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February 2019 Earphones Award Winners

The award is given by AudioFile to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.


ABSOLUTE PROOF
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Think DA VINCI CODE, and you have the basics of this audiobook. Investigative reporter Ross Hunter follows a complex set of clues intended to prove God's existence. Along the way, he is confronted by deadly obstacles put in his path by competing forces and his own doubt. What makes this a great listen is the narrator, Hugh Bonneville. (Yes, "Downton Abbey's" Lord Grantham has... Read More

AFTER THE WEDDING
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Rosalyn Landor portrays two determined souls who sweetly fall in love. When Adrian Hunter agrees to do a favor for his uncle, he doesn't expect to be married at gunpoint. When Camilla Worth meets the handsome valet, she too is shocked that a forced marriage is in the works. Landor does an exquisite job depicting the uncertainty and pain of both characters because of... Read More

AKATA WARRIOR
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Yetide Badaki's dynamic voice returns with this story of Sunny, an Igbo and American albino girl with the juju needed to save humanity. Badaki enlivens Sunny's character with a bright American accent and gives her friends varied Nigerian- and American-sounding voices. Continuing on from AKATA WITCH, Sunny, Chichi, Orlu, and Sasha are growing as scholars, pushing the... Read More

BELONGING
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Nora Krug's narration adds to her graphic memoir in which she recounts her journey to understand the German concept of HEIMAT--"a place that a person is born into that makes for identity." She asks, "How do you know who you are, when you don't understand where you come from?" Krug courageously embarks on piecing together her German heritage--exploring historical records,... Read More

THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Joel Froomkin is an exceptional narrator for this eerie tale of a decaying house and a boy abandoned to the care of his housekeeper. Froomkin moves deftly between the older housekeeper, Ruth, and 9-year-old Samuel. We sympathize with young Samuel and his longing for his mother; his musings come to us in tender, vulnerable tones. This is in contrast with Ruth, whose personality... Read More

BROKEN GROUND
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

DCI Karen Pirie is back in a new police procedural narrated by the versatile Cathleen McCarron with a charming Scots accent. When a body with a bullet between the eyes is found among two long-buried historical motorcycles, a cold case warms up quickly. The only clues are a pair of Nikes and the fact that the body is at the storage site of stolen goods. At the same time,... Read More

BURNING DOWN THE HAUS
Earphones Award Winner
History

This audiobook is an amazing piece of work. Narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies's delivery could only have been made better with snippets of the punk songs that inspired a generation to defy the tyranny of the East Berlin regime in the 1980s. Davies provides a sincere narration. While Americans enjoyed the music of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and others, young East Berliners lived... Read More

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

To start, listeners will hear some of the most interesting letters ever signed by Louise Brooks and Noel Coward. Neither of them wrote those letters, though. Lee Israel did. Jane Curtin narrates the literary forger's memoirs in a defiant, often acerbic tone. Israel shares memories such as her delight in finding a $30 typewriter and her horror at having a nightmare in which Noel... Read More

CARLA HALL'S SOUL FOOD
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

The tempo of the musical introduction establishes the upbeat tone in this celebration of soul food. Narrator, author, and chef Carla Hall brings out the rich tastes, texture, and history of these recipes for every day and celebrations. She infuses heart and soul into her explanations of the origins of soul food, which is steeped in African-American history, and details how she... Read More

THE FIRST CONSPIRACY
Earphones Award Winner
History

Brad Meltzer utilizes his skills as a thriller novelist to great effect in this true story of a plot to kidnap or even kill George Washington in the early years of the American Revolution. Scott Brick adds to the enjoyment with a gripping narration. Mensch and Meltzer's pacing and straightforward writing style adapt well to audio. Brick, in turn, makes the pages come alive. He... Read More

FREEFALL
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Karissa Vacker, as Allison, commands our attention from her first words. After a private plane crashes into a mountainside in Colorado, Allison awakens to find the pilot dead and her instincts on high alert. With the skill of one familiar with the outdoors, she gathers whatever supplies she can and flees the crash site. We sense she's running from something, but what? Enter... Read More

