Robin’s Roundup: September 22 New Audiobook Reviews

George Smiley, Malachy McCourt, and my favorite Aussie narrator

A Legacy of SpiesA week for old friends—that’s audiobook friends we’ve heard before, but we’re oh so glad to hear from them again. The newest John le Carré novel, A LEGACY OF SPIES, is a perfect example. Not only do I celebrate any new title from British master spy novelist le Carré, but LEGACY also brings back George Smiley. Ok, I admit it, I see actor Alec Guiness, but narrator Tom Hollander brings alive the Cold War spy masters and their craft. Le Carré, now in his 80s, read his memoir THE PIGEON TUNNEL magnificently just last year, but it seems right to hand the mic to Tom Hollander here.

Malachy McCourt brings back different sorts of memories, but his new memoir, DEATH NEED NOT BE FATAL, sounds like a lot of fun. He sings, he jokes, he talks about his life in Brooklyn and Ireland and his saintly mother, Angela, and his equally famous brother, Frank, who wrote ANGELA’S ASHES. I hope listeners are still discovering the great audiobook of Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir. It is certainly an audiobook that “sold” many readers on the format 20+ years ago. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: My Grandfather’s War

Revisiting WWI through Fiction and Nonfiction Audiobooks

The World RemadeAt age twenty-two, my grandfather looked a hero in his WWI pilot’s uniform. Peaked cap at a rakish angle, hand on his father’s shoulder, arm around his mother, he smiled broadly for the Brownie camera. Only the bulge of a service revolver beneath his jacket hinted at upcoming danger.

In this 100th anniversary year of America’s entry into the war, I wish I’d been able to hear about his experiences. He died when I was young, though, so I was never able to ask how the French battlefields looked from his biplane’s cockpit, how the rat-a-tat-tat of aerial combat really sounded, and frivolously, why didn’t he wear a silk scarf in the photo? Or did that sartorial flourish belong only to Snoopy’s Red Baron?

The Guns of August

Instead, I’ve found a vicarious experience of my grandfather’s war in books and film, beginning with Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the war’s start, THE GUNS OF AUGUST. I read it as a teenager, and recently listened to the Earphones Award-winning performance by one of my favorite narrators, Nadia May (also known as Wanda McCaddon). That’s two prizes for one compulsively readable account of the dares and double-dares that caused so much bravery and death. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Robin’s Roundup: September 15 New Audiobook Reviews

Dark or bright? Are you looking for real-world challenges or a fantasy escape?

Hue 1968My choices from this week’s new audiobook reviews seem to have a yin and yang approach. The dark and the light. We have history and biography that stare hard challenges straight in the face, like HUE 1968, Mark Bowden’s extensively researched account of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I like reviewer Bob Grundfest’s comment on narrator Joe Barrett: “He sounds like an old boot and offers no quarter when detailing the battle’s ravages, both in terms of men and American strategy.” If you are planning on watching Ken Burns’s PBS documentary or listening to the audiobook edition, THE VIETNAM WAR, Bowden’s work is an excellent companion. The biography of Israel’s former prime minister, Shimon Peres, NO ROOM FOR SMALL DREAMS, covers important decades of Israeli history. Narrator Mark Bramhall clearly gets into the author’s voice and brings listeners a direct and inspiring reflection. For another type of challenge, the biography of English cardiologist and surgeon Dr. Stephen Westaby looks at his career and many high-risk surgeries in OPEN HEART.

To counterbalance the nonfiction choices, what about a little fantasy? M.T. Anderson is a master of the invented world, and LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND is his newest young adult novel. Hearing about the aliens called “vuvv” may actually be easier than encountering the words repeatedly in the text—an unexpected bonus of audiobook listening. Anderson narrates the audiobook himself as he did with his celebrated SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD. While I’m on words that might be easier to hear rather than read, how about NYXIA, a sci-fi thriller by Scott Reintgen. The North Carolina teacher offers his novel for the “front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.” That should be enough to pique your interest, but narrator Sullivan Jones delivers with action and emotion for the teens in a competition aboard a spaceship.

Is your approach to listening this week dark, or bright?

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Tease: Hot Listens That Pick Up The Pace

Suspenseful romances full of dark secrets, peril, and scheming

After the DarkIf you feel that the world seems to be spinning faster than ever these days, you’re not alone. AudioFile romance reviewers have selected a few fast-paced titles—newly released—that will keep listeners on their toes.

AFTER THE DARK, a romantic suspense title, is an unrelenting look at the mind of a serial killer. Narrator Summer Morton manages—somehow—to lighten this dark and gritty series with the romance between FBI profiler Samantha Dark and her old partner, Blake. This audiobook is a great crossover for mystery listeners. 

Jim Frangione narrates SHADOW REAPER, the second in Christine Feehan’s out-of-the-ordinary paranormal series. Shadow Rider Ricco Ferraro uses Japanese Shibari art to help him assuage his guilt over past mistakes until he meets the woman who shares his dark secrets. Intense is a good word for this performance. Read more…

Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!

Solve: Crime Families

Criminal masterminds keeping it all in the family

Alafair Burke: The ExLast week I wrote about Partners in Crime—people who co-write their books. Some of the partners on that list were related to each other: P.J. Parrish is a pair of sisters and Charles Todd is a mother-son writing team. The crime genre also boasts families that have more than one writer, but they aren’t necessarily writing together. Do you suppose it’s something in their DNA? Or are you a supporter of the nurture school of thought—they learn to love it from exposure? Regardless of how they get there, plenty of great writers are apples from the same tree . . . chips off the same block . . . birds of a feather. O.K., I’d better stop.

