Monday, December 21, 2009

I joined this year and am enjoying it immensely. Many years ago I tried listening to audiobooks on cassette (yes, that long ago) but either performances have greatly improved or my earlier choices were poorly done (or both) because I could never get past the terrible attempts by the narrators to differentiate the voices of characters. Fortunately a few years ago someone forced me to listen to Jim Dale’s narration of the Harry Potter books and I realized that audiobooks could be done well, although I doubted anyone would ever come close to comparing with his superb performance.

What sucked me in was that Audible was having two specials and I took advantage of both and now I’m well and truly hooked. There are several levels of membership – the special I got was the most basic level for ½ price for 3 months. Each month I receive one credit and while some companies might swindle you by “pricing” items at more than one credit, I have yet to find a book that is more than one credit, so each month I get a book – not bad for $7.95. Naturally my first credit was for Liam’s narration of How the Irish Saved Civilization. Although I have greatly enjoyed the cassette version of this, it’s so nice to hear that amazing voice on the unbelievable clarity of my iPod.

The second special deal was a selection of titles for only $4.95 – incredible when you consider that sometimes audio versions are more expensive than the print. I was able to get one of my favorite books, O Jerusalem, in one of my favorite series, Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes stories. I wasn’t sure at first that I would like Jenny Sterlin’s narration, but for less than a Lincoln, I was willing to give it a try – and am I ever glad that I did! I quickly grew to appreciate her reading and she has an ability only slightly below Dale’s to distinguish one character from another. I now also have the first in the series (Beekeeper’s Apprentice) and with my next credit I will get my other favorite to complete my own personal trilogy, Justice Hall, which features characters from O Jerusalem. I probably won’t get any others in the series unless they go on sale, although I think I’ll try Laurie’s Touchstone eventually.

I’m grateful to Audible for providing decently long samples of the recordings so I can really judge the possibilities of the narration as either “I think this might turn out to be okay” or “Ewww! No way!!” Unfortunately one of my other favorite series, the Honor Harrington books by David Weber, falls into the second category. To me, Allyson Johnson’s narration brings to mind those terrible narrations that were so off-putting when I was younger. Even worse, while I’ve always thought it was the Royal Manti-coran Navy, her pronunciation is Man-tic-oran which makes me wince and is very distracting. Oh, well, there are plenty of other choices for my credits – after all, I haven’t even started on Neil Gaiman’s works yet and by every account I’ve ever seen anywhere, his narrations of his works are fantastic.

Even when my 3-month membership deal is up and the price doubles to $14.95/month, my credit will allow me to get audiobooks that are cheaper than the regular Audible or iTunes prices. My drive home seems shorter now, so it’s worth it for that, if nothing else. If you are at all inclined toward audiobooks I strongly urge you to try

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