GHOST WALL
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Christine Hewitt's insightful characterizations bring greater depth to Moss's nuanced and gripping novel. Set over the course of two hot summer weeks in Britain in the 1970s, the story follows an unlikely group of historical re-enactors whose attempt at living like Iron Age Britons goes terribly awry. An archaeology professor and three students are accompanied by a... Read More

THE GOLDEN STATE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

With characters that ring vocally and emotionally true, narrator Amanda Dolan takes us to a place where achieving a state of happiness seems both obvious and impossible. In this acclaimed debut novel, young mother Daphne Nilson flees with her baby daughter from the malaise of her life. She lands in a northern California town as depressed as she is. Its residents have more... Read More

HIS VIKING BRIDE
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Listeners will vividly imagine icy seas and the raucous laughter of a Viking hall, thanks to Greg Patmore's atmospheric narration. Aestrid Karisson is kidnapped by Picts and then rescued by her father's mortal enemy, Veleif Kollsvein. Patmore's resonant timbre and authoritative tone make Veleif sound like a gruff Nordic bear. As Aestrid nearly spits with rage at Veleif's... Read More

IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrators Ben Bailey Smith and Lou Marie Kerr expertly intertwine multiple first-person points of view in this gritty debut audiobook about life and conflict in London, a city "that doesn't love you back." Characters from various class, religious, and ethnic backgrounds cross paths over a 48-hour period when racial tensions in the city are running high. Bailey Smith handles the... Read More

JEEVES AND THE KING OF CLUBS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator James Lance makes a jolly good show of this second novel commissioned by the P.G. Wodehouse estate. The plot has our man Jeeves and his gentleman, Bertie Wooster, engaged by a Lord MacAuslan to undertake a spot of counterespionage against the fascist-loving Roderick Spode, another Wodehouse creation. Joining these four as the audiobook's core characters are Bertie's... Read More

A LADDER TO THE SKY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Listeners are in for a masterfully written story, powerfully performed. Handsome, manipulative, ambitious Maurice Swift is set on becoming a famous novelist and a father--no matter what it takes. The narration is so arresting that one feels like a voyeur while hearing Maurice manipulate, through seduction, his first victim, aging author Erich Ackermann. From there, listeners... Read More

LET'S GO SWIMMING ON DOOMSDAY
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Kevin R. Free breathes dramatic urgency into Anderson's intense story about 15-year-old Abdi, who is forced to join the ruthless jihadi group al-Shabaab in Somalia. Free infuses his reading with raw emotion, giving each character a distinct voice--from the terrifying jihadi general's knife-edge roughness to the smooth, nasal drawl of the American black-ops agent.... Read More

LIFE OF PI
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Vikas Adam is the perfect narrator for this incredible novel. He delivers its lyrical style with energy and complete believability. After a Japanese cargo ship moving zoo animals from India to North America sinks, zookeeper's son Pi Patel is left alone on a 26-foot raft with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger with the incongruous name of Richard... Read More

THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Julian Rhind-Tutt is a narrator of one's dreams. He reads clearly in a melodious voice with spot-on pacing. He offers believable and interesting characterizations of everyone from Belgian Hercule Poirot to a working-class London tea-shop lady. And when the text offers context, such as "he laughed"--well, he has the character laugh. They also cough on cue. What is the audiobook... Read More

OUT OF MY MIND
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This audio production of Alan Arkin's short memoir is top-notch listening. The work is less about the details of the man's life and more about a very smart, very funny octogenarian's search for spiritual meaning. In his inimitable irreverent style, Arkin delivers anecdotes on a range of topics: his parents' conviction that everything would be better if people just lived the way... Read More

SAL
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Sharon Rooney's distinctive Scottish brogue takes a little getting used to, but once that happens, it becomes obvious just how perfect her performance is. Sal and Peppa are sisters on the run from the police. In preparation, Sal watched Bear Grylls videos on YouTube to hone her survival skills. They hide out in the Galloway woods, trapping rabbits and catching pike... Read More

SANCTUARY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

With its wonderful storytelling, beautifully narrated by John Derum, this unusual novel illustrates the difficulties of the immigrant experience as seen through the eyes of nine asylum seekers. After a storm destroys their boat, the survivors drift on the ocean in a dilapidated skiff. They have no idea where they are, and Derum's performance manifests their fear. Just when... Read More

