Armchair Audies: Lit-Fiction and Classics

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The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) pick(s) the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I listened to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader. You can click on the titles for each of the audiobooks listed below to check out my full reviews (with the exception of ‘Til the Well Runs Dry.) At the end of the list, is “My Pick” 🙂

The five finalists in the Classics and Literary Fiction category year are:

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The Fishermen (by Chigozie Obioma; narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji; published by Hachette Audio )
+ Excellent Story of pride, loyalty, extreme and graphic violence, superstition, vengeance, and ideas of redemption. Don’t let the premise of “four boys who decide to go fishing one day” lull you into thinking this is some sleepy, exotic tale; or a navel-gazing lit-fic piece.
+ Excellent Narration: The narrator is Nigerian and reads the text with native cadences, bringing the  various characters to life; and reads the textual cues (so when the author writes that a word is stressed a certain way, the narrator actually takes it as direction instead of blowing it off.)
+ Excellent Production Values, meaning no discernible issues that I could detect.

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Kidnapped (by Robert Louis Stevenson; narrated by Kieron Elliott; published by Recorded Books)
+ Classic Tale of swashbuckling heroism, clever ruses, and breath taking scenes of danger!
+ Decent Narration – Native Scotsman reads carefully, preserving the special (nautical), archaic, and idiomatic language of the novel
Perhaps the narration could have been a wee bit faster in delivery. The pace was rather slow, counter to the tempos in the story
+ Excellent Production Values, meaning no discernible issues that I could detect
+ Bonus: The narrator looks like a young Sean Connery. Not really a consideration when evaluating the audiobook; but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

Little Big Man S
Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger, narrated by Scott Sowers, cameo by David Aaron Baker; with an essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier;  published by Recorded Books)
+ Well Researched American Classic serving as a satire of America’s Old West
+ Essay at the end of the story works as a nice summary of the books’s approach
+ Narrators nail their respective characters or roles
Production Values were terrible: On Sowers’ section, there were page turns, mouth noises, booth noises, at least one repeating sentence, a couple sections out of order, and overall it didn’t sound as clean as the parts narrated by David Aaron Baker or Henry Strozier.

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Sweetland (by Michael Crummey; narrated by John Lee; published by HighBridge Audio/Recorded Books
“OK”premise for a story: A man whose ancestors founded a Canadian Island, is one of the holdouts when the government seeks to resettle the inhabitants. But, there is an emotional disconnectedness between the text and the story, and the story and the listener. The author also manages to spoil his own plot, diffusing the tensions within. The overall story seems to borrow a bit from other books I have read too, which makes it feel not altogether original.
John Lee barreled though the text; and kept mispronouncing some place names, most notably, “Newfoundland” (which should have been native to the protagonist.)  Though John Lee is not a Newfie, this could have been avoided with just a little bit of research.
+ Excellent Production Values, meaning no discernible issues that I could detect.

 

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‘Til the Well Runs Dry (by Lauren Francis-Sharma, narrated by Ron Butler and Bahni Turpin; published by Tantor Media)
+ Some great dramatic scenes
No inherent narrative tension: Whatever momentum the dramatic scenes carry is dissipated in the next section.
After a while, the story feels like rummaging through other people’s dirty laundry.
+ Narrators are clear in their delivery
But neither narrators are native to Trinidad. Accents/rhythms sound forced. Despite their efforts in adding a bit of regional color, in a category where you have excellent native narrators (A Nigerian, a Scotsman, and an American each reading material set in their respective countries,) this is  a minus.
Ultimately, I could not finish listening to this audiobook. Just shy of the half-way mark, I started avoiding my iPhone. For two weeks I tried to force myself to finish, but I realized that the audio experience just wasn’t working for me.
* You can read Alex’s review of ‘Til the Well Runs Dry on her blog, The Sleepless Reader.com

☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆MY PICK☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

The Fishermen (by Chigozie Obioma; narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji; published by Hachette Audio)
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

* You can read Alex’s prediction for the winner on her blog, The Sleepless Reader 🙂

OTHER:
I purchased The Fishermen: A Novel (by Chigozie Obioma; narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji) from audible.com;
I received a CD Library edition of  Kidnapped (by Robert Louis Stevenson; narrated by Kieron Elliott) from Recorded Books in exchange for review;
I dnloaded a CD digital copy of  Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger
narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers; with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier) from Downpour.com;
I listened to a digital copy of Sweetland (by Michael Crummey; narrated by John Lee) from Scribd.com;
I listened to a digital copy of ‘Til the Well Runs Dry (by Lauren Francis-Sharma; narrated by Ron Butler and Bahni Turpin) from Scribd.com.

