In 2008, I wrote:
I listened to 42 audiobooks this year, 17 of which were mysteries. The rest were mostly fiction (classics, lit fic and modern fiction) though there's a sprinkling of non-fiction (history, instructional and, even one spiritual!) For 2009, I'd like to see if I can get an even 50 audiobooks listened to.

A01. Solomon vs Lord
By Paul Levine
Narrated by Christopher Lane
SERIES: Solomon v. Lord; BOOK #1
PREMISE: Attorneys a-la Tracy-Hepburn, working their caseloads in Miami, FL
The audiobook lends me to suspect that the book itself is a fast and funny read. I do like humor, cleverness and/or wit in mysteries as it keeps the material moving, avoids the pitfall of self-importance and; distracts from formulaic writing. The audiobook edition lacks the fluidity of practiced comic timing and comes across as little less than fast and funny. This is most evident in the first CD where the narrator hasn't settled into the material yet. 

A02. To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
Narrated by Sissy Spacek
"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"
I loved this book! It was well constructed as well as evocative of time, place and emotion. As the story uncoiled, you could see how every part, every scene, of the book had its utility. Some parts were characterizations which fleshed out the citizens of Maycomb, other scenes served as not only insight to the characters but as foreshadowing, while other scenes served as flash points that kept the story moving forward. The balance of the whole was maintained by set-ups and "button-down" scenes throughout and, as if to emphasize this construct, places references to Jem's broken arm near the beginning and near the end of the story. Any number of threads could be followed or linked to create the weave of the story...   With a few deft phrases, Harper Lee was able to convey an exactness of time, era, locale and, mood. I marveled at the way that Maycomb seemed real to me, as well as its people and how caught up in the story I became! 

A03. Meet Me at the Morgue
By Ross Macdonald
Narrated by Grover Gardner
It's not a "whodunit" as Macdonald saves key information for the "big reveal" in the end, a sort of "deus ex machina" of evidence. I'm not even sure I liked the protagonist.

A04. Hoot 
By Carl Hiaasen
Narrated by Chad Lowe
Mispronunciations marred an otherwise decent recording: “bull" sounded like "ball;” "mulling" sounded like "mauling;"  "ESPN" came out as both "ESPN" and "ASPN;"  "intravenous" sounded like "innervenis" and; "Audobon" came out sounding like "Autobahn!” The humor lies in absurdity and was a nice change of pace. I had no problem recommending the title to my neighbor and her 10-year-old son; but overall I would have to say it's a likable, but not great, audiobook, so perhaps the hardcopy version would be better for all concerned.

A05. Crocodile on a Sandbank                                                      
By Elizabeth Peters                                                                      
Narrated by Susan O’Malley  
A06. Crocodile on a Sandbank
By Elizabeth Peters
Narrated by Barbara Rosenblatt

SERIES: Amelia Peabody; BOOK #1
PREMISE: Victorian Age woman and her family set out on adventures in Egypt and solve the conundrums that fall their way.
The book had all the elements that should have appealed to me: an English heroine, Gothic Romance, Egyptology, 1880's desert landscape, a mystery... but for some reason it didn't work for me. Perhaps there wasn't enough of any of the elements to satisfy my attention or; because the descriptive passages seemed to have been awkwardly segued in or; because it all seemed rather silly and "caricaturesque" or; because it lacked psychological pathos . . . 
GRADE: B ... as a YA title; C- as an adult title

A07.  The Debutante Divorcee
By Plum Sykes
Narrated by Sonya Walger
Annoyingly miscast audiobook and annoyingly insipid text: Sonya Walger sounds a little mature to be reading the role of a young, newly-wedded ingenue. The story itself has me asking why the protag doesn't have any friends other than the people she meets in the story! The characters overall are unlikable and their problems trite.

A08. Darkly Dreaming Dexter  
By Jeff Lindsey
Narrated by Nick Landrum
SERIES: Dexter; BOOK #1
PREMISE: Serial Killer working as blood spatter technician by day in Miami, FL
ABOUT: Dexter is personally drawn to a case in which the serial killer seems to be speaking to him
The moral relativism and self-justification is troubling and the Dexter’s musings are sometimes difficult to follow but the passage when Dexter’s trying to determine whether or not he is actually crazy is brilliant. The narrator sounds a bit like Jim Carey, he mispronounces “gaudy” and, at times he gives a light-hearted interpretation to material I might have taken to be creepier had I read it instead. The engineering on the recording is not very good: there are plenty of mouth noises like gulps picked up by the mic and background “hiss” (which is not in the opening credit or end tags).

