Where’s Deborah? Two Audiobook Reviews

I’ve been posting less frequently, especially my book reviews. Fear not, I have not departed for illiterate climes. I value our community. And I do have things to say about the books I’ve been enjoying. I just have been reading and writing much less.

In mid-May, I experienced a sudden, severe decrease in the visual acuity of my dominant eye. I’ve been to three doctors so far, including a retinal specialist, and they can’t find the cause. The good news is that they’ve been able to rule out the Big Bads, which is reassuring but frustrating. I’ve tried wearing an eye patch, which gives me better vision through my non-dominant eye, but the loss of depth perception drives me crazy. (Who knew how much depth perception matters when reaching for a mouse?) Meanwhile, my time at the computer is limited (ditto piano, unless I’m playing from memory). Eyestrain headaches set in after only a short time. Hence…

Audiobooks to the rescue!

I discovered the delights of recorded books when they came on reel-to-reel and then cassettes. And then CDs. I still have a collection of my favorite novels and classes. Fast forward a number of years to oh joy! I can not only check out physical audiobooks from my local library, I can borrow digital editions, too! I got into borrowing through the discovery of many podcasts featuring stories read aloud (my favorite was “Phoebe Reads A Mystery”). Alas, these were usually one chapter per episode, liberally laced with ads. Not so the library editions (which also pay royalties to the author and narrator through the price the library pays for its copies).

I’ve worked my way through most of Alexander McCall Smith’s books (especially the “Lady Detective Agency” series), Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, and Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries.

What have I been listening to recently? Read on for my most recent audiobook reviews!


Making It So: A Memoir, written and narrated by Patrick Stewart (Audiobooks.com)

Be still, my heart. Sir Patrick Stewart’s life in his own words, in his own voice.

I put a hold on this audiobook months before it became available. My library purchased extra copies to accommodate all the requests. To say the wait was worth it is an understatement. The memoir details a fascinating life and an exciting, varied, and long career, much of which I was already familiar with. Sure, I knew Stewart from Star Trek: TNG and its movies, X-Men, I, Claudius, and other films. But I also had a passing familiarity with his charismatic presence on the stage. My daughter and I attended his one-man performance of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, in which Stewart filled the auditorium with his vitality, story-telling genius, and ability to make the text come alive as we’d never before known it. That’s one of the things that stood out for me in his memoir: how he takes a text and makes it emotionally and intellectually accessible, to take the sense of the words and bring them alive. (Highlight: Stewart reciting several of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. This is, of course, to be expected from a highly experienced veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Theater.

And his voice! We all know that rich, supple voice, although since Stewart is now in his 80s, it has acquired “age gravel.” But what the decades have diminished, skill, life experience, and understanding have enhanced even more. He recounts events with intimacy and meaning, as if he had been there, which he had.

I also knew that he came from a working-class family, that his strong stance against domestic violence arose from watching his father’s brutality, that he had been a stage actor long before he ventured into film and television, and that he is so secure in his sexuality that he is comfortable being demonstrably affectionate with a close gay friend (Ian McKellen). Which, needless to say, other straight men ought to emulate. There was much I didn’t know, and discovering it in the course of listening became a delight, one I will not spoil for you. Just download a copy or put yourself on the wait list at your library, and enjoy.


Someone You Can Build a Nest In, by John Wiswell, narrated by Carmen Rose (Tantor Audio); print and ebook published by DAW.

I’d heard of John Wiswell, one of the new generation of splendid young authors, so I grabbed a review copy of the audiobook version of his debut novel, Someone You Can Build a Nest In. Narrator Carmen Rose did a splendid job bringing this unusual monster/horror/romance to life. On a panel at the recent Nebula Awards weekend, a speaker referenced this book as a fresh take on the theme of monster as protagonist, in this case monster as heroic, romantic protagonist. Such characters hold a mirror to our deepest fears, offering shared humanity as a path to laying our nightmares to rest. While Wiswell’s book is not an entirely new approach to the point of view of a monster/villain, he brings a wonderful combination of grit, darkness, and lyricism to the story.

Monster Shesheshen, a formless, pluripotent jelly, is rudely awoken from her sleep in the bowels of a ruined manor by human hunters. Quickly assembling hard materials to construct human-like body parts (a metal chain for a backbone, old bones for limbs, and so forth), she disguises herself as a refugee. The ruse works for only a short tome. The hunters are relentless, driven by the obsessive local nobility who, as it turns out, have their own share of horrendous secrets. Badly injured during a chase, Shesheshen experiences her first taste of kindness when a rejected daughter of the noble house rescues her. Bit by bit, step by step, they each heal one another. The monster’s quest eventually becomes how to build a life with, rather than inside of, the love of her life. And to survive her murderous in-laws.

It’s a gorgeous, inventive, intoxicating love story, filled with heart-rending truths, self-sacrifice, and gradual unfolding of character. We should all have such a monster in our lives.

Highly recommended.

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