Look at me today posting relatively early for this Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Shanah @bionicbookworm !
Maybe it’s because with the two weeks break I missed it and was eager to get back on the saddle?
Anyway today’s topic is top 5 audiobooks but of course, being the generous me, you’ll get more than 5!
By this time last year I had NEVER listened to any audiobook! I didn’t get all the hype and love.
English is not my mother language and getting older (even if I still feel like 16) means that you hear less sounds. Some very deep and low voices are hard to catch if I am in a noisy surrounding.
But as I wanted to work on “spoken English” I decided to give it a try at the beginning of this year thanks to the Audible free three months trial.
Listening to romance in audiobook, which is my favorite reading genre, does not work for me …most of the time. Because if you have a sex scene, they make the NOISES! And breathing strongly or talking dirty is hot when you read it but … instead of making me feel all hot and bothered it just makes me giggle! That’s not the aim.
So, I decided to try with a non fiction book (see below) and I was hooked! I noticed that what worked very well in audio books was historical fiction and fantasy or scifi!
All the books below are a combination of epic story AND perfect narrator.
Without further ado I nominate as best audiobook of the year:
Becoming by Michelle Obama
It was my first audiobook and a real treat as Michelle herself reads her story! I felt privileged like having tea with the former first lady 😀
Michelle was honest. She was matter of fact. She seemed very close to every woman with her battles and concerns as a mom and as a wife. She was graceful as she’s been all along Barack’s presidency.
“To me, becoming isn’t arriving somewhere. It is a way to reach continuously to a better self. The journey never ends. It is never giving up the idea”
And she concluded with a “let’s invite one another” because meeting others different from us maybe we can do less assumption.
I absolutely loved every moment of that audiobook and really recommend to listen to it instead of reading it (and I won’t say this often I think!).
Second book that I listened to: Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T Sullivan with the impeccable narrator Will Damron.
I gave it 6 stars!
I just could not stop listening to the book! I even found excuses to do chores like gardening, walking the dog, anything to plug my earbuds and resume that extraordinary story! I think if I always find such wonderful stories my garden will for once be seedless this year!
This story is incredible. To know what this young boy did is inspiring. The war was a time of unspeakable cruelty, of treason, of cowardice for many and a time of bravery and sacrifice for others.
I hope to never live these times that my parents, grand-parents and great grand-parents knew because I doubt that I will be as honorable and courageous as Pino Lella, Milanese of 18 years and war hero.
I’ve lived nearly eighteen incredible and gripping hours listening to Will Damron who told me the tale of Pino’s life with great talent.
Just read it. Or listen to it.
Third book, another historical fiction: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.
Another 6 stars and the start of my crush on Ruta Sepetys books.
What was more amazing was that all four narrators were exceptional! Will Damron (again), Joejeanna Marie, Cassandra Morris and Michael Crouch.
I simply could not stop listening to that story.
It was also my first story with multiple narrators and I am VERY picky as far as voices are concerned. They really have to match the characters.
I want to praise Ruta Sepetys writing.
Often the multiple POV are only different because the name of the character is mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. But not here!
All four voices and characters are very distinctives! Each speaking differently. Even without hearing different voices I would have recognized each character. Ruta uses other words, she builds other type of sentences. Each character simply comes with another writing style and tone.
I don’t have enough talent to express what Ruta Sepety made me live for two days. I can’t convey with enough strength and conviction all the beauty, the intensity, the sadness, the cruelty, the desperation of this formidable story.
I still have shivers and tears hearing in my head Jeorjeana Marie playing Joanna and whisper shouting: “Opi!” “Opi!”
I finished this book late at night and did not found sleep for a very long time, too entangled in their destinies and broken by their fate.
Fourth audiobook, a science fiction: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. Narrator: Suzy Jackson.
And another 6 stars! I know I know but I promised to only give you the bests!
It was so fantastic that I listened to the end of the book hidden in my garden after some errant that I had to do. I did not enter the house but went silently into the garden, dragged the chaise longue into a hidden corner and listened to the last 30 minutes. Because I could not stop and everyone knows that a mom, once entering her house is ALWAYS welcomed with “Mom! Can you help me please?” or “Darling? Can you come a minute?”.
On my dead body so long as I did not hear the word end!
I was swallowed whole by the story.
Living in Skyward’s world for more than 15 hours. The friendship and bonds with Spensa’s flightmates. The great adventure to become a pilot. The questions about what were the Krells and shouldn’t we use a better strategy to beat them? The restoration of M-Bot and the idea that maybe one day it would fly again. The lies, the betrayals but also the loyalty.