A09. Life of Pi
By Yaan  Martel
Narrated by Jeff Woodman
"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"
Not a big fan of the pseudo-ecumenical theology but the zoological passages and the actual story were riveting. At first, and through CD02, I thought JW’s affected Continental Indian accent would be fatiguing, but he carried it off. However, on CD09, wherein two Japanese officials interview the protagonist, there was some difficulty delineating between the three characters at times; Devastating end that redefines the tale as an allegorical adventure and propels this title to a top tier read.

A10. Fahrenheit 451 
By Ray Bradbury
Narrated by Christopher Hurt
The narrator, who sounds like Michael McKean, doesn’t sound like he tried very hard to shape this book and as a result the lyricism and poetry end up sounding like throw-away lines, flat and in the way of his finishing the book.

A11. The Almost Moon 
By Alice Sebold
Narrated by Joan Allen
I don’t think anyone is supposed to “like” much less “love” this book and I think if I met someone who said they did, I would raise an eyebrow and try not to invite further comment from that person. I suspect that most readers fall into two camps: 1) Those who do not like the book because they DON’T get it and 2) Those who don’t like the book because they DO get it. The latter are more likely to appreciate the writer’s effort. I consider myself in the second group.
GRADE: B (but hard to recommend)

A12. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 
By Carson McCullers
Narrated by Cherry Jones
Best described as the antitheses of TKAM. Whereas Lee Harper had an obvious affection for her characters, Carson McCullers does not present very likable characters (cf Evelyn Waugh’s treatment of characters in Brideshead Revisited vs Somerset Maughm’s treatment of characters in Razor's Edge).

A13. The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield
Narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner
[No review]

A14. In Cold Blood  
By Truman Capote
Narrated by Scott Brick
"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"
Listening to ICB was close to having someone read the newspaper aloud to you. SB was absolutely neutral in his reporting of the text, lending accented language when appropriate, bur never over-the-top. There are some noticeable intakes of breath as SB launches into a sentence or two and; if you try to up the bass on your stereo, be aware there is no bass to “up!” Overall, however, this is a clean recording. The story itself is intriguing in that you know who, what where, when and, why up front, but you’re compelled to listen to the story anyway. The listener is eager to understand the dynamic between Perry Smith and Dick Hickock (the murderers) and how the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) puts the case together. The final discs address capital punishment and are definitely served as food for thought.

A15. Odd Thomas 
By Dean Koontz
SERIES: Odd Thomas, BOOK #1
PREMISE: A short order cook who can see the spirits of the lingering dead and does something about it
ABOUT: Odd Thomas must understand the intent of "Fungus Man" and ultimately foil FM's plot
Narrated by David Aaron Baker
I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed this title! I had always been wary of Dean Koontz because of his reputation as a writer in the horror genre; however, the characters were well written and, the self-deprecating humor and angst ridden nature of the protag, the "flawed narrator"-POV and the use of different tenses, and even the well placed chapter breaks made for a fun and fast paced listen! The imaginative and humorous style and somewhat are comparable to The Dresden Files. I wouldn't call Odd Thomas the most original work ever (you can see the "inspirations" everywhere) but DK has put it all together entertainingly well. 

A16. Spy Killer
by L. Ron Hubbard
Oh, my! The pulpiest of the pulps! The story was originally published in the 1930's and exploits an anti-Asian (i.e. Chinese and Japanese) sentiment that was prevalent at that time. The story itself has a couple of bewildering switches in trains of thought and the narration seems to a-synchronous with the underscoring. There was a nice full page color ad in audiofile magazine for "Stories from the Golden Age," the packaging is slick (includes a booklet about L. Ron Hubbard and a complete list of pulp titles that LRH wrote, as well as a subscription card) and, even the CDs themselves are pressed with full color graphics but, as the old adage goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover!"

