Hilary Mantel’s historical novels about Henry the Eighth’s chief fixer Thomas Cromwell, WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES, may have been hugely popular, but I never made far into either tome. Judge me if you will, but the long, phrase-filled sentences and constant present tense put me off. Then I turned to the audiobooks, and sure enough, narrators Simon Slater (WOLF HALL) and Simon Vance (BRING UP THE BODIES) captured me immediately. The expressiveness of their voices, scenic pacing, and vivid vocal portraits welcomed me into Mantel’s blend of prodigious fact and colorful imagination. Thanks to Slater and Vance, each of whom won an Earphones Award for their performances, I read two books I loved, and Mantel gained a fan. Read more…
As fans of mystery audiobooks, we’re looking forward to this year’s Audie Awards and are excited to share the nominees for the Mystery and Thriller/Suspense categories. If you missed any of these audiobooks, there are a still couple of months for you to listen and root for your favorites before the winners are announced on May 31. Do you think Louise Penny and Robert Bathurst will take home an Audie this year? They were nominated for A GREAT RECKONING last year, but didn’t take home the prize. What about Harlan Coben and Steven Weber, nominated for HOME? Will the winner also have an AudioFile Earphones Award, like MAGPIE MURDERS or THE CHEMIST? Listen to clips of all the nominees in the 2018 Mystery and Thriller/Suspense categories and place your bets, theoretical or otherwise. Read more…
Welcome to 2018, friends! I’ll still be writing 2017 for at least another month or so. This weekend, though, I was writing resolutions. The idea of resolutions always brings mixed reactions. You have those who are steadfastly against them, “I NEVER make resolutions! Those never work.” And others who are super creative or need them for motivation. The flurry of gym memberships in January always reflects those who resolve to get in shape, and the garbage collectors probably have to work harder the first month of the year due to all those who want to de-clutter.
For the past several years, I’ve seen people creating one-word resolutions. The idea, I believe, originated with Mike Ashcraft and his “My One Word” initiative. The concept is to choose one word that you want to represent you and to focus on it the whole year. This idea made me wonder about what words would be appropriate for our favorite characters in crime fiction. So here are my ideas:
Walt Longmire – Justice
The honorable lawman from Wyoming is always in search of justice, but by the end of THE WESTERN STAR, he’s a man on a mission, and no one had better stand in his way.
Once a year, the mystery community gathers for Bouchercon, the world mystery convention. This year, writers and readers of the popular genre met up October 12-15 in Toronto to celebrate everything mystery. There were panel discussions, auctions, signings, parties, and more. Several different awards are presented throughout the Bouchercon weekend each year, including the fan-voted Anthony Awards, Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Awards, and Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine’s Barry Awards.
This year, Louise Penny’s A GREAT RECKONING, the twelfth Three Pines mystery, made a grand sweep in the best novel category, taking home all three awards. Penny was also the convention’s guest of honor. The audiobook world loved A GREAT RECKONING as well. It earned an Earphones Award and was an Audie Award nominee in the mystery category. If you missed this one, time to get it loaded up on your iPod. Robert Bathurst had big shoes to fill with the loss of Ralph Cosham, and he succeeded. Read more…
As kids, no one ever wants a curmudgeonly neighbor who’s regularly chastising them to “stay off my lawn.” That messes up all the games of kick-the-can and hide-and-seek. And what happens when your baseball accidentally goes in their yard? Lost. For. Ever.
But in other realms, the curmudgeonly characters are often some of the most well-loved. They’re the comic relief, the unfiltered voice, the personality we secretly hope we’re brave enough to embrace one day. And typically, there’s a pretty good heart buried deep inside as well. TV is full of these grouchy personalities: Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, Dr. Gregory House as the title character in HOUSE, and for those who can remember, Jonathan Higgins in MAGNUM, P.I.
Crime fiction also claims a number of delightfully cantankerous characters.
Louise Penny, whose new audiobook in the Three Pines series is GLASS HOUSES (and an Earphones Award winner), has crafted an excellent curmudgeonly specimen in Ruth Zardo. Penny’s expletive-spewing poet may walk around with a rain cloud over her head, but she brightens every scene she enters. Both Ralph Cosham in the early recordings and now Robert Bathurst illuminate her cranky disposition with aplomb, allowing that hidden softie to peek out just around her sharp edges.
So many great listening choices this week, I could make a long list! Astronomy, history, education, political activism . . . it looks like nonfiction is catching my eye. For teachers and students getting ready to go back to school, here’s a welcome message. MAKE IT STICK is ready to toss out “learning the hard way.” Two cognitive scientists have teamed up with storyteller Peter Brown for a highly listenable audiobook offering some powerful strategies. Another work that addresses totally different educational challenges, THE BATTLE FOR ROOM 314 is an important, though harrowing, memoir from Ed Boland’s year of teaching at a New York City high school. Alongside this audiobook is Gwendolyn Brooks’s biography, A SURPRISED QUEENHOOD IN THE NEW BLACK SUN. Brooks, brilliant American poet, Poet Laureate, and first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, is often known for her poem “We Real Cool.” As I was looking at details about Brooks, I found her reading of the poem.
A sad endpoint to Boland’s story, but learning about Brooks’s legacy offers listeners inspiration and admiration. Another dynamic listening experience is L.A. Theatre Works’ live-audience production of SEVEN, based on interviews with women activists from around the world.
For anyone who was wrapped up in this month’s solar eclipse, AMERICAN ECLIPSE, which is about the 1878 eclipse, has some fascinating history and scientific detail, as well as an astroid hunter. Narrator Jonathan Yen adds a lot to the listening experience. I can’t wrap up this week’s roundup without mentioning my nostalgia on seeing Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES. I love the Inspector Gamache books and admire the success of the change of narrators in the middle of the series. Robert Bathurst gets his second Earphones Award for his narration with the newest title. He took over for my lovely friend Ralph Cosham, who recorded the earlier titles and brought the series to listeners’ attention.
What are you listening to this week?
I have a confession to make. I sometimes listen to series out of order on audiobook. As a matter of fact, I recently finished Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES—but I haven’t listened to the previous two installments in the series. I know some of you are gasping in horror. There was a time I would have done the same thing. As I started doing more and more reviewing, my list of absolutely-must-listen-in-order started to get shorter and shorter.
I still adore Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, which seems to grow better with each book. And starting a new one is like visiting old friends. But my schedule—especially in August—doesn’t always permit me a lot of extra time for books and audios I’m not assigned to review. So I’ve ended up reading some out of order. Read more…