I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobooks) or services in exchange for reviewing the products and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

EDIT:
11MAY2016 – Added line about Alex’s review of ‘Til the Well Runs Dry; Added link
11MAY2016 – Added line abour Alex’s prediction; Added link

 

Audiobook Review: Sweetland

Sweetland

Sweetland
By Michael Crummey
Narrated by John Lee
Ⓟ 2015, HighBridge Audio, A Division of Recorded Books
9 hours, 12 minutes
LIT-FIC

A seventy-year old man, Moses Sweetland, has lived most of his entire life on a Newfoundland island his forefathers founded (and named “Sweetland”) many generations ago. Faced with the prospect of resettlement by the government, he lives with his memories and ghosts. Sweetland is a bittersweet tale about a man trying to survive his past and outrace his present; but the future is coming for him whether he’s prepared for it or not…

Present-day scenes merge nicely with the flashbacks (and back again); but overall, the story is less than the sum of its parts. The novel is packed with scenes of tension, sadness, even comedy; but it fails to actually deliver tension, sadness or comedy – which leads to an emotional disconnect between the text and the story, the story and the listener. This may be in part due to the way the events are ordered within the novel  – which kills the suspense; the author providing obvious hints which tips the hand as to the events about to unfold  – which leeches any sort of emotional tension; and eccentricity being too self-aware to be actual humorous or even quirky.   We, the Drowned (by Carsten Jensen) and The Solitude of Thomas Cave (by Georgina Harding; coincidentally narrated by John Lee as well) immediately come to mind in terms of the tie-in between land, sea, and man; and there are some stylistic points that the three books share as well which makes the novel feel familiar, but not particularly special.

John Lee’s narration was rather surprisingly brisk. Over the years, the careful, sometimes overly-enunciated performances have given way to this faster approach. This can prevent the listener from getting bogged down in lit-fic prose; but it can also get in the way of the listener savoring the language, or even understanding what a scene entails. The only other note, though perhaps small beer for many listeners, is that Lee is  British-American narrator who was cast to read a POV1 story about a Canadian; but there was no attempt imitate the regional accent, or even pronounce “Newfoundland” as a Newfie would.

 

OTHER: I listened to a digital copy of Sweetland (by Michael Crummey; narrated by John Lee) from Scribd.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
Sweetland (by Michael Crummey; narrated by John Lee)  is a finalist in the 2016 APA Audie Awards in the Classics & Literary Fiction category.

The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) picks the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I’m listening to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader. You can read her review of Sweetland on her blog, TheSleeplessrEader.com

armchairaudies

EDIT: 11MAY2016 – Added line about The Sleepless Reader’s review; Added link

Audiobook Review: Little Big Man

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Little Big Man

By Thomas Berger
Narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers;
with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier
Ⓟ 2014, Recorded Books
20 hours, 30 minutes
WESTERN / SATIRE / AMERICAN CLASSIC

This American Classic is a satire  which exposes the falseness of the American Old West narrative. The main body of the work is a POV1- narrative from Jack Crabbe, a Zelig-like character who lives alternately amongst white people and the Cheyenne in the 1850s-1870s, a time when the landscape of the country was changing as rapidly as the steam engines could push in and the the government could push the Native Americans out. The story begins with Snell, a mannered and intellectually pretentious man going to see the 111-year old Crabbe in a nursing home. Crabbe, in turn, begins his account when he himself was a young boy and Redskins wipe out the party of pioneers (his family included) he is traveling with. In the course of the his recounting,  outrageous claims are made, i.e. Crabbe manages to witness many key events and interact with a number of notable figures of the time; but Berger balances the tongue-in-cheek narrative with keen insight into the nature of man and the events of the time to give the story plausibility, if not in the sum of its parts, and least in the individual happenings. Berger researched this time period, and using original source material such as letters and diaries, constructed this novel to debunk the myth of the era, and to a certain extent he succeeded by incorporating the elements of avarice, filth, and moral equivocation that prevailed. On the other hand, rather than tarnish, the acuteness of the author’s barbs lends a sort of patina to the story by making it more realistic. Analogously, it would be like taking down a statue to discover there are cracks in the base; but nonetheless, the statue is still strong enough to stand.

The narrators were spot-on: David Aaron Baker starts the audiobook off as the effete and gullible interviewer Ralph Fielding Snell; Scott Sowers nails it as Jack Crabbe, undereducated but sharp, performing with a “cowboy” accent throughout his section; And finally, Henry Strozier caps the audiobook with a reading of Larry McMurty’s short essay, a laudatory missive read warmly and convincingly as if McMurty were reading it himself.

BUT, and this is a big “but” the production values were terrible: On Sowers’ section, there were page turns, mouth noises, booth noises, at least one repeating sentence, a couple sections out of order, and overall it didn’t sound as clean as the parts narrated by David Aaron Baker or Henry Strozier.

OTHER: I dnloaded a CD digital copy of  Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger
narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers; with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier) from Downpour.com. I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobook) or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Little Big Man (by Thomas Berger; narrated by David Aaron Baker and Scott Sowers; with an Essay by Larry McMurty narrated by Henry Strozier) is a finalist in the 2016 APA Audie Awards in the Classics & Literary Fiction category.

