My Audiobook Awards

I made it to 100 books read this year!  Actually I’m now at #105 and not stopping anytime soon.  I’m not sure which book was book #100, Why I Let My Hair Grow Out by Maryrose Wood (excellent YA fantasy/romance) or the first 39 Clues book on audio.

The reason I’m not sure is also a big reason I’ve gotten to #100 so fast this year.  With a two plus hour commute everyday, audiobooks have become my salvation.  So I made up some awards for the audiobooks I’ve read(listened) so far this year.

Most FunHeist Society by Ally Carter, narrated by Angela Dawe.  Carter’s newest series about a teenage master thief and her merry band of thieves was not going to disappoint but the audio went beyond.  With large cast of characters I worry about following different voices but Dawe gave each character a distinct sound without going over board.  Loved the break-in scene.

Best Celebrity NarratorThe Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, narrated by Milo Ventimiglia. (Aside: Anyone ever interview one of these Patterson “collaborators?” Just wondering what they have to say.)  I don’t hide my feelings for Patterson.  My disdain started when I worked at a big B bookstore.  He had a new book out every month and no way dude writes all/any of that.  But the kids seem to be digging his YA titles so gave one a go.  Milo “Jesse for Gilmore Girls” Ventimiglia really makes the book pop.  I can forgive the clichés and pat phrases when delivered with such charm.  And although I find the storyline slightly creepy (Daniel X hangs out and dates imaginary people, creepy!) and shallow story I can see the guy appeal in the action and gross-out moments.  Not a total waste of time and I surprised myself by listening to the second book. 

Worst Celebrity NarratorWitch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet, narrated by Spenser Locke and Elisha Wood.  Even my 12-year old crush on Elisha Wood can not overcome all the bad contained in those discs.  Take what I said about clichés and pat phrases and times by ten, keep in the creepy imaginary girlfriend storyline (seriously Patterson, WTF?) and add an obnoxious female narrator.  Whole lot of bad.  I still heart you Elisha.

The “Wish I’d Read This” AwardInsatiable by Meg Cabot, narrated by Emily Bauer. I wanted a pic of Midwest Tape’s very terrible cover.  Which I don’t get why they do that but then I don’t know enough about the audiobook industry.  Anywhos I listened to other Cabots on audio and was pleased but this one I got impatient, wishing I could fast forward to the good bits.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy, it’s Meg Cabot.  Breezy, clever and with a heroine you really can’t stand yet grow to like anyway.  The narrator also struggled with the male lead voices sounding too similar and had a bad habit of turning the ends of sentences into half-laughs.  But Crack Cabot will always suck you back in.

Best Do Over Series – Jacky Faber series, Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.  Loved reading the books and then saw a recent title was up for an Odessy Award.  Clearly.  Kellgren is Jacky Faber and is pitch perfect with various British accents and makes every moment tense, hilarious and exhilarating.  Definitely one I found myself sitting in the car long after I’d parked.  I wish I would have found this on audio from the beginning.

DNF Liar by Justine Larbalestier, narrated by Channie Waites. Didn’t get into this one but it’s this month book club so I’ll try reading it instead.

Best in Kidslit AudioEmma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis, narrated by Mamie Gummer.  Love Emma-Jean and love Mamie Gummer.  She has Emma-Jean’s voice down and also handles the other characters wonderfully. Gummer is the gorgeous daughter of Meryl Strep so, obviously.  Best three hours you could spend.
Honorable Mention: The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, narrated by David Pittu

Most DrowsyThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, narrated by Del Roy.  Don’t get me wrong, Del Roy has an amazing voice and I could see younger child being drawn in by his grandfatherly tone.  But this was a long audiobook, 13+ hours and driving home at night it didn’t keep my attention or my eyes open. 

Most Likely to Keep You Up At NightDead and Gone by Charlaine Harris, narrated by Johanna Parker.  Holy torture Batman! But seriously if I had read this I probably wouldn’t have slept either.  The story is more brutal and graphic than Harris’ other Sookie books but I’ve read her other series and she goes there so I wasn’t too shocked.  Parker at least has a better Louisiana accent than Anna Paquin so there’s that.

