Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog Hop


January 1st kicks off the Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog Hop hosted by The Book NymphoHot Listens, and Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and I’m excited to join in and share my top listens from the past year.

Even as I write this I can imagine all the audiobooks in my TBL queue muttering about how they could have been one of my top three listens of 2013 if only I’d stopped continuously adding to the pile and actually listened to more of them. I feel a little guilty picking favorites when there were so many I never got to. That’s one of the things I like about “Best of…” blog hops, though: not only does it point me toward something I might not have tried otherwise, it reminds me of what I might already have but have been ignoring. I look forward to what you might have to share as your favorites but in the meantime and in no particular order, here are my top three listens of 2013.

Best of 2013 Audiobook Blog HopThe Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by Random House Audio on 4/30/13
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook


How much success do you have when you venture outside your usual listening tastes? My reading habits this year altered somewhat and this book was partially to blame. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction and after I finished The Woman Upstairs, I had to ask myself why. Beautiful use of language, pages and pages of highlight-worthy lines, complex characters, and intricate emotional dynamics can be found in this story of a woman who – like most of us already have or will do at some point – questions what she’s done (or more importantly, hasn’t done) with her life.  The listener knows that the steps she takes to push beyond her quiet and secure life are bound to end in disaster but I could only watch in fascination as it all came together and then fell apart. Cassandra Campbell turned in an excellent performance with her narration of this audio and her delivery let me experience the content of this book very differently than I would have if I’d read it, to my clear benefit.

Thirteenth ChildThirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Series: Frontier Magic #1
Read by: Amanda Ronconi
Length: 9 hrs 30 mins
Published by Audible, Inc. on 6/5/13


Although I chose not to review this one on the site, it was one of my favorite 2013 listens. I’d read the book several years ago but was hesitant to try the audio for a re-read because I associate the narrator, Amanda Ronconi, so closely with Molly Harper’s books. I consider Harper/Ronconi to be one of the best pairings in audio and I wasn’t sure if her voice and delivery style could make the transition from goofy romantic snark to alternate-history frontier America YA. Foolish me – that’s a narrator’s job, after all.

This coming of age story uses the emotional impact of being unable to work magic and being thought of as an unlucky thirteenth child as stand-ins for the emotional uncertainties of adolescence. There’s vivid and creative alternate-world-building where magical creatures occupy the American West – held back from the civilized territories by a magical barrier that follows the Mammoth river – and it’s the ever expanding westward march of settlers that gives Francine “Eff” Rothmer a chance to shed her thirteenth child reputation and find out who she really is. Ronconi settles into the personalities, voices, and accents of a large cast of characters with ease and perfectly captures the sibling dynamics of the very large Rothmer family as well as all the emotional nuances of Eff’s transition from insecure adolescent to mature adult. This is the first in an immersive audiobook trilogy.

The Sea of TranquilityThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Read by: Candace ThaxtonKirby Heyborne
Length: 13 hrs 10 mins
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 6/4/13


Angst, trauma, drama, romance, high school, family conflict, fitting in… it sounds like a stereotypical YA book, right? This one stands out from the crowd in oh so many ways for me. The tragedy that drives the protagonist happens prior to the opening of the story and the listener witnesses both the slow unfolding of Nastya’s past and how she deals with that damage in the present. Nothing happens quickly in this book: no insta-love, no magic boy or healing sex that makes everything better. It’s a story with some pretty solid psychology in character motivations and actions and it’s a slow process for both Nastya and Josh to work their way back to functional, let alone “normal.” Despite that (or perhaps because of it) each scene still manages to contain enough character reveal or emotional tension to drive the story forward and engross the listener.

Kirby Heyborne gives Josh a (character appropriate) almost detached mien for much of the book which left me unprepared for the emotional impact of that mien shattering. Candace Thaxton wowed me with a conversational and intimate delivery that alternated between Nastya’s brittle protective facade and glimpses of the fragile house of cards that was her coping mechanisms. The combined power of the story and the narration caught me by surprise and this one rounds out my top three listens of 2013.

If you’re not participating in the blog hop, I’d love to hear about your favorite listens of the past year in the comments.


The blog hop hosts are giving away a six month membership (entry form just below). In addition, I’ll gift an audiobook of your choice to one random commenter on this post. The winner must be able to redeem a gift audiobook at either or and will be drawn on 1/15/14 and notified via e-mail. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to check out the other blog hop participants:


  1. I have not read (listened) to your choice yet – in fact I have not heard of them all yet. My favourites are here: Just Reading for Fun

  2. I really enjoyed the first book in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles Hounded. The narrator made that story come alive in such a way that I found myself laughing out loud (and most inconveniently) while listening to it.

  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman was great – narrated by the author. That was one of my favorites this year.

    • Neil Gaiman is the only author at whom I don’t automatically cringe when I see his name as the narrator of his own books. He was awesome with The Graveyard Book. I’ll have to put this one on my list to get. Thanks for sharing!

  4. 3 more to add to my TBL! I swear it is almost as long as my TBR now!

  5. I just listened to the Sea of Tranquility 2 weeks ago and am still thinking about it – it was a great listen! I don’t “do” much YA or NA but I was really drawn into these characters & their lives … and at age 60, who knew I would still relate to high-schoolers?! That’s the sign of some great writing.

    • You know, I think some of my favorite books have been ones where the author (and narrator) let me connect with people or situations outside my experience (or at least those that I’ve put far behind me). That’s part of why I like well-written YA.