And that last battle scene!!!!! OMG! Bonus point for M-Bot “reboot” as he was a real hoot!
“Tremble and fear, all enemies!” he shouted. “For we shall shake the air with thunder and blood! Your doom is imminent!”
I loved …everything!
Fifth audiobook: The City of Brass (and the Kingdom of Copper) by S.A. Chakraborty. Narrator: Soneela Nankani.
First this book was an audiobook of around 19:30 minutes. That’s a lot but it was never boring and the narrator was excellent. I guess that she is from foreign origin (Indian? Persian?) as her pronunciation of all these exotic names was top notch.
There is just one down side to listening to that kind of book: the names! I had no idea how they were written and I can’t guarantee that I’ll write them all correctly. Please don’t hesitate to correct me!
The book is filled with:
-Djinn’s complicated politics;
-ancestral hate and legendary battles;
-scheming and betrayals;
-attraction and forbidden love;
-extraordinary and fearsome magical creatures;
-secrets upon secrets;
And so much more!
This is a fabulous and lush tale filled with political scheming, betrayals, hidden agendas, fabulous and deadly creatures, magic and hot Daeva.
Sixth audiobook: The Girl he Used to Know by Tracey garvis Graves. A romance! Narrators: Kathleen McInerney and Fred Berman.
I was immediately won over by Kathleen McInerney’s voice. It fitted Annika’s sweet and shy character perfectly. Fred Berman’s narration on the other hand never convinced me. Most of the time I was under the impression he was reading a grocery list! I warmed up to his voice late in the book but was happy he did not have as many chapters as Kathleen.
The Girl He Used To Know is a deeply moving story about a girl who is not like everyone but did her best all her life to fit in.
It broke my heart so many times to listen to the bullying and unkindness Annika had been victim of because there never has been a sweeter female character. Annika reminded me of a fluffy kitten. Someone you just wanted to protect and hug.
I think Tracey Garvis Graves did an impressive job portraying all the ordeals someone suffering from autisme yet being highly functioning could encounter all his life.
“I never know what people are thinking. It’s like visiting a country where you don’t speak the language and you’re trying so hard to understand but no matter how many times you ask for juice, they keep bringing you milk. And I hate it.”
Tracey Garvis Graves broke my heart. Several times in the book. Toying with my hope. Lifting me up just to let me plummet to the ground. But that’s life and life is not a bed of roses.
We learn from our mistakes. We grow and become stronger.
And that’s exactly what happened with Annika!
I would warmly recommend this story for lovers of beautifully written romance who are looking for a sensitive portrait of a different young woman brushed in delicate strokes.
Seventh audiobook: back to historical fiction with The Huntress by Kate Quinn (and also go for The Alice Network also excellent). Narrator : Saskia Maarleveld
Kate Quinn already amazed me with The Alice Network and she did it again in The Huntress.
I was also delighted that the narrator of this story was once more Saskia Maarleveld.
This book features Russian, German and English speaking characters and Saskia did an impeccable impersonation of all these characters, with a faultless (as far as I could judge of course) accent. She also really acted that story, being alternatively Ian Graham, ex war journalist of about forty, Nina Markova brazen and fearless ex Russian bomber or Jordan McBride, young American Bostonian. I think her acting the story added to my “reading” pleasure.
We have three POV all interesting but my favorite was Nina Markova.
Kate Quinn chose a particular perspective to tell Nina’s story : the story of the Night Witches and I found it absolutely fascinating and brilliant! It made me look after all the information I could find on the Night Witches, wanting to know if these women had existed or were a figment of Kate Quinn’s imagination! To my great delight, these women existed!
The Night Witches were a Russian regiment of night bombers composed solely of women! And these women had a much higher success rate than their male counterparts!
Nina, seizing her chance, forcing luck, joined this regiment. I adored all the chapters narrating the birth of this special force, the comradery between the “Sistra”, their training, their iron will, their audacity. What they went through and all their exploits were some of the best parts of the book!
It gave us a unique insight in Nina Markova’s personality.
Every character had secrets of his own, some personal cross to bear, some guilt to live with. They were complex and flawed. They were brilliant and courageous. They simply were human.
We follow three parallel stories until they all collide towards one main goal: finding the huntress.
Alternating between point of views, between pas and present, leaving clues behind was a very smart choice to have a ratcheting tension in the book.
If you are a fan of historical fiction you HAVE to read this book!
Two facts first:
1) Emily Woo Zeller is an extremely talented narrator! She immersed me in this story right from the beginning. She also has an incredible talent at speaking in different voices, all believable, all right.