One of my favorite writing families is the Burke family. James Lee Burke and his daughter Alafair Burke write in significantly different styles but they both possess tremendous talent. The elder Burke’s sense of place in the Southern locales is vibrant and alive, as integral to his plots as his emotionally damaged characters. Meanwhile, Alafair’s sense of place is also central to her novels, but her strong female characters are found in more urban settings—Portland, Oregon, and New York City. Spanning the country, the Burke family has a little something for any mystery fan. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Robin’s Roundup: September 8 New Audiobook Reviews

What’s Cooking in the Audiobook Kitchen?

Salt Fat Acid HeatChef memoirs and “foodie” books seem to come in waves . . . we’re in the kitchen with Marcus Samuelsson or Ruth Reichl and then the cupboard is bare for months. Happily this week we have three terrific cuisine-related audiobooks. Alice Waters, visionary chef and owner of Berkeley, California’s Chez Panisse invites listeners right to her table to hear her memoir COMING TO MY SENSES. She shares her passion for food, the story of finding her own voice as a chef, and a scattering of recipes. If you’ve checked out the beautifully illustrated cookbook SALT, FAT, ACID HEAT, it might be hard to imagine the audiobook edition. Yet author Samin Nosrat pulls it off, bringing this innovative cooking guide to listeners with engaging, conversational style . . . but you may still want to have the hardcover text on your shelf for the recipe details and techniques. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Hide the Television

My Father’s Reading Aloud Renewed Our Family Time

Orphan IslandI was fourteen and my brother seven when my parents hid the television in the attic linen closet and told us that it was broken. It remained at the “repair shop” for two years, which speaks to our gullibility and to our parents’ belief in the power of storytelling. For it was then that my father adopted the tradition established by his father, and began reading aloud to the family in the evening.

He started with his own childhood favorite, Arthur Ransome’s SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS, which is about four English kids (one of them my brother’s age) who spend their summers sailing and camping without adult supervision. Sophisticated, yet immediate, the 12-book series is ideal family listening. Such is my affection for them that I’ve twice listened to the entire canon in audiobook form. Gareth Armstrong’s narration can be found at www.audible.co.uk and Alison Larkin’s at www.audible.com. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Behind the Mic: The Reason You’re Alive

Matthew Quick offers a brash, opinionated character, and R.C. Bray gives listeners a remarkable performance

AudioFile is Behind the Mic again with narrator R.C. Bray as he gives us some motivation to listen to  THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE  by Matthew Quick. Think Jack Nicholson in “As Good As it Gets” . . . what does he mean? That’s worth checking out!

 “It’s hysterical, honest, blunt, heart-wrenching, endearing . . . a roller coaster ride of all the emotions.”—Narrator R.C. Bray

Read more…

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Robin’s Roundup: September 1 New Audiobook Reviews

This week 5 end-of-summer options that think about transitions

ArrowoodAs we wrap up summer with a long weekend, the audiobook reviews this week put me in two minds. I want to extend my random “summer listening” choices just a little longer, but also know many of us have already turned to the more serious efforts of fall.

ARROWOOD, set in the London of Sherlock Holmes, looks like a great choice if you’re on a mystery bent. We’ve been doing a lot of listening around the upcoming Sherlock Holmes anniversary in October. Arrowood is a scornful, anti-Holmes detective portrayed by Malk Williams. It gets an Earphones Award, so well worth attention.

An ensemble of popular young adult writers including Libba Bray and Tim Federle offer a collection to wrap up summer with some teen listening: SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS. Six narrators share the varied stories. The notion of “coming-of-age” comes to mind as I thought about the stories and how the end of summer often marks this transition.

The cultural commentary of Ben Sasse’s THE VANISHING AMERICAN ADULT has a lot to say about coming of age in 21st-century America. His friendly warning, as well as encouragement for parents, teachers, and officials, is worth checking out. Fiction is often the norm for listeners to explore coming-of-age stories, and I often think it’s a welcome way to learn about the customs, culture, and expectations of others ages and times—think Jane Austen. In a dynamic new production, Emma Thompson leads a full cast to present NORTHANGER ABBEY. The Gothic satire of Austen’s first novel makes good listening.

My Absolute Darling

This week’s current darling of the publishing world, MY ABSOLUTE DARLING, is getting reviews and comments from critics as a major debut. As an audiobook, Gabriel Tallent’s debut is harrowing in a way that is different from the distress caused when we read text of graphic violence. Narrator Alex McKenna should be commended for her fortitude to perform the work and bring it vividly to listeners.

Can you think of other audiobooks that pack a punch that’s different from the experience of reading the same text in print?

 

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Tease: Behind the Mic with Renée Raudman

Get the inside scoop on the Hidden Legacy series from romance team Ilona Andrews

Hot off bestseller lists and fan raves, Ilona Andrews’s Hidden Legacy series is a *must listen* experience, and WILDFIRE is the latest addition to this fiery series. AudioFile goes Behind the Mic with narrator Renée Raudman as she shares her thoughts on creating this magical audiobook experience.

“They’re known for their amazing characters and the rich world building that they create… their worlds are so real, and you feel like you are in them in that book, you just live through it.”—Narrator Renée Raudman

Read more…

Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!