I'm fairly new to audiobooks, and every purchase still feels like a bit of a gamble. I prefer to listen to books I haven't already read in print, and finding a good book that's also a good audibook seems to be a matter of chance. Anansi Boys was a gamble that paid off handsomely.
The novel itself is as clever and original as I expected from Neil Gaiman. It's peopled by amazingly colorful, likable characters who give rise to a wonderful plot. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed the story very much in the written form.
But the narration! Wow! The reader has a beautiful voice and a nuanced set of accents and speech styles that make the listening a continuous pleasure. Some of the story's witticisms are laugh-out-loud funny, largely, I suspect, because of the reader's own droll delivery.
If you like fantasy-oriented fiction and prefer your audiobooks beautifully narrated with simple production values, add Anansi Boys to your list.
It got me writing every day.
This one was a life-changer. Pressfield's ideas about Resistance are specifically for writers, but I have artist and entrepreneurial friends who've gotten just as much motivation and value from them. It's a short, galvanizing book. The ideas are forceful. He expresses them in his own terms, which employ metaphors of war and sport that I'd normally find distasteful, but which here just feel honest and straightforward. He's not trying to please everyone (which is, in fact, a big part of his advice to other writers).
I'd say that if you are an artist, a writer, a musician, or the a practitioner of any craft or skill that you wish you were doing more of, or were more devoted to, The War of Art might be a game-changer for you. It was for me: after listening to it, I completed revisions on a long-procrastinated novel and have continued to write nearly every day.
George Guidall is an excellent narrator for this material. His voice is wry and humorous, and he brings a deep understanding of the text to his reading, every paragraph pitch perfect. I think he adds a significant dimension to the book that I wouldn't have gotten from the print version.
I love just about every Georgette Heyer novel I have in audio form, and return to them over and over. Regency Buck was (I believe) Heyer's first foray into the Regency era, and it's interesting to see her laying the groundwork for the many novels that followed and created the Regency Romance genre. All the tropes that come to signify the genre are here: Brighton, the Pavillion, the Prince Regent, Beau Brummell, curricle races, Gentleman Jackson and boxing, the social restrictions placed on women, fabulous wealth and high titles, a glowering and unapproachable hero and a feisty heroine.
She does, however, get a little carried away with the details (you will never, ever hear a longer or more obsessive description of the interior of the Brighton Pavillion!), displaying all her amazing research, and after this novel she backs away from using important historical figures of the age as significant characters. There's an odd, "Mary Sue" feeling to heroine Judith Taverner, who is unbelievably rich, very attractive, unusually liberated, a "notable whip," AND who is admired by the Beau and the Regent AND a couple of the Royal Dukes.
The Gothic sinister-mystery element is kind of fun, and something that Heyer's later Regencies don't have as much of. It's an enjoyable enough tale, nicely narrated by June Barrie. It can't have been easy to lend life to the very-long sections about the roads between London and Brighton, boxing matches, or the aforementioned architectural detail!
I enjoy Venetia Lanyon as one of Heyer's more unusual heroines. I can overlook the dated implication that she somehow inherited her relatively "loose morals" from her mother (and if you can't overlook dated ideas, you probably shouldn't bother with Georgette Heyer's novels), and just enjoy the character. She's more implicitly sexual than many of Heyer's leading ladies, and it really is fun to follow the progress of a young woman who doesn't care about the social restraints of the Regency era AND who isn't schooled into submission for it.
All that said, it's not my favorite Heyer novel. The characters, with a couple of exceptions, don't leap to life the way her best ones do, and there are long stretches between plot points. It's an enjoyable listen, and of course Phyllida Nash does a wonderful job here as in all her Heyer readings, but unlike greater favorites (Cotillion, Frederica, Lady of Quality, The Grand Sophy...), this one isn't bearing up to multiple listenings.
As a little-understood sexual orientation, asexuality may seem inscrutable to non-asexuals and overwhelmingly nuanced to people wondering how or whether to place themselves along the asexual spectrum. Julie Sondra Decker's book patiently and thoroughly covers a vast range of those nuances. She's extremely careful and precise in her language, inclusive and conscientious. She doesn't descend into sarcasm or irritation, even when addressing some of the most tone-deaf FAQs lobbed at out and activist asexuals.
I identify in the asexual spectrum, and after frequenting online ace forums and doing some reading, I was still confused (and sometimes alienated). This book provided a lot of clarity, teasing out all kinds of variations on the asexual orientation and giving me much more confidence about my choice of "label." Listening to it was a validating experience. As others have mentioned, it's repetitive (which actually helped hammer home some of the ideas in my mind): definitely view each section as a long article designed to be read by itself.
Decker's writing style doesn't lend itself particularly well to the audiobook format, apparently featuring lots of slashes (e.g., "and/or," which is read aloud as "and slash or"), tables and lists. Part Six, Additional Resources, is a heroic and sadly unlistenable reading of dozens of long URLs. The resource section would have been better served by a single simple URL that audiobook listeners could go for the rest of the links. It's a minor quibble, but if the author is looking at reviews: Julie, any chance you could post a links page like that?
