt you. It will make you hurt and it will make you smile, and you’ll be thinking about these characters long after their story has finished. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a book well worth reading, and I can’t recommend Eleanor and Park highly enough.

The alternating narration by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra is superb. Both make the teens they voice palpably real and heart-breakingly vulnerable.  If you’ve read the book, but not heard the audio, give it a whirl and have your world moved yet again. And, if like me, you haven’t read the book, for frack’s sake, buy this audiobook. I can’t think of a better way to apprehend the glory that is Rainbow and Park

 11/22/63  by Stephen King

I’d been meaning to read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 since Blythe’s DIK review of it. But then my youngest son mistakenly signed up for a binding Audible subscription and, suddenly, I had to buy six audiobooks. I hadn’t read any King in years but, after reading the thousands of positive reviews about this one I decided I’d give it a try. Craig Wasson‘s narration is almost 31 hours long and every hour was a joy. This novel is, at its heart, a love story and Mr. Wasson makes the emotions of Jake and Sadie powerful and strong. It’s a complicated tale with many important supporting characters and each one is rendered audibly unique. I’ve since then read the book. While I enjoyed both versions, the audiobook is the one I loved best.

What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty

Lianne Moriarty is one of Australia’s most successful writers–I’m always surprised more Americans haven’t read her. I had listened to The Husband’s Secret and liked it so I decided to buy What Alice Forgot. This novel has three narrators (Alice and her sister Elisabeth and their great-aunt Frannie) and Tamara Lovatt-Smith is wonderful at voicing the three. The premise of this story–Alice wakes up after banging her head at the gym and discovers she’s forgotten the last ten years of her life–is one I liked and Ms. Moriarty gives the joys and pains of the three women’s lives a gravitas rarely found outside women’s fiction.


LinnieGayl’s Top Listens in 2015

Prudence by Gail Carriger narrated by Moira Quirk

I’m a huge fan of Gail Carriger’s steampunk novels and was sad when her Parasol Protectorate series ended in 2012 with Timeless. After following the characters through five books I felt a sense of loss. Well no longer!  Prudence picks up several decades after the Parasol Protectorate series ended and stars Alexia Maccon’s daughter Prudence – or Rue as her friends know her.

It took just minutes to realize that Moira Quirk is the perfect narrator for this book. She brings the right sense of humor and tone every character. Yes, indeed, some are rather over the top – Lord Akeldama most notably – but that’s exactly how Ms. Carriger writes the characters. This first in a new series by the author introduces us both to some new characters, and continues with some earlier characters both from the Parasol Protectorate and her Finishing School series.

While I think this could work without having read the Soulless series, I can’t imagine doing so. One would miss out on so much of the history of the characters. As for me, I can’t wait for the next installment, and will definitely listen to it in audio.

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig narrated by Kate Reading.

I approached this final book in Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation series with mixed feelings. While I’ve been waiting for Jane’s story (the actual Pink Carnation) for years, I also didn’t want the series to end. And I’ll admit I worried whether Jane would get a fitting ending, and a fitting hero. I should have known better. In Jack we get a hero truly worthy of Jane. Jane has always been a bit of an enigma in the previous series entries.

Here, we get to know what Jane was really thinking, and how truly alone she has been at times. As always, Ms. Reading provides a wonderful narration for the book, deftly switching back and forth not only between characters of different genders, but between the characters in the historical romance (Jane and Jack) and the contemporary romance (Eloise and Colin). If you’ve enjoyed the Pink Carnation series in print, take a chance on the audio version; you won’t regret it.

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger narrated by Moira Quirk

This is the fourth and final entry in Ms. Carriger’s young adult Finishing School. It takes place in the same world as the author’s other steampunk series, but for the most part this occurs prior to the Parasol Protectorate. The series has featured the adventures of Sophronia and her friends at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s finishing school.

But this isn’t the type of finishing school you might imagine. Instead, the young women who attend the school – set in a floating dirigible – are taught all of the skills they’ll need to be intelligencers (spies, assassins, etc.). Over the four books the characters experience a lot of change. In this final, fantastic entry, we learn that many of the key characters weren’t exactly what we thought they were. And while I would have said that the first entry was not a romance, in the finale Sophronia most definitely gets a HEA, albeit a rather unconventional one. Moira Quirk has done a fantastic job narrating the entire series, bringing exactly the humor called for by the author. Frankly, I cannot imagine reading this series in any format other than audible; Ms. Quirk is just that perfect.