Thursday, May 6, 2010

'The Neighbor' on Audiobook Made Even Laundry Fun... Well, Almost

I have developed a whole new appreciation for audiobooks in the last week. I checked out both Patricia Cornwell's At Risk and Lisa Gardner's The Neighbor. I was prompted to do so by a post I read about joining tracks together to make it easier to transfer audiobook CDs to my iPod. To be honest, I had never thought of doing such a thing -- I assumed the audiobooks at the library were somehow protected from being copied. According to reputable sources, however, burning an audiobook to your iTunes & iPod for the purposes of listening to it, then deleting it, is legal under fair use laws. So, I tried it, and it worked.

For Christmas, I got a new car stereo which plays from an iPod cord, an SD card, and a USB device, but not CDs. Library audiobooks obviously seemed to be something I couldn't take advantage of. That is, until I learned about transferring an audiobook to iTunes and to my iPod. Now, I can't imagine NOT having an audiobook on my iPod. I listened in the car, while going to sleep, and while cleaning my house. Laundry to fold? No problem! I've got a book to listen to! Long drive for work? Can't wait! I've got a book to listen to! In short, this has opened up a whole new world for me, and I'll never be the same.

That being said, I still stand by my earlier statement that an audiobook is made or lost in its reader. A boring voice cannot bring even the best book to life, but interesting, well-done voices can do wonders for a so-so book.

Cornwell (who I LOVE)'s At Risk was discarded halfway through the third disc, but Lisa Gardner's The Neighbor proved to be possibly the best audiobook I've ever listened to. Four different actors read from the novel, which worked well with the novel's different narrators and sections. Most of the novel is in third-person, with various characters being focused on in different sections, but there are also flashback sections told in first-person through the voice of Sandra Jones, one of the main characters. It was an extraordinary decision, to have different people read these parts, and it made the audiobook a rich interpretation of the book.

In the novel, 23-year-old Sandra Jones disappears, leaving behind her four-year-old daughter and husband. As detectives race to find the young mother before the critical first 48 hours is up, they uncover not one but several persons of interest in the case. As one detective observes, it seems as though they are in an episode of Law & Order, with too many suspects and not enough evidence. Everywhere they turn, there are secrets and cover-ups. Was it Sandra's own husband Jason, who has little by way of a paper trail before his marriage? Or Sandra's father, the southern judge from Georgia whose deceased wife Sandra has accused of abuse? Or perhaps the registered sex offender who lives just houses away from the Jones family? Gardner does an excellent job of releasing just enough information that you are interested, without giving anything away until the very end. Suffice it to say I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire novel (which, due to the length of the audiobook, was days!).

At eleven discs of over an hour each, the audiobook took almost a week for me to complete. But every second was worth it, as I can't imagine a richer experience had I read the book myself in a shorter time period. The Neighbor will have you jumping at bumps in the night and wondering at its close just who the bad guys were exactly.

(*As a note, after looking at Gardner's website in preparation for this post, I realized that this novel is part of a series... That's right. A series. Which I began at the end. Again. With the same author! Last fall, I listened to one of Gardner's books on CD, which turned out to be part of a series. This novel is the third in a series about Detective D.D. Warren. I'm pretty irritated about starting halfway in; on the upside, at least there are more books to add to my to-read list that I'm almost guaranteed to enjoy!)

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