A17. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone  
By J.K. Rowling
SERIES: Harry Potter, BOOK #1
PREMISE: Harry Potter is a natural wizard enrolled at Hogwart's
ABOUT: Harry's first year at Hogwart's: The Sorcerer's Stone must be protected
Narrated by Jim Dale
[Notes for a review]
Both the story and the narration were disappointing. As for the story, I expected something richer. Moreover, in the story itself, it was dismaying to hear that Haggrid didn’t own up to his misdeeds, allowing Harry and Harry’s friends to accept punishment for covering for Haggrid; And again, Professor McGonagall never investigated the motivations for Harry’s (and Harry’s friends’) infractions, concerning herself only with the action itself and meting out the punishment (as when they broke the curfew/trespassing rules and she deducted points from the house) or reaping the benefit (getting Harry on her house’s (Gryffindor) team as Seeker when he defied the injunction banning the students from riding the broomsticks unsupervised). Something could be made out of JKR’s treatment of adults, but portrayals that highlight the limitations of grown-ups are unnecessary reminders to both adults and, especially, to kids. As for the narration, Jim Dale’s interpretation was too over-the-top. His voices for Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore were indistinguishable which made the conversation between the two characters difficult to follow. Moreover, launching respirations, sharp inhalations or breaths that some narrators take before diving into a sentence, detract from the recording. Then again, allowances must be made since this recording was meant to appeal to children. Still, one of the most overrated audiobooks of all time.

A18.  A$$HOLE How I Got Rich & Happy by Not Giving a Damn about Anyone & How You Can Too
By Martin Kihn
Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner
Not the best production values: mouth noises and clicks, needed pauses inserted, music at tags intruded on narrative and was too loud. Material was funny, but didn’t really go anywhere.

A19. The John Cheever Audio Collection  
By John Cheever
Narrated by John Cheever, Ben Cheever, Meryl Streep, Edward Herrmann, Blythe Danner, George Plympton and, Peter Gallagher
A gin soaked selection of short stories written by John Cheever illustrating the moral/ethnical/spiritual void of, arguably, America’s last Golden Age, the ‘50s. It’s a revelation for the post baby-boom generation (it goes a long way toward explaining why the ‘60s happened) and a bit depressing as well. It’s also another reminder that a foreign culture may not necessarily be the one on a distant shore, but just a matter of time. BTW, a “coffee ring” is a coffee cake made in a ring mold (I had to ask someone a little older than me to explain that one.)

A20. Forever Odd 
By Dean Koontz
SERIES: Odd Thomas, BOOK #2
PREMISE: A short order cook who can see the spirits of the lingering dead and does something about it
ABOUT: Odd Thomas must rescue his boyhood friend who has fallen prey to a woman as “crazy as a syphilitic bovine with Mad Cow’s Disease.”
Narrated by David Aaron Baker
DK once more manages to write a paranormal mystery and “keep it real;” funny, thoughtful and, entertaining, you never know what’s coming next, minute-to-minute. The only issue I had with the audiobook was that Random House put in an intrusive and inappropriate promotional spot, voiced over by Jim Dale, right before the closing credits. 
Grade: B+

A21. What  Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal]
by Zoe Heller
Narrated by Nadia May
> The story is about the emotionally parasitic relationship between a sixties-something school teacher, Barbara, and, a middle-aged school teacher, Sheba, who is having an affair with one of her underage students. The book is set up as a first person narrative from Barbara’s point of view and details the flawed, pathos-filled and unavoidably human interactions that ostensibly form the keel of the narrative, the affair and resultant scandal. The true horror of the story is delivered in the final line. The characters may not be particularly likable, but they are recognizable.  Nadia May IS  Barbara and turns in a remarkable performance. Minor productions issues mar an otherwise excellent audio book: sound levels sometimes spike and, at other times are barely audible.

A22. The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
Narrated by Stephen Hoye
"1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"
SERIES: L.A. Quartet, BOOK #1
PREMISE: Fictional characters integrated with true crime story lines in Nihilistic post-war settings
ABOUT: Two law enforcement officers, Blanchard & Bleichart, are assigned to the homicide case of Elizabeth Short
> You don't so much read James Ellroy as you experience James Ellroy. JE's ability to place the reader in the time and place of his novels are superlative; But fair
warning, this is a time and place for only the most hardcore noir fans. This is track after track of dark, sordid pathos and it's all pretty grueling. There are graphic depictions of sex, corpses, brutality and, insanity and; none of it is pretty. The characters, whether protagonists, antagonists or, bystanders, are all damaged and the tone is unrelentingly harsh. As the listener is pulled into the gutters, it's almost easy to  lose sight of the forest for the trees: the story is amazingly well crafted. There are no loose ends or throw away lines. The storyline's punches keep coming to the very end and; even the afterword, despite JE's bemusing accolades for the film, is important to the story. Stephen Hoye does an overall decent job in narrating: some of the characterizations are great and his voice grows on you; but some obvious misreads, mispronunciations and a terrible attempt at a Boston/New England accent knock down the overall rating for this audio book.