Nevertheless, Reay Kaplan's narration is clear, well-paced and easy to listen to, so hats off, especially for soldiering on through Part Six! I'm so glad to have found this subject covered so excellently.
"Surprisingly satisfying romance"
It's a quiet, subtle story that didn't appeal to me when I first read it as a teen. Much older now, I can appreciate the unromantic, unheroic heroine and the civil arrangement that both main characters must accept with grace and make the best of.
I think I own almost all Phyllida Nash's readings of Heyer novels, and they're uniformly wonderful. At this point, hearing her voice is like catching up with an old friend. I can relax, knowing she will always treat the material with respect and affection, giving distinct voices to all the characters and never missing the inflections and rhythm that characterize Georgette Heyer's prose.
I dunno--A Civil Contract is a pretty good name.
One of Heyer's least romantic romances, and yet surprisingly one that I found easier to swallow in the 21st century than some of her more frivolous stories (in many of which, pique and temper stand in for actual strength of character in her heroines; while domination and impatience are too often the main characteristics of her "strong" men). Here, we start with an unromantic arranged marriage between a rich but otherwise unattractive young woman to an impoverished but "noble" man. While we see that Jenny quietly does love Adam, the foundation of the arrangement is civility. They accept their situation and treat each other with respect and good manners. It's never portrayed as thrilling, but it's one of the few Georgette novels where we see past the proposal and the first kiss into the marriage and family life--and see that it's working. Kind of a nice change.Another distinction of this novel: I can't think of another Heyer novel that deals as clearly and (relatively) fairly as this one does with the class distinctions that lie at the heart of the whole Regency genre.
I blush to admit that I'd never read this classic American story (though of course images from it are pervasive in the culture, thank you, Disney). It was written in a period when people were used to being read to, and hearing it read aloud reveals how rich, rhythmic, and hilarious the text is.
Way, way funnier than I was expecting: sly, humorous characterizations that made me laugh out loud. The rich descriptions of the harvest season in early America are still beautiful and easy to relate to, even though our world is so very different today.
He has a beautiful, trained voice and strikes the perfect note for an audiobook: just "actorly" enough, perfectly paced, and exactly the right amount of dry humor for the story. I imagined that Mison was having a lot of fun in the recording booth.
I laughed out loud, very unexpectedly, in several spots.
I'm delighted to have been offered this title for free! I don't normally buy short Audible works, and would have missed this one if it hadn't been associated with the "Sleepy Hollow" TV show. (PS: there's virtually NO connection between the original Ichabod Crane and the TV-show character of the same name, played by Tom Mison!)
By Mike Carey, yes--and I have, in written form.
No good ever comes of having an American actor fake British accents. Ever. I've enjoyed Kramer's readings in the Wheel of Time series, so I know he's talented. This was a very, very bad case of the wrong person for the job. The book's narrator is supposed to be from Liverpool, the story is peopled with all sorts of characters who should have nuanced UK accents, and yet they all sound like--well, like Americans faking what they think English people sound like. Cringeworthy, frankly.
Clever, original, dark and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, this is a fantastic start of an urban fantasy series with an overarching story that the author never loses sight of. I deleted the truly unlistenable audiobook and paid for the Kindle edition instead, and am happily reading the whole series. Sad that the audio version was so wrongly cast.
If I were a professional audiobook voice talent, and commissioned to read a mainstream science-for-the-layperson title like this one, I think I might take a look at the text, notice that there are some foreign terms and ten-dollar English ones in it, and find out how to pronounce them. The narrator for this book didn't do that. Consequently, his pronunciations of French and Latin names and phrases becomes absolutely hilarious at times--enough to have taken me right out of the book.
I'm not talking about esoteric terms here; just that it's not King Lewis XVI, and not Chateau-nee-uf du Poppay, and not inexORable, and not "in vino vu-REE-tas" and...and... There's one such gaffe every few minutes.
Sadly, this makes a fairly thought-provoking text sound kind of...well, silly.
Paul Meier riffs on Received Pronunciation or Standard British English, up and down the scales from Cockney to the King, and demonstrates nuances of class, profession, and fictional style. There are some good tips here about using different variations for historical and fantasy characters.
It's a fun listen, well worth the low price, and I think frequent re-listening might instill a bit of the rhythm and character of the dialect in an American speaker. But there are no exercises here, nothing to actually guide an actor or storyteller in developing this dialect. Don't mistake this for language training or coaching. It's not. That, you have to pay a lot more for.
Timothy Egan's The Big Burn is the best sort of nonfiction book: a detailed and thoroughly researched examination of an interesting moment in history, made exciting and lively by the way the author structures the narrative. The Big Burn reads like one of those great disaster movies of the 70s, introducing a range of characters, great and humble, connecting them to an ominous disaster, and then following each of their stories to the thrilling conclusion.
Unlike disaster movies of the 70s, though, The Big Burn will provoke thought and discussion about what has changed and what hasn't changed--politically, environmentally, and socially--in America in the hundred years since the events took place.
Robertson Dean's deep, rich voice has a weight and substance suited to the text, and he even lends a touch of acting and dialect in extensive citations from the writings of historical figures.
I generally listen to fiction from Audible, and the Big Burn was as entertaining and engaging as any novel, with a great deal more substance and food for conversation.
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