The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) picks the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I’m listening to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader.

armchairaudies

Audioboook Review: The Fishermen

 

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The Fishermen: A Novel
By Chigozie Obioma
Narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji
Ⓟ 2015, Hachette
9 hrs and 51 mins
LITERARY FICTION

The Fishermen is a lif-fic novel set in Nigeria in the mid- to late 1990s, and features four brothers who decide to take up fishing at a nearby river… As innocuous as the premise sounds, that one decision sets off a series of events that underscore pride, loyalty, extreme and graphic violence, superstition, vengeance, and ideas of redemption. You don’t need to know anything about Nigeria to get the setting; but it may be helpful to know that during the time period of the novel, Nigerian politics were extremely corrupt and led to civil unrest.

The narrator is Nigerian and reads the text with native cadences, bringing the  various characters to life. Of particular note, are the voices given to the father and priest, characters whose voices are delivered with immediacy and heat that reflect the mood and personalities of the characters vividly. Iwuji also reads the textual cues expertly; so when the author writes that a word is stressed a certain way, the narrator actually takes it as direction instead of blowing it off. Iwuji gives a really great performance. There’s a smattering of Igbo (one of four official languages of Nigeria), and the English spoken is based on the Queen’s English (so there are some seemingly odd stresses to words to American ears like “tarpaulin”); but the authenticity of the narration cannot be denied.

OTHER: I purchased The Fishermen: A Novel (by Chigozie Obioma; narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobook) or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.


The Fishermen: A Novel
 (by Chigozie Obioma; narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji)is a finalist in the 2016 APA Audie Awards in the Classics & Literary Fiction category.

The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) picks the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I’m listening to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader. You can read her review of The Fishermen on her blog, The Sleepless Reader.com.

 

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EDIT:
03/28/2016: Added 2016 APA Audie line;
03/28/2016: Added Armchair Audies logo;
03/29/2016: Added Armchair Audies paragraph including links to The Armchair Audies, the APA Audies finalists announcement, and to The Sleepless Reader’s review of The Fishermen

 

 

Audiobook Review: Kidnapped

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Kidnapped
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Narrated by Kieron Elliott
Ⓟ 2015, Recorded Books
9 hrs and 7 mins
CLASSIC / ADVENTURE

Set in the eighteenth century, newly orphaned seventeen-year old David Balfour, discovers that he is of the wealthy House of Shaws and heads to Edinburgh to meet his relatives. Once in the city, however, he finds that his only extant relative is a squirrelly uncle who is clearly a threat to David’s own life. After a particularly close brush with death, David is tricked onboard a ship and whisked away on to a life of hardship and adventure including ship battles, ship wreck, mutiny, and running with outlaws. The story is everything you would want and expect for a tale of swashbuckling heroism, clever ruses, and breath taking scenes of danger! The only thing missing is a damsel in distress; but as a “boy’s tale” the lack of a romance isn’t surprising.

Kieron Elliot is a “Scottish actor, host, voice over artist and comedian” who narrats this classic tale, slowly and carefully; and with a full-on Scottish brogue. There is the temptation to speed up the recording; but the special (nautical), archaic, and idiomatic language of the novel demands a more considered approach, especially to American listeners’ ears.  However, as much  of a sucker for a Scottish accent that you may be  [Ahem, me], his deliberate pace and lack of narrative flow  mark him as a novice audiobook narrator. Indeed, it appears that he has only narrated one other audiobook, a romance for Harper Audio under the name Kieran Elliott, To Marry A Scottish Laird (by Lyndsey Sands). Still, I would have liked to have heard more from this narrator. There is the sense that once he “gets” narration as an admixture of voice over and performance, he would be a top tier narrator.



OTHER:
I received a CD Library edition of  Kidnapped (by Robert Louis Stevenson; narrated by Kieron Elliott) from Recorded Books in exchange for review. I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobook) or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Kidnapped (by Robert Louis Stevenson; narrated by Kieron Elliott) is a finalist in the 2016 APA Audie Awards in the Classics & Literary Fiction category.

The Armchair Audies is an annual, unofficial event in which audiobook fans each pick a category from the APA Audies Finalists announcement, and listen to each of the 4-6 titles nominated. After listening, and reviewing each of the contenders, the listener(s) picks the winner for his/her selected category. This year, I’m listening to the finalists in the Classics & Literary Fiction category along with The Sleepless Reader.

armchairaudies.jpg

Also, I’m just gonna leave this here:

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The Narrator, Kieron Elliott  – This is what happens what you let them out of the booth!

PHOTO SOURCE OF KIERON ELLIOTT:
(https://commercialhunks.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/kelloggs-scottish-genie/)

EDIT:
03/28/2016: Added  2016 APA Audie Award line;
03/28/2016: Added Armchair Audies logo;
03/28/2016: Added caption to picture of Kieron Elliott
03/28/2016: Added “PHOTO SOURCE” header
03/29/2016: Added Armchair Audies paragraph including links to The Armchair Audies, and to the APA Audies finalists announcement