A23. Water for Elephants
by Sarah Gruen
Narrated by David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones 's Best of 2006: Editor's Pick for Fiction and; Audiobook of the Year
> I liked this book because of the evocative and descriptive language; the transitions between the present and the past; the contrast between the present and the past; the equal weight given between the past and the present (it's a story of "Jacob 90/93" as much as it's the story of "Jacob 23"); the tension drawn between August and "Jacob 23" and; the book's recognition of the existence of "the person behind the old man" which, in turn mandates respect of the inherent dignity of the person ("It doesn't cost anything to be kind.") The scenes which sped by in overview mode toward the end of the story; the recognition factors in the scene when "Jacob 23" and Marlena meet (which came from nowhere and went nowhere), the superfluous scenes in the Church and, the overall performance and adenoidal voice quality of David LeDoux, all worked against my giving “Water for Elephants” an “A.” The grade would probably have been lower if it hadn’t been for David LeDoux’s rendition of August, John Randolph Jones’ voice as "Jacob 90/93" and the descriptive language of Sara Gruen.

A24. The Oxford Murders
By Guillermo Martinez
Narrated by Jonathan Davis
This is an intellectual vanity piece on the part of the author, a South American mathematician who features himself by another name in this mystery about serial murder. There are some academically interesting passages about serial logic, a couple red herrings, and a reasonable conclusion, but not enough in the story arc itself to direct the reader to the same conclusion. Jonathan Davis reads the text carefully and does a nice Scottish accent for one of the major characters, but makes no effort whatsoever for any of the British characters. Overall, TOM is a rather dull, cerebral story.



by Marilynne Robinson
Narrated by Tim Jerome
> TJ has done a handful of titles and it looks like his primary affiliation is with BBC Audiobooks. He's won a couple of Earphones awards. But he's killed this book for me.
Perhaps it's the lack of gravitas that I often approach lit-fic with; perhaps it's the lack of lyricism to his voice; perhaps it's because he doesn't sound like a 70+ mid-western minister; perhaps it's because he chortles and adds verbal tics, which for me, crosses the line from narrator to actor, if only slightly, but nonetheless annoyingly; perhaps it's all of these things or some other unquantifiable, but whatever it is, he ruined not only the book, but he ruined my mood for audiobooks that week.
[ I ended up listening to Mendelssohn instead, letting it gently washing away the bad audio memory in the hope that I would be in a better frame of mind to pick up another audiobook soon.]

The Woods
by Harlan Coben
Narrated by Scott Brick
> The audiobook sounds like an expander has been run on the files and/or the raw files were recorded using an M-Box set-up. The production is murky, SB's voice sounds corrupted (like the engineers tried to add more bass to his voice) and, the engineers used an annoying F/X whenever there was a telephone conversation in the book: They treated the other character's voice to sound like it was on the other end of the phone (ugh!) SB does a terrible interpretation of female characters though his voice for the Russian "Uncle" was good. The production and narration idiosyncrasies were tiring and distracting from the story. It also didn't help that I really didn't like the protag.  This started feeling like a chore and I gave up somewhere around disk 3 or 4.



Tell It Slant
by Eugene Petersen
Narrated by Grover Gardner

Shantaram (Abridged)
by Gregory David Roberts
Abridged by Andrew Lozier
Narrated by Humphrey Bowers

Dare To Prepare: How to Win Before You Begin
by Ronald M. Shapiro
Narrated by Ronald M. Shapiro

Beautiful Boy
by David Sheff
Narrated by Tony Heald

The Invention of Everything Else
by Samantha Hunt
Narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Second Lives
by Tim Guest
Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

by Tony Judt
Narrated by James Adams

The Purpose of the Past
by Gordon Wood
Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner

by Sinclair Lewis
Narrated by Grover Gardner

Atmospheric Disturbances
by Rivka Galchen
Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner

Lost on Planet China
by J. Martin Troost
Narrated by Simon Vance

No One You Know
by Michelle Richmond
Narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Narrated by Harlan Ellison

The Four Feathers
by A.E.W. Mason
Narrated by Ralph Cosham

The Reagan I Knew
by William F. Buckley, Jr.
Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner

Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose
by Diana Leszczynski
Narrated by Kate Reading

And the Hippos Boiled in Their Tanks
by William S. Borroughs (as William Lee) and Jack Kerouac
Narrated by Ray Porter

The Laughing Policeman
by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö 
Narrated by Tom Weiner

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