2) I can’t believe this is the first work from this author! Nothing feels tentative, no common mistakes that you can find in first work. Everything is precise, detailed and perfectly executed.
The Poppy War is gripping, brutal, horrific, uncompromising and fascinating.
It deals with topics that are big triggers for me. Drugs and addiction is one of them. Usually I would have stopped reading but somehow RF Kuang made me understand why the characters just had to take drugs.
This story will give you nightmares. It will send you in pits of despair when humankind shows its most monstrous face. It will give you power when someone who’s fate seemed sealed turned the tables and soared like a Phoenix feeding from pain and hate.
Recommend it? Absolutely but don’t go looking for romance and unicorns as you won’t find it.
That’s it! I did it!
Now do recommend me some of your favorite audiobooks please!
Thanks for reading.
Great recommendations! I recently listened to Becoming and thought it was excellent in audio form! I imagine the same is true for salt to the sea and skyward!
Oh yes I think the narrators added an extra layer to these stories!
Great list, Sophie! Will you be reading Ruta Sepetys’ new book soon? 😮
I already have read it Lashaan and it was just .. brilliant!
I did the audiobook for Michelle Obama’s book and thought it was incredible. I just love listening to her speak and her story is incredible.
Exactly Suzanne and so inspiring too! I am amazed at how she stays calm and grounded.
Another great selection, Sophie, well, except for THE POPPY WAR, which I DNF. 😉 The rest I can agree on wholeheartedly!
Hahahah yes I know the Poppy War is one we have different opinion Alexandra!
I love the idea of an author narrating their own book! I have been wanting to listen to Carrie Fishers and Cary Elwes books written and narrated by themselves!
I think Nail Gayman also narrates his books Brittany!
Such a great list, Sophie. I started listening to audibles this year. I enjoy them but it takes me a while to get through one. Most of the ones I get are pretty long. LOL
Well I do choose long books so I feel like I have a run for my money Laura LOL
I am definitely adding Becoming to my list of audiobooks to listen to! I had no idea that Michelle narrates it herself. That would be quite a treat. Thanks for the list of titles to check out.
You are most welcome! And I hope you’ll love it!
OMG I had no idea that you just recently found your love for all things audiobook. I’m so glad about it Sophie. I grew up with audio plays for children, those were full cast with background noises etc, so the jump to audiobooks wasn’t hard for me, but I know that some just can’t concentrate when listening to audiobooks.
I must agree with romance audiobooks, they can be quite embarrassing to listen to, at least for me, that’s definitely a reason why I pick genres that I wouldn’t read otherwise, like memoirs, or non-fiction. But I love to listen to regular fiction, thrillers and sci-fi very much.
And I listened to Becoming and Skyward too – both were fantastic!!!
If you are open to recommendations, listen to Daisy Jones and Evelyn Hugo, you’ll love them both. Or try Carry On and Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell – loved them both!
I listened to a sample of Evelyne Hugo but the voice feels “old” and probably this is fitting for the story but …Now I’ve just added Carry On to my audiobook TBR Corina so thank you!
So many great choices! I actually plan on listening to the sequel of The Poppy War. I’ve heard amazing things about it and think having a voice behind a story that epic will be amazing!
I swear Shanah that Emily Woo Zeller is one of the best narrators and brings that story to life like none other!
I think it’s kismet that we both featured The Girl He Used to Know today. I really enjoyed that one.
I love the idea of kismet Sam 😉
I don’t listen to much audio because I tend to get distracted, but I never thought of that. If there’s sex, they make the NOISES? OMG I’d probably bust out laughing… that kills me!!! Anyway, moving on…
The City of Brass seems like it’d be pretty awesome on audio…
Yes they make the noises Greg! That’s why I could not take it seriously ….while I love reading romance stories!
Becoming is still on my TBR and I definitely want to get to it sooner rather than later. I think I would have had a different opinion of The Girl I Used to Know had I listened to it. For books I feel I will love, I always, always read them. I tend to go the audio route for other books… the ones I’m sure I will like, but not necessarily favorites.
Well when the narration is good it adds an extra layer to the storyTanya!
My fave audiobook (so far!) is Nevernight as the narrator is top notch!
Caro I listened to a sample but ….
I love him! I’m listening to Godsgrave now and it’s the same guy!!!
These all look like great choices. I’ve thought about listening to Michelle Obama’s book. I do better with nonfiction if it’s audio for some reason.
Same here for non fiction. I think it’s like looking at the news on television or …
Yeah, that could be it.