Best Do OverShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, narrated by John Lee.  I had the book for almost two months and couldn’t get past the second chapter.  Made me sad because I love Fforde and determined to give it another go, I listened.  Best idea ever.  Having a Brit read it to me made the surreal and confusion world of High Saffron solidify. 

Honorable Mention: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, narrated byAllan Corduner. Death never sounded so good.  Nation (see below)

Best OverallNation by Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs.  If Stephen Briggs comes out with a disc of him reading the phonebook, you get it.  He’s simply incredible and if you ever want to see me laugh so hard to stop breathing, play him reading the Nac Mac Feegle in The Wee Free Men and prepare yourself.  Nation is more subdued, more sophisticated than Pratchett’s other work but still gorgeous and heartbreaking.  So glad I gave it another go on audio.

Honorable Mention: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author.  Another canidate for Phonebook Reader of the Year.


Newbery, where have you gone?

For Katie:

Ah, the haters.  As an award the Newbery is succeed in my opinion, by the Caldecott, the award given to the best illustrated children’s book of the year.  Or maybe it is because that award is more exciting.  There are so many things that can go wrong in a picture book that when all the elements, illustrations, text, design, cover, come together it makes a greater impact.  But that’s another discussion.

Honest, I haven’t read most of the newer Newbery winners.  I know what they are and what they are about.  But much like the kids described in both Erica S. Perl ‘s Slate response to  Anita Silvey’s School Library Journal article, I’m not attracted to those title, or haven’t gotten around to them.  Also, I read more YA Lit.  For one big reason, the action is in YA.  For many years the excitement was with Children’s books.  Of the 1990s winners I’ve read 7 of them and not because they were Newberys, just because they sounded good.  There has been a shift since.  YA lit is seeing more of the action, top name authors like Joyce Carol Oates and James Patterson writing for this age group, higher quality writing, better environment to take risks and push boundaries.  Also with Harry and all those Potter imitators, the majority of new books in Children’s is fantasy or action based, never a favorite to win awards. (See LOTR Oscar denial until the last possible moment or current uproar over Dark Knight’s lack of award noms, this translates to books too, no respect.)  Which is too bad because there is some great stuff in Children’s Fantasy/SciFi.  Rick Riroden’s Percy Jackson series, Skulduggery Pleasant (which couldn’t win because the author is not American.) 

That is another issue with the Newbery.  I understand it’s mission is to expand and promote Children’s literature in America but so much great stuff is coming from Britain and other countries too.  Side note, I don’t think the ALA would be hurt by opening the parameters of the award but that has little to no chance of happening.

 I agree with the statement one ALA committee member said, the quality book that appeals and pleases everyone while being new and innovative, isn’t there some years.  I did read the Higher Power of Lucky, last year’s Newbery.  Eh.  That was the best response I could give it.  It wasn’t bad, wasn’t stellar either.  But then I also read it knowing it was a Newbery.  Did that change my expectations?  Of course.  You expect something more from the Newberys.  Adults do at least, which brings me to my last point.

Kids rarely care about Award winners.  We librarians, book buyers, and parents care.  I could always sell a parent on a book by saying, it’s a Medal, it’s an Honor.  But really not too many other people really could care or use that to influence their reading picks.  Steve Herb, Follett Chair for Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences.  Deep breath and continue.  He says there is a spectrum that all kids lit falls on, picture books, chapter books, YA.  At one end is high appeal to the reader, 2 year old, 10 year old, 16 year old doesn’t matter because at the other end is high appeal to adults, parents, librarians, publishers.  I’ve read many kids books and been like, that’s great, love it, no way will a kid read this.  But then you have your Captain Underpants and  Goosebumps that will appeal highly to it’s respective reading group (understanding full well I heart both of these series.)

What makes this discussion null in my humble opinion is that ALA has so many other awards and list these days and it seems you can get on any public library’s website and see a well crafted bibliography.  Newbery is not the only player in the game anymore and good thing too.  I also see this discussion as a microcosm of the larger conversation about future of Library (capital L).  There are those on one side, Anita Silvey and the old school saying the sky is falling, decrying the state of libraries today compared to the glory days of old.  In the oposite corner the new guard, booze drinking, tattoo sporting technofiles who say loudly and proudly, bring it.