2015: My year in audiobooks

2015 reading

Yesterday, I wrote a wrap-up post about the graphic novels I read and loved in 2015. Which made me think — why not do the same for audiobooks?

Appreciating audiobooks has been an acquired skill for me. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said that listening to people read puts me to sleep. Period. Little did I know how soon audiobooks would become an essential part of my daily routine!

When I first started listening to audiobooks, I stuck to re-reads, figuring that if my attention wandered, I wouldn’t be missing out on much. But over time, I’ve found that I can stay focused on a good story (so long as I pause the audiobook for things that take concentration, like finding a parking spot!).

I actually have no idea how many audiobooks in total I listened to in 2015, since I didn’t add an “audiobook” shelf on Goodreads until sometime about mid-year. Still, these are the listening adventures that really stood out for me this past year.

1) It was a year of Austen for me! I listened to Jane Austen’s six novels in the spring and summer, and absolutely loved them! All but one (Pride and Prejudice) were narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and she does an amazing job of bringing the characters and stories to life. There’s something about Austen’s dialogue that really is enhanced by being heard, I think. Emma, especially, is just laugh-out-loud funny (which can be embarrassing if listening to the audiobook in public… as I know from personal experience.)

Austen collage

2) I revisited a childhood favorite that I always remembered fondly, despite having forgotten most of the details. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was a real treat — a quick listen with a terrific plot and beautiful writing.

Witch of Blackbird Pond

3) I was looking for a quick listen one week, and happened to stumble across a price break for Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. How did I miss this book during my school days? The audiobook was perfect for my mood that week, and made me eager to read more by London.

Call 2

4) One of my greatest delights this year was getting involved in two different mystery series. In general, I’m not much of a mystery reader, but somehow they seem to work for me as audiobooks. I’m now four books into the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow, and have listened to the first Maisie Dobbs book (but plan to continue with the series) by Jacqueline Winspear.

 

5) A wonderful aspect of listening to audiobooks that I’d never really considered before is hearing an author narrate his or her own work. It’s really special to hear the author’s inflections, character voices, and points of emphasis. I especially enjoyed listening to Neil Gaiman’s narration of Stardust and Trigger Warning.

Trigger Warning

6) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a book told from two characters’ alternating points of view. For the audiobook, each of these characters has her own narrator, and the effect is so powerful. The story itself is terrific, and hearing the characters’ voices in this way makes it an exceptional listening experience.

Invention of Wings 2

7) The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: I rarely take the time to read non-fiction — I’m a fiction-lover, through and through. But when my book group picked The Boys in the Boat for one of our group discussions, I realized that the audiobook version might be the perfect solution for me. It was a great experience, especially thanks to the talented narrator who made me feel like I was listening to someone telling me folktales in front of the fireplace.

The Boys in the Boat

8) Last but not least, my absolute favorite audiobook of the year is one that I came close to abandoning! When I first started Uprooted by Naomi Novik, the narrator’s accent was a huge distraction for me. I had a hard time getting into the story, as the narrator’s speech patterns made it clear that she wasn’t a native English speaker. And then, a few chapters in, something just clicked. The flavors of the story seemed to come alive, and the entire audiobook conveyed a sense of the magical elements that make Uprooted so special. In fact, I took a physical copy of the book home from the library, but then realized that the words on the page seemed somehow flat to me without the narrator’s intonations to bring them to life.

Uprooted

 

What were your best audiobook experiences in 2015? Please share your recommendations!

2015: My year in graphic novels

2015 reading

I’m working on a big year-in-review wrap-up post, but it’s going pretty slowly… and meanwhile, I was thinking about all the terrific graphic novels I read in 2015, so let’s go with that for a topic, shall we?

In 2015, I read 22 graphic novels. Not too shabby! Some were stand-alones, some were volumes in ongoing series, and some were complete trilogies that I read all in one gulp.

(Note: The synopses quoted here are all from Goodreads. These are all books that I read in 2015, but they weren’t necessarily published in 2015. For those I’ve previously reviewed, the review links are included.)

For me, the best of the best in 2015 include:

A beautiful and eerie collection of graphic stories, which I know I’ll want to read again and again:

Through the WoodsDiscover a terrifying world in the woods in this collection of five hauntingly beautiful graphic stories that includes the online webcomic sensation “His Face All Red,” in print for the first time.

Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection that features four brand-new stories and one phenomenally popular tale in print for the first time. These are fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to “Our Neighbor’s House”—though coming back might be a problem. Or find yourself a young bride in a house that holds a terrible secret in “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” You might try to figure out what is haunting “My Friend Janna,” or discover that your brother’s fiancée may not be what she seems in “The Nesting Place.” And of course you must revisit the horror of “His Face All Red,” the breakout webcomic hit that has been gorgeously translated to the printed page.

Already revered for her work online, award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll’s stunning visual style and impeccable pacing is on grand display in this entrancing anthology, her print debut.

