29 December 2014

Sound Recommendations: Year-End Blitz, Part II

This is part two of a year-end Sound Recommendations blitz. Check out Friday's post for part one.

Death of an Addict by M. C. BeatonSet in the Scottish Highlands, M. C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series makes for fun, light escape reading. In Death of an Addict, the fifteenth installment, Hamish is investigating both a sea monster sighting and the alleged murder of a recovering drug addict. Worried that his beloved Highlands are becoming a staging point for a European drug cartel, Hamish goes undercover to get at the heart of the matter. Although he still has enemies in the police force in Strathbane, he accepts help from Detective Inspector Olivia Chater who is currently stationed in Glasgow. This adventure gives Hamish new experiences, including a trip to Amsterdam. Through it all, Hamish remains steadily unambitious, although he might be turning the corner in the love department. The unabridged audiobook edition I listened to (Recorded Books; 6 hr, 7 min) was read by the wonderful Davina Porter. I love her characterizations and Scottish accent. Frankly, I'd listen to almost anything she narrated. I noticed that there's another production of this book. I can't speak for that one, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Porter's version.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. MaasHeir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas, takes the Throne of Glass series to a new level. Although I had mixed feelings about the first book, Maas gets stronger with each installment of her fantasy series. (I'm going to assume you've read the first two books.) Celaena, still grieving over the death of her friend, has been sent across the sea to murder the king's enemies. While there, she learns some surprising things about herself, her family, and the true nature of her sovereign. Meanwhile, back at Wendlyn, Chaol and Dorian are still at odds with each other and especially with their fathers (for different reasons); each must make a tough, life-altering decision. Heir of Fire introduces new characters, puts familiar faces on new paths, and fills in some of the gaps of the deeper history of Celaena's world. Lots of action and surprises. I could barely stop listening at some points. The unabridged audiobook (Audible Studios for Bloomsbury; 20 hr, 18 min) was read by Elizabeth Evans. She does a fine job setting the pace, building the tension, and maintaining her characterizations. I hope she returns for the final three books in the series.

Florence Gordon by Brian MortonBrian Morton's Florence Gordon made many people's best-of-2014 lists. Tough-as-nails, feminist writer Florence Gordon has always lived her life on her own terms. She does not suffer fools gladly. In the summer of her seventy-fifth year, her son (now a Seattle policeman of all things), his wife (an academic psychologist), and their daughter (taking a year off college) are temporarily in New York and in Florence's life. Told from different viewpoints, the novel examines aging, independence, marriage, fame, family, and secrets. Smart, sharp, and beautifully written, this a book that you won't soon forget. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Blackstone Audio; 7 hr, 15 min) read by Dawn Harvey. As I said in my AudioFile magazine review, Harvey's performance felt intrusive, heavily signaling sarcasm and humor, for example, preventing listeners from making their own decisions. Furthermore, her characterizations and accents were inconsistent. Read this one in print; it deserves to be savored.

The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie StiefvaterAlthough I had some issues with the plotting of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, I've always loved Maggie Stiefvater's writing, her characters, and her imagined worlds. I'm not sure why I waited so long to listen to the Raven Cycle--The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; and Lily Blue, Blue Lily--but I'm glad I'm caught up, even if I now have to wait for the final installment. This fantasy (paranormal) series takes place in Virginia and in modern times. Local teen Blue Sargent has grown up in a house full of women, all of whom (except her) are psychic and make their living giving readings of various sorts. The town is fairly ordinary, expect that it houses a prep school for rich boys and is located close to powerful ley lines. When Blue breaks her cardinal rule of never getting involved with a boy from Aglionby Academy, her sheltered life begins to crumble. Each character is driven by different motive: Blue is cursed to kill her true love, perhaps with kiss; Gansey is obsessed with finding the resting place of an ancient Welsh king; Adam and Ronan are struggling with individual family issues; and Noah is coming to terms with an event in his past. As all gather around Gansey to help him on his quest, they and the world will never be the same. The Raven Cycle is complex, exciting, emotional, and sometimes unpredictable--put it on your reading list. All three unabridged audiobooks (Scholastic Audio; 11 hr, 8 min [Raven], 12 hr, 45 min [Dream], 10 hr, 3 min [Lily]) were read by actor Will Patton. Patton's native South Carolina accent is a perfect complement to these books. He injects his performance with a touch of appropriate creepiness, excellent characterizations, and sensitive pacing.


JoAnn 12/29/14, 7:57 AM  

Florence Gordon was my favorite book this year...too bad the audio version was so intrusive :(

bermudaonion 12/29/14, 9:39 AM  

I haven't read or listened to any of those. I've been struggling to find audio time here lately so my listening is down even more than my reading.

rhapsodyinbooks 12/29/14, 9:54 AM  

Given how much I love settings in the Highlands, its pretty amazing I have not yet read any books by Beaton. Maybe this coming year....

Amanda 12/29/14, 10:21 AM  

I love the Raven Cycle so much. I only started reading the series this fall (also on audio) but I've never read anything else by Stiefvater before. This was my first experience, and it was awesome!

Belle Wong 12/29/14, 1:01 PM  

I've read the first book in the Raven Cycle and really need to get to the next two in the series. Florence Gordon looks good!

Laurie C 12/30/14, 8:00 AM  

I love Will Patton! I am adding The Raven Cycle books to my TBL right now!

Anonymous,  12/30/14, 1:50 PM  

The third book of the Raven Cycle is going to be my next listen, as soon as I finish Huck Finn.

Daryl 12/30/14, 4:11 PM  

loved the werewolf series but i dont know i just dont feel it for the raven series ..

Heather 1/2/15, 4:25 PM  

So glad you're enjoying The Raven Cycle! Will Patton makes the series so great. I didn't even bother reading the third first. I just let him do it for me.

Elizabeth 1/3/15, 1:40 PM  

I can't decide if I want to do the Raven Cycle in print or audio - really, I just need to hurry up and get to it!

jilllora 1/5/15, 6:42 PM  

The Raven Cycle was one of my favorites of 2014. I still want to read the Wolves trilogy, but my local B&N never has any of her books (what is up with that, anyways?) and I'm not sure why, but I haven't felt like going the e-reader route with her books.

Tif Sweeney 1/11/15, 2:34 PM  

I adored Will Patton reading Raven Boys. I received the physical books for Christmas, so I will be going that route for the rest of the series. BUT, I might have to do audio just to listen more to him!!

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