2014 was the year of audio books for me because of an Audible subscription. I did manage to read a few books both electronic and old fashioned paper. I also purchased a new Kindle Fire HDX this past year as well. And, I discovered I truly enjoy a new genre: thrillers. All in all, 2014 was a year of change.
“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher is the first book in The Dresden Files series. The narrator is actor James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. I listened to this book as my first foray into audio books at the beginning of 2014 to see if I had the time to listen to a book and if I could pay attention to an audio book during my morning and evening commute. Marsters does a decent job of reading the novel, but does fall a bit flat on the ears. I have talked to friends regarding his continued reading of the series and have been told he develops different voices and cadences for the different characters in the book. I am already a big fan of The Dresden Files and have reviewed here.
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker was a lovely surprise. The narrator was mainly Alan Cumming, but also included Tim Curry as Van Helsing. I’ve read “Dracula” in print form, but was quite curious about the narration by Cumming and Curry. Curry’s voice was unrecognizable as Van Helsing, but the Germanic accent used was engaging and entertaining. Cumming’s performance held my attention. Even though Stoker’s writing can be stilted and rife with troublesome words, Cumming made the story fun and the archaic speech understandable. Overall, an audio book I strongly recommend.
“Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1)” by Jonathan Mayberry is my favorite new series this year and Ray Porter my new favorite narrator. Porter’s delivery of Joe Ledger’s lines is natural and shows the snark and control of the protagonist. Mayberry has created a great cast of characters that make you want to continue following their adventures. “Patient Zero” revolves around a terrorist plot to unleash a bio-engineered threat against the United States. Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences must stop them. I love Ray Porter’s narration, but this is a series that I recommend in both audio and print form.
“Killing Floor” by Lee Child is the first book in the Jack Reacher series. If I have a guilty pleasure in 2014, it’s Jack Reacher. The narrator’s have changed a couple of times through the series, but Dick Hill is definitely the voice of Jack Reacher for me. If you’ve watched the Tom Cruise movie, “Jack Reacher,” please don’t take that as representative of this series. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Tom Cruise movie as well, but I keep that completely separate from the book series. The myriad of voices Dick Hill produces is nothing short of amazing in this performance and is an narrator I will continue to look for in other audio books. The plot of “Killing Floor” is a bit predictable in places, but the story remains enjoyable. Lee Child has created a truly memorable character worth reading, or listening to in this case.
“Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel” by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris was a book I read in January of 2014. I reviewed it in February here. I am enthralled with many things Steampunk. But, “Phoenix Rising” was my first foray into the literature. Ballantine and Morris are authors to watch.
“Feed, Newsflesh Trilogy #1” by Mira Grant and narrated by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein has a unique take on the Zombie Outbreak. Instead of the action, gnawing, and shoot-em-ups a zombie novel normally consists of, “Feed” is based on a group of bloggers struggling to be legitimate journalists as they are chosen to follow a Congressman on the Presidential Election trail. The zombies are merely a backdrop for the world Grant has created. The constant checking of characters for the zombie virus does become a bit tiresome by the end of the book, but the plot was engaging enough to follow the book to its conclusion. The narration switched back and forth a few times between Christensen and Bernstein which broke the mystique for me. If I had been reading the book instead, this might not have affected me quite so much. If you’re looking for a fun and different read, check out “Feed.”
“Steelheart, The Reckoners #1” by Brandon Sanderson and narrated by MacLeod Andrews was my first superhero/villain novel. You might recognize Sanderson as the author chosen to complete “The Wheel of Time” series. His great storytelling talent brings to life a comic book world which leaves you wanting more and wanting more again. Andrews voices a myriad of characters believably and is a pleasure to listen to. If you’re looking for a book that’s just plain fun, pick this up.
“N0S4A2” by Joe Hill was my slip back into reading horror. You can see my review for Unleaded here. After reading “N0S4A2” I followed it by several other horror novels (2015 reviews to come soon :). I blame you, Joe Hill.
“Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming and narrated by Simon Vance was another of my eccentricities as I explore the original books of famous movies. I’ll start with Vance. He seems to be the go-to British narrator these days. And there’s a reason; he’s quite good. If you haven’t heard any of his performances, you’re in for quite a treat. Now, to Fleming. If you pick up “Casino Royale,” you must keep in mind the time frame the book, published in 1953. Bond’s language and view of women are absolutely in touch with the times and absolutely out of touch with today’s views. Don’t let those facts nor the existence of the movies dissuade you from reading or listening to this book.
“Wolf Hunt” by Jeff Strand … what can I say about this book except, go get this book now. I loved this book. It has its horror moments; it is a book about a werewolf. It has its humorous moments; no I won’t spoil them here. The premise of the book is that two organized crime heavies are hired to drive a man in a cage who claims to be a werewolf to a mob boss in another city. Horror and hilarity ensues. I would love to see this story turned into a film.
“Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross #1)” by James Patterson narrated by Charles Turner. This was my first James Patterson book. I was not disappointed. Similarly, I was not disappointed by Charles Turner’s performance either. This is a reverse situation in my movie/original book theme. I have not yet seen the movie starring Morgan Freeman, but after having heard this book, it is in my Netflix queue.
“Mitosis” by Brandon Sanderson. This novella takes place right after the events in “Steelheart” and fills the gap between “Steelheart” and book 2, “Firefight.” For my thoughts on this book, I point you to my notes above for book 1.
“A Kiss Before Dying” by Ira Levin narrated by Mauro Hantman was the book that most disturbed me in 2014. This book has been made into a movie several times, but I was unaware of that until after I had listened to this book. Hantman’s performance was a pleasure. Levin’s story is, as I said, disturbing. But, isn’t the trait of a good author one that leaves you emotionally touched after reading their work? If you’re unfamiliar with Levin, he is also the author of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Boys from Brazil,” “Sliver,” “The Stepford Wives,” and the plays “No Time for Sergeants” and “Deathtrap.”
More to come…