 

A totally fun, girl-power positive adventure:

Adventures of Superhero GirlWhat if you can leap tall buildings and defeat alien monsters with your bare hands, but you buy your capes at secondhand stores, and have a weakness for kittens, and a snarky comment from Skeptical Guy can ruin a whole afternoon? Cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks brings her skills in character design and sharp, charming humor to the trials and tribulations of a young, superhero battling monsters both supernatural and mundane in an all-too-ordinary world. (review)

 

 

I absolutely adored the Good Neighbors trilogy by Holly Black, featuring gorgeous illustrations and a tightly woven plot about an ordinary young woman with a connection to the world of faerie:

Rue Silver’s mother has disappeared . . . and her father has been arrested, suspected of killing her. But it’s not as straightforward as that. Because Rue is a faerie, like her mother was. And her father didn’t kill her mother — instead, he broke a promise to Rue’s faerie king grandfather, which caused Rue’s mother to be flung back to the faerie world. Now Rue must go to save her — and must also defeat a dark faerie that threatens our very mortal world. (review)

In 2015, we said good-bye to a truly astounding, rich graphic novel series — one of my absolute favorites — Fables. While the series has had some ups and downs over its run, overall, I consider it a masterpiece.

Fables v22It’s the final trade paperback volume of FABLES! No, wait – it’s FABLES #150, the grand finale of the best-selling, award-winning comic book series! And it’s also an original graphic novel in the tradition of 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL! Yes, it’s all this and more! Join us for 150 – that’s, right, 150! – pages of new stories starring your favorite Fables, all from the mind of Bill Willingham. It all starts with an 80-page lead story illustrated by series regulars Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, plus stories illustrated by Mark Schultz, Gene Ha, Neal Adams, Andrew Pepoy and many more!
Don’t miss the final bows for Boy Blue, Stinky, Lake and more in this once-in-a-lifetime issue that also features a foldout cover by Nimit Malavia that opens into a four-panel mural! It’s even got metallic ink!

But before we get too teary-eyed over the end of Fables… look, it’s a prequel! The Wolf Among Us is the first volume in a new prequel series, and it’s quite good fun. Bonus for me: It revolves around my favorite Fables character, Bigby Wolf!

Wolf Among UsEven before the first issue of Fables , there were stories to be told, shadowy avenues to explore, and lives hanging in the balance! Bigby Wolf has seen plenty in his time as Sheriff of Fabletown…but nothing can prepare him for this…

It all starts with a simple domestic disturbance. But when Bigby learns that his old nemesis, the Woodsman who has an axe to grind, is part of the scene, things go downhill fast. And how will Bigby and Snow White keep their heads long enough to crack the case when they get caught up in a grisly murder mystery?

Another ongoing series which I adore is Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This interplanetary story of love and war has amazing characters, complicated plots, and Lying Cat!

Saga 5

Multiple storylines collide in this cosmos-spanning new volume. While Gwendolyn and Lying Cat risk everything to find a cure for The Will, Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies. Collects Saga #25-30.

 

 

 

 

 

The Alex + Ada trilogy is a must-read. A love story and a meditation on what it means to be human, Alex + Ada tells a terrific, touching tale over a three-book arc. The trilogy is quick to read, but will stay with you for a long time afterward. (review)

 

The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot. Alex takes a huge risk to unlock Ada so she can think for herself and explore life as a sentient android. As Alex and Ada spend more time together, they become closer. But as restrictions tighten on artificial intelligence, Ada feels unsure about her place in the world, and Alex questions being with an android.

And finally, my most recently read graphic novel, about a girl who wants to be a sidekick, the supervillain she supports, and their archnemesis, golden boy Sir Goldenloin. Except nobody here is quite what they seem, and as it turns out, even supervillains have a moral code. Nimona is funny and sweet and surprising. Check it out!

NimonaThe graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

 

 

Have you read any great graphic novels this year? Please share your recommendations! I’m always on the lookout for new and different worlds to explore.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten (or so) Books I Read in 2015

snowy15

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Read in 2015. I pulled up my Goodreads stats for 2015… and discovered that I gave 5-star ratings to 48 books.

Granted, some of these were re-reads (A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein) or audiobook versions of classics I read long ago (all the works of Jane Austen), but still, it’s kind of thrilling to see how many books I truly loved in 2015!

For the purposes of this list, I’m narrowing it down to the best of the bunch, excluding re-reads and graphic novels, and probably leaving out some of the books I’ve already raved about ad infinitum. In no particular order, here are the best of the bunch:

Note: If you want to know more about any of the books mentioned here, click on the links to see my reviews.

1) Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (review)

Inside the O'Briens

2) The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (review)

Boston Girl

3) Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (review)

Our Souls At Night

4) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (review)

Invention of Wings 2

5 & 6) The Uninvited (review) and The Cure for Dreaming (review) by Cat Winters

CWinters

7) The Marvels by Brian Selznick (review)

The Marvels

8) Winger by Andrew Smith (review)

Winger

9) Depth by Lev AC Rosen (review)

Depth

10) The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (review)

the bookseller

Look, I read too many great books this year to stop at 10… so onward we go!

11) You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (review)

You're Never Weird

12) The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (review)

Aeronauts Windlass

13) The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (review)

light

14) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (review)

All the Light

15) The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (review)

The Boys in the Boat

What were you favorite books from 2015? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10… or 15!

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