THE SECRET LIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

With an easygoing narration, George Newbern delivers the keys to living an authentic and intentional life. In this examination of the teachings of the medieval philosopher Maimonides, we see the far-reaching benefits of applying his lessons to our contemporary lives filled with social media. Newbern's affable voice and conversational pace mirror the authors' positive message... Read More

SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, RETOLD
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Listeners first encountering Shakespeare's sonnets may have trouble with the language. Fortunately, James Anthony (who also introduces this audiobook) has put all of them into modern idiomatic English. After some explanatory notes by actor/novelist/poet Stephen Fry and an introduction by Anthony, the Royal Shakespeare Company's Paapa Essiedu narrates each original sonnet,... Read More

SKYWARD
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Suzy Jackson's assured, brassy tones and forceful delivery are an exceptional match for Sanderson's high-stakes, battle-driven space opera. Spensa is an aspiring fighter pilot on a distant planet, but her father's past military betrayal means she must face extraordinary odds to prove her worth on the battlefield. Jackson's gift for characterizations shines--she brings... Read More

STEPHEN FRY'S VICTORIAN SECRETS
Earphones Award Winner
History

Listening to Stephen Fry is always a treat, and this audiobook makes the treat even sweeter. Frequently joined by a number of historians, authors, and reenactors, Fry seems to be having a wonderful time recounting some of the fascinating arcana of the ostensibly tightly wound Victorian Era. With whimsical music to mark the short, informative, and entertaining chapters, Fry... Read More

SWEEP
Earphones Award Winner
Children

This atmospheric work of historical fiction and magical realism takes place in nineteenth-century London. Narrator Sarah Coomes creates a variety of voices for the chimney sweeps--Cockney climbing kids who are the featured characters. Listeners meet Nan Sparrow, the legendary climber; a malevolent master; a soft-spoken Jewish immigrant; a gentle chimney sweep; and... Read More

THE VANDERBEEKERS AND THE HIDDEN GARDEN
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Robin Miles's vocal repertoire shines as she brings the Vanderbeeker world to life. Casting about for summer vacation activities, the four find refuge with their beloved upstairs neighbors and then witness a medical emergency. What can a 5-, 7-, 9-, and two 13-year-olds do to calm their fears and be helpful? As they alight on a plan to create a garden in a seemingly... Read More

VERSES FOR THE DEAD
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This new entry in the popular long-running series featuring FBI special agent Pendergast adds two new wrinkles for the sharp-as-a-tack investigator: a new boss and a new partner. Narrator Rene Auberjonois brings an acerbic delivery and deliberate pacing to his performance, encapsulating the tension between the two agents as they investigate a series of gory murders on the East... Read More

WASTELAND
Earphones Award Winner
History

Andrew Eiden deftly delivers the author's examination of a popular literary genre through the lens of history. Through books, movies, and more, noted historian Poole traces the roots of modern horror to a singular event that shaped the world forever: WWI. His thesis is that the barbarism of war never fades. With his earnest intensity, Eiden sounds like an energetic history... Read More

WHAT'S BEYOND MINDFULNESS?
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

Pete Cross provides a calm and compelling narration as he gently invites listeners to partake in enlightening lessons intended to inspire mindfulness. Enriching chapters accessibly explore aspects of mindfulness relating to such topics as aging, awakening, authenticity, war, empathy, and emotional domination. Cross's narration is engaging, at once persuasive and inquisitive but... Read More

WHO?
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Narrator Grover Gardner captures the essence of an underrated science fiction classic while highlighting its introspective musings. At the height of the Cold War, Dr. Lucas Martino works tirelessly on a mysterious project that explodes, leaving him disfigured. Martino stumbles home months later, rebuilt with robotic parts and unable to prove his identity. Gardner subtly layers... Read More

WITNESS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Narrator Jason Culp deftly gives voice to both sides of a dialogue between a student and a teacher that focuses on Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's storied life and unparalleled career as a human rights advocate. Culp subtly brings out Wiesel's distinct Eastern-European accent, contrasting it with the devout and curious tone of the young American Ariel Burger, who first met Wiesel... Read More

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