Robin’s Roundup: October 6 New Audiobook Reviews

National Book Award finalists offer thoughtful and inspiring listening

Sing, Unburied, SingOne of the great aspects of the National Book Awards is that they often highlight titles that may not be on your radar yet. And as listeners know, audiobooks can be a great way to increase your reading time and to tackle the problem of “so many books, so little time!” Among the finalist announcements this week, there are several audiobooks definitely worth taking the time to explore. We just reviewed SING, UNBURIED, SING with three narrators, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Rutina Wesley, and Chris Chalk, and picking up an Earphones Award. Two other finalists in the Fiction category, DARK AT THE CROSSING, with narrator Vikas Adam, and THE LEAVERS, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, are also recommended.

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: Growing Up with the Vietnam War

Audiobooks that offer perspective on a long war and turbulent time

The Vietnam WarSoldiers lunged muddy, exhausted, and wide-eyed across our kitchen table most evenings when I was a teenager. It was the Vietnam War, in all its fear and confusion, playing in black-and-white on the nightly news. I wish we’d had Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward’s audiobook, THE VIETNAM WAR: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, to support our viewing, as it’s every bit as informative and wide-ranging as their recent PBS documentary. Though the audiobook is abridged, Burns won an Earphones Award for his clear and serious narration, which helped me concentrate on the hard story without turning away.

You see, in 1969, while waiting for my ride outside the San Francisco airport, I did look away when a soldier dropped a bulging duffle at his feet, and said, “I’m just back from Vietnam.” Such were my muddled emotions that to my eternal regret, I couldn’t even manage a “Welcome home.” Between them, Steve Sheinkin’s MOST DANGEROUS: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR, read by Ray Porter, and Howard Means’s 67 SHOTS: KENT STATE AND THE END OF AMERICAN INNOCENCE, read by Alan Sklar, help explain the mess we were in during those tumultuous times. They don’t absolve my rudeness to that soldier, but they put my reaction in context. 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.

Solve: Mystery Series Week

Celebrating favorite mystery series on audio

Police at the Station and they Don't Look FriendlyDid you know that it’s Mystery Series Week? I stumbled on this little gem while doing some research and learned that Purple Moon Press, a small independent publishing company, created Mystery Series Week to celebrate those continuing characters who return time and again to solve the case. It’s celebrated annually during the first full week of October. After all these years, I’m still learning something new every day.

I warn people when they start asking me for recommendations that I can talk for a long time about books and audiobooks I love. This is especially true of series. I have my reliable go-tos, my new discoveries, my new-to-me discoveries, and some that I dip into every now and again when the mood strikes me.

I was glancing back over the series I’ve highlighted so far here at the AudioFile blog. There have been female sleuths (Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski), non-American crime fighters (Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy), damaged detectives (James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux), and a little of everything else in between. And I’m sure I’ll continue to highlight great crime series. But in honor of this little-known week, I want to mention some series I love that maybe don’t get quite as much notice as others do. 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!

Tease: Intro to the Genre

The best titles to suck you into romance listening

Oh, dear. You know how you have an idea, and you think it’s a good idea, and then after a while, you realize you didn’t know what you were getting into? This is that time.

The Firebird

It was supposed to be simple (sigh). Introduce audiobook listeners to the romance genre with a few touchstone titles. These are audiobooks that epitomize the best of the genre and would appeal to a wide range of listeners. I thought I would organize it by category — for example, if you’re a mystery reader, you can jump into a romantic suspense listen and barely notice the landing. I had a few titles and narrators in my head. I started to organize them on paper to make categories. I jotted titles on the first paper. Quick and easy, right? Not so. I ran out of paper, had to start a second sheet. I thought of more suggestions. Then, I had to turn both of the sheets sideways in order to scribble more titles. Then, I was squeezing them in between the lines on both notes. Did I mention I don’t have good handwriting to begin with?

Long story short, there are MANY gateways to romance audio, and they are all worth entering. Here are a FEW to get you started. (Yes, this is a much shortened list from the original notes.)

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!

Behind the Mic: The Destroyers

Graham Halstead shares the secrets behind Christopher Bollen’s latest audiobook

Listen in as narrator Graham Halstead goes Behind the Mic with AudioFile to fill us in on THE DESTROYERS, Christopher Bollen’s thoroughly engrossing literary thriller set in the Greek Isles. What’s your next move in this dangerous game?

“You have no idea what’s around the next turn . . . “—Narrator Graham Halstead

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We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

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!