Simon Vance reads Brings Up the Bodies

Was my rave review of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall sequel enough to pique you interest?  Or, interest piqued,  could you possibly be on a book-buying-ban, attempting to make a dent in that teetering TBR stack on the bedside table? Maybe you never finished Wolf Hall (which, by the way, isn’t necessary to enjoy the sequel).  Or do you think historical fiction just isn’t your thing?  *sigh* There could be 99 reasons why you might delay reading Bring Up the Bodies.

Well.  Finding the time to read ain’t one. 🙂

Macmillan Audio has released the audiobook of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies – read by none other than Simon “Golden Voice” Vance (a.k.a – Booklist’s “Voice of Choice”).  He is so delightfully and authentically British that you’ll want to pinch his cheeks and offer him a scone.

Below is an excerpt of Simon reading from the opening pages.  All you need to do is click on the link, relax and let those dulcet tones wash over you.

Audio from Bring Up The Bodies

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City of Thieves by David Benioff (audio narrated by the incredible Ron Perlman!)

The City of Thieves audiobook, written by David Benioff and read by Ron Perlman, is AMAZING! I might be over-stating this, but I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an audiobook as much.  The plot manages to entertain despite its being somewhat predictable (everyone ends up where you expect them to).  It’s the characters, combined with Ron Perlman’s narration and Benioff’s gift for dialogue, which make this book a must-listen.

Of course I’m jumping too far ahead.

Imagine WWII.  The Russian city of Stalingrad (nicknamed “Peter” by the locals) is under siege.  A young, Jewish boy named Lev Beniov is imprisoned for looting.  His cellmate is a handsome, charismatic Russian soldier who has been arrested for desertion.  The soldier’s name is Kolya.  Both expect to be shot in the morning.  Instead they are taken to the home of an important colonel in the Russian army and given an assignment.  Locate a dozen eggs in the starving city for a wedding cake.  Lev and Kolya have five days.  Five days during which they  travel through the maze of Peter: into basements, onto rooftops and finally out into the surrounding countryside.  They encounter children and cannibals, German and Russian soldiers, Partisans, unlikely allies and unintentional enemies. It’s a grand, if absurd, adventure.

Part-history, part-bromance novel – the high point of City of Thieves is Lev & Kolya’s friendship.  The chemistry that exists between these two is magic.  Their conversations are hilarious. Lev plays Burns to Kolya’s eccentric Allen (bridge the generation gap here), with Ron Perlman performing both parts with impeccable timing.

The reading of this story should win awards.  Perlman’s voices are dead on – each one unique, distinctive & authentic.  He has a talent for putting a subtle inflection on a word or a sentence which carries a whole chapter’s worth of meaning.   He brings the multitude of characters in this novel (I stopped counting at 15) vividly to life.

At this point in the review I’d like to go on the record as stating that I intend to track down every audiobook narrated by Ron Perlman and listen to them all.

My gold standard test of an audio book is whether or not it makes me want to extend my 60 minute commute.  Did City of Thieves pass? Well, let’s just say that I may have received at least one (O.K. – maybe two) texts from my husband asking why I was sitting in the garage.  City of Thieves will do more than keep your attention, it will transport you for 8-1/2 hours…and introduce you to two characters who will stay with you for even longer.

Publisher:  Penguin Audio, New York (2008).
ISBN:  978 0 14 314347 5

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The Holidays Come Early! IAMBIK.COM (Not Your Father’s Audiobook)

Most internet savvy people are probably familiar already with LibriVox. It’s a nifty concept – an audiobook site that takes books in the public domain, talented and/or enthusiastic volunteers willing to record them, combines the two and offers the results for free to anyone with the ability to download. But there are challenges. Sometimes narrators are more enthusiastic than they are talented. And while books in the public domain are plentiful – we all still want access to more current selections.  That left a huge hole in the market that, let’s face it, and iTunes just aren’t filling.  No one wants to be limited to just the bestseller lists and the major publishing houses.

And so, was born.

Here’s how it works.  Iambik teams up with smaller publishers, and authors, and narrators on a revenue sharing model.  Which means their selection i’s more indie bookstore than Barnes & Nobles.  Coach House Books, McSweeney’s, Graywolf Press, Tin House Books are just a few of the publishers currently on board.  And the prices are fantastic – most books priced at $4.99.

I’ve already listened to All My Friends Are Superheroes (see my review later this week) and am now working on McSweeney’s Icelander by Dustin Long (narrated by Miette Elms of Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast).  I loved All My Friends Are Superheroes, a smart, funny and painfully honest love story for the hipster generation (that wouldn’t let me turn off my iPod).  And I’m finding that Icelander is a tad more challenging than your average audiobook, being one of those cerebral post-modern metafictions that McSweeney’s specializes in… but that’s what makes Iambic so exciting!   They embrace books that other companies might shy away from.  You’ll find stories here that aren’t available (in audio format) anywhere else.

