16 October 2014

Sound Recommendations: Eclectic Trio

I've been going through a ton of audiobooks lately and thought this would be a good time to catch up on some titles I listened to and reviewed for AudioFile magazine. For my full audio review of each of these books, click on over to the magazine's website.

The Long Way Home by Louise PennyFirst up is Louise Penny's latest installment in her Armand Gamache series, The Long Way Home, which is set in Qu├ębec. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I've read Penny's multi-award-winning work, and I've started with the tenth book. Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to be pulled right into the world of the former chief inspector of homicide. When the book opens, Gamache has settled in the small town of Three Pines to enjoy his retirement, surrounded by his wife and dear friends. But before he can fully adjust to being an ordinary civilian, his neighbor Clara asks him to help her track down her estranged husband. The story takes us from the village into the wilderness along the St. Lawrence Seaway and deep into the world of art. Despite coming late to the game, I didn't feel lost, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The unabridged audiobook (Macmillan Audio; 12 hr, 8 min) was read by Ralph Cosham, who was absolutely fantastic. Among Cosham's many talents was his ability to switch seamlessly from male to female and from English to French. I cannot wait to start listening to this series from the beginning. On a sad note, Cosham died last month, and the audiobook world lost a great star.

Edge of Eternity by Ken FollettA couple of years ago, I reviewed the first two books in Ken Follett's Century Trilogy, which focuses on a handful of families from the Soviet Union, Germany, the UK, and the United States as they face the major political, sociocultural, technological, and economic changes of the twentieth century. Edge of Eternity, stars the third generation of the original families and covers the post-World War II years up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. (The epilogue mentions Obama's election.) Although the novel is complex, it's easy to follow, and we see the significant European and American events take place on a personal scale, through the eyes of the characters. What I particularly liked about this last entry in the trilogy was that there were so many historical events that I remember happening and historical figures whom I saw on TV or in the newspapers. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 36 hr, 55 min) was read by the wonderful John Lee, who managed the many needed accents and kept all the characters distinct. True he is no impersonator, but his rendition of the famous men and women who appear in the novel were nonetheless believable. Despite it's length, this sweeping family saga is well worth the listen.

The Spark and the Drive by Wayne HarrisonThe final audiobook is Wayne Harrison's The Spark and the Drive, which grew out of a short story. This coming-of-age novel, set in Connecticut, opens as seventeen-year-old Justin Bailey begins an apprenticeship with one of the best car mechanics in the East. Because it's the dawn of the computer age, Justin is part of the last generation to have learned how to diagnose car problems without the aid of modern technology. As the young teen strives to emulate his mentor, both in and out of the garage, Justin learns much more than just how to repair an engine. Although the story is not really about cars, it was difficult for me to become fully invested in Justin's transition to young manhood, his family's issues, his mentor's marriage, and the relationships among the mechanics. Maybe it's because I didn't relate to much of Justin's behavior or perhaps it was because of the audiobook itself (Recorded Books; 9 hr, 2 min), which was read by Quincy Dunn Baker. Baker's characterizations and his handling of the dialogue were fine, but I thought his voice was too mature for a teenager. What's more, the rhythm of his performance didn't match the flow of the plot, and that began to bother me. If the premise of the novel appeals to you, then I suggest you listen to an audio sample before you commit to reading with your ears.


JoAnn 10/16/14, 7:50 AM  

I read the first book of Follett's trilogy, but the next two will be read/listen combinations. Thanks for the recommendations!

bermudaonion 10/16/14, 7:53 AM  

I have one of Follett's books on audio and, frankly, am intimidated because of its length. I'll have to pull it out for my next big road trip.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 10/16/14, 8:17 AM  

I just listened to Louise Penny talk this past Sunday at an event in the Cities. I must read (or listen to!) her!

Daryl 10/16/14, 10:03 AM  

you must forget all you learned in the Penny book or it will ruin the earlier books .. she built her characters interactions slowly in a way that needs to begin at the beginning …

Carol 10/16/14, 1:54 PM  

I love Penny's series. I've listened to all of them on audio except the first and it just won't be the same without Cosham.

Sandy Nawrot 10/17/14, 7:40 AM  

I read Pillars of the Earth and listened to World Without End, and I know that despite the intimidating size of his books, they are SO COMPELLING. Completely epic. This series sounds amazing. I need to just put my big girl panties on and do it. If I can listen to five Outlander books, I can do this. And I'm very interested in Penney. I hate jumping in late in the game though. I'd love to make a project out of that series.

Crystal Collier 10/17/14, 12:43 PM  

I have a hard time with audio books. I'm a hugely visual person, so being narrated to is just not a pleasant experience, but it's nice to be able to work while listening. Granted, it irks me that I could have finished the book in a couple hours vs a couple days if I just sat down with it.

Katherine P 10/18/14, 12:14 AM  

My library has a bunch of the Louise Penny books in audio and I was wondering how her stories would translate. It definitely sounds like they're worth trying out! 36 hours for the Follet?! I think I need to get a bit more regular in my audio habits before I start with that one! The trilogy looks really interesting though. Thanks for sharing! I'm still figuring out my way around audio books so I really like hearing which ones people like.

Anonymous,  10/18/14, 1:50 AM  

thanks for sharing. I have just listened to Still Life, the 1st book in the series by Louise Penny, great audio as well! planning to listen to the whole series

Margot 10/21/14, 11:43 PM  

I'm so glad you liked the Louise Penny book. I'm so sorry to hear of Cosham's death. For me, he was the chief inspector. I do hope you are able to go back and listen/read the entire series. They are well worth the time investment. Just take it slowly.

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