  6. Debra Kay Neiman :

    I have to check out Thirteenth Child. Happy New Year from Oklahoma, USA. crystalbluern at onlineok dot com

  7. Happy New Year to YOU!! I hopped on over to check out your three favorite audiobooks for 2013. Yours all sound fabulous especially The Sea of Tranquility!

    Checkout my three favorite audiobooks for 2013:

  8. I really got into audiobooks this year and one of my absolute favorites was the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and narrated by Simon Vance. It’s the Napoleonic Wars fought by Dragons that can talk and their riders and crews. So far I have heard the first three books in the series and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

  9. I appreciated your detailing why the narrators worked so well with each of your choices Kelli – especially with The Sea of Tranquility duo.

  10. I read The Woman Upstairs in print, but I can see how it would make an excellent audiobook! I like the sound of your other choices, too. I’m not part of the hop, but I posted a list of my favorite 5 audiobooks from this year’s listens. I liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane much better as an audiobook than I think I would have reading it in print; if I had had time to do a Top Ten Favorites instead of 5, it would have been on it!

  11. I haven’t listened to any of these titles; unfortunately, I only managed to squeeze-in a measly 27 audios last year. It’s hard when you have to pick & choose. Happy New Year!

  12. The Sea of Tranquility was one of my favorite books of 2013. I read it though. Didn’t know about The Woman Upstair and Thirteenth Child, but I’m sure going to add it to my TBL.

  13. I’d love to try The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay on audio. I really enjoyed it in print.

  14. I had a bad experience with Claire Messud that kept me from even thinking about her latest novel. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I listen to a good deal of literary fiction in audio and I’m glad it worked out for you. Audio is a great format for experimenting. YA is an area I don’t venture into very often, but your write up on The Sea of Tranquility has caught my eye. Here’s to new audio adventures in 2014.

  15. Thirteenth Child is on my to listen list! Happy new year – hope you have a great 2014!

  16. I’m loving this hop because I just found 3 new books and 2 narrators that were completely unknown to me! And 1 from a favorite narrator! Woo hoo! And don’t feel too bad, I also have a ton of audiobooks waiting to be read that probably should have made the list.

  17. All three of your picks are outside my self-imposed comfort zone and they all sound wonderful!

    Kirby Heyborne was perfect in Gone Girl, one of my 2013 runners up. I’ve added Sea of Tranquility to my never-ending Audible wishlist.

  18. All 3 of your audio books are new to me. This hop is adding to my audio tbr.

  19. That’s it! Sea of Tranquility is on my audible wish list.

  20. I have to admit that Audible has been one of the best things to happen to me. I’m not just saying that. I have been able to listen to so many books and almost double my reading since I’ve joined Audible. The difficult part is keeping books in my library to listen to. I am down to one book(a Christmas book) in my library and I will have listen to every book in my library(92). I’m looking forward to another year of listening! Thanks!

  21. The Sea of Tranquility is just lovely! I need to re-listen to it soon. The Woman Upstairs sounds outstanding. I’m a fan of CC so I’ll have to check this out soon. I’ve had success stepping out of my comfort zone with audio and hope to listen to more literary fic titles this year.

    Happy listening! Looking forward to chatting about audiobooks with you this year.

  22. Janie McGaugh :

    I really enjoy audiobooks and average roughly one/week, generally listening while working/playing on the computer.

  23. Ever After by Kim Harrison was my favorite read this year. My husband and I buy this series in both hardback and audio. I also did a re-read of Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghost’s series in audio. Bahni Turpin does an amazing job with the audio!

  24. I’ve heard Kirby Heyborne narration on the Carniepunk anthology and really enjoyed it. I plan on checking out more of his work in the future.

    Thanks for being part of the hop.

  25. I love audiobooks! Thanks!

  26. Yes! I saw earlier when I was setting up the links that you had picked The Sea of Tranquility as one your best, and I was thrilled :).
    I’m adding your other 2 choices to my wish list, they sound wonderful! How can’t I not trust your taste? ;)
    Thank you so much for being part of the hop, I also like to wish you a very Happy New Year!

  27. Thanks for the giveaway! I loved Iced by Karen Marie Moning. The male narrator is great!

  28. Sunshine Rays :

    I’m listening to Splintered right now and loving the narrator.

  29. My 2013 fave is Thankless in Death by J.D. Robb, narrated by Susan Ericksen.
    Thanks for the amazing giveaway!
    elizabeth @ bookattict . com

  30. liked fallen too far by Abbi Glines

  31. I’ve not listened to any of these yet but your first two listed are narrators I’m very familiar with and always enjoy. I may have to check one of them out.

  32. The Sea of Tranquility has been on my TBR/TBL list for a while. I think I will definitely try the audiobook route with it since it sounds like it is narrated well.

  33. Lisa Vazquezanzua :

    I haven’t listened to any audio books yet so I don’t have a favorite. But I’ve been wanting to try them for a while!! Thank you so much for a chance to win and for being a part of this fun and awesome blog hop!!

  34. I listened to my first audio book in December and loved it!! Lust, money & Murder by Mike Wells, Narrated by Sue Sharp. Thanks for a chance to win :) Definitely enjoying this blog hop :)

  35. I agree that it is difficult sometimes to choose a favorite or a best of but there is usually a pearl out there that really stays in your mind. Thanks for sharing yours:)

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