Currently Iambik has a library of 14 audiobooks ready for download.  Never fear, that’s only the beginning.  I asked Miette, who originally contacted me, what we had to look forward to.  Here’s what she had to say –

We plan to start growing our collection very quickly!  We wanted to launch with a small, well-curated, well-produced collection and ramp up from there.  We’ll be releasing an indie crime collection in January that’ll be a lot of fun, then science fiction, then a second round of literary fiction.  From the January release on, we’re on track to release a collection a month (also, the collections themselves will be larger than the 11 books of our first launch).  We’re also open to suggestions from listeners, authors, and publishers, so are really trying to keep our ear to the ground and respond to real needs.

And did I mention that their prices are fantastic?!  Well they just got even better.  Until the end of November enter the code: booksexy-promo-nov2010 and receive $10.00 worth of free downloads.  (That gets you two books, depending on what you select).  This offer is limited to the first 25 users, so I encourage you to take advantage of it quickly.   Just a little something to listen to as you’re making your way over the river and through the woods.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note:  The instructions on how to download provided on the Iambik  site are idiot proof (I got it the first try!)  If you use iTunes I recommend downloading your audiobook in the m4b format.  It divides the reading into chapters and just makes listening, re-winding and searching that much more convenient!

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2010 Book Expo Adventures

My first day at the BEA I learned a valuable lesson – eat breakfast! As my blood sugar plummeted I began a conversation with a woman in the press room, during which I: 1. mis-pronounced vegetarian; 2. confused David Foster Wallace with Dave Eggers; and 3. proceeded to confuse them both with Jonathan Safran Foers.

Of course I gave her my name and card. I am now officially one of those people who is interviewed on the street and says incredibly stupid things.  That’s O.K. – I’ll own it.

Other than that humbling experience, BEA was AWESOME.  Imagine Comicon or a Star Trek convention for bookworms – a mix of celebrity signings, buyers, sellers, independent presses, big publishing houses, librarians, bloggers, published authors, writers hoping to be published… and one lone guy selling magnetic beads that form a cube (don’t ask because I can’t answer).

Unexpectedly I spent quite a bit of time browsing the booths in the Digital Book Zone on my first day.  One of the more interesting things I came across was Symtio – a format for selling digital & audio books in stores.  It’s  a small, 4″ x 6″ plastic card with cover art on the front; a description of the book and a download code are printed on the back.  In theory, the card can be purchased from a bookshop or received as a galley from a publisher (Harper Collins gave the ebook cards out at their booth in lieu of traditional “book” galleys – at least for some titles).  You can take the card home and go to a website to enter the code (sort of like the iTunes cards from Starbucks).  The entire book will download onto a digital reader or audio device.  It’s a great idea for publishers sending out galleys, small & indie bookshops not affiliated with a digital reader that want a stake in the e- and audio book market…  and convenient for readers like me who still enjoy going into small bookshops to browse.

One disappointment though – Symtio can not be used with an Amazon Kindle.  The fact is, not much is compatible with the Kindle.  Google’s new online bookstore – Google Books – won’t work either.  The Kindle is “proprietary”, several people explained to me.  Even moreso than the Nook, which seems to allow slightly more flexibility (one gentleman from B&N told me, “you can do it, we just make you work for it”).  This, along with the bad press associated with Amazon over the last year, makes me wonder whether the Kindle is destined to go the way of Betamax simply because they don’t play well with others.

So I was forced to try Symtio out on my computer (it works with Windows or Mac) – and I have to say it was pretty fabulous.  It’s necessary to subscribe to Adobe Digital Editions when using a computer, but that only took a moment.  The download was almost instantaneous.  The book on the screen looks great and the interface is simple to use (much easier than an e-reader interface).  Overall, I was very happy with the whole experience and I hope to see more of Symtio in the future.

The Digital Book Zone, predictably, showcased tons of new e-readers.  None of which particularly blew me away.  There was an e-reader that opened like a laptop turned on its side – with a digital ink screen on one side and a computer screen on the other.  There were also several readers, similar to the Kindle or Sony Reader, that used a touch screen and stylus rather than a scroll wheel.  Nothing particularly revolutionary.

There also didn’t seem to be much new in the audiobook category, other than the Symtio cards and PLAYAWAY (which I’d seen before).  PLAYAWAY is a  mp3 player that holds a single, pre-loaded audiobook.  It allows you to bookmark, fast forward, rewind, skip between chapters, – just like a normal mp3 player or iPod.  The company seems to be targeting libraries, and I’d love to see them in my local branch replacing the current cd cases shoved messily onto the shelves.

The rest of my time at BEA was spent exploring  the various publisher’s booths and meeting all my amazing fellow bloggers attending the Book Bloggers Convention – which was by far my favorite part of the week (expect to see BookSexy’s blogroll expand over the next few days).  Before I attended I thought that Book Expo was strictly about the books, and maybe it is (don’t worry, there will be more about those in the weeks and months to come).  But for me, meeting the people in the industry, seeing their enthusiasm and passion for the books they’re publishing, marketing, reviewing and writing is an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss.  So I’d like to put up a special thanks to My Friend Amy, Galleysmith, Maw Books, Linus’s Blanket, MotherReader, The Book Lady’s Blog, and Hey Lady! Whacha Readin’? for all the hard work they did organizing the 2010 Book Bloggers Convention.   Thank you! Thank you! And thank you ladies again!

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