Robin’s Roundup: October 13 New Audiobook Reviews

From the sublime—Nobel literature—to popular listening of the season

The Remains of the Day

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced last week, it was a great pleasure to find that so many of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books are already available on audio.

Remains of the Day

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, narrated by the impeccable Simon Prebble, may be the place to start exploring Ishiguro’s work in audiobooks. Simon delivers it perfectly with nuance of emotion and subtlety of accents. Some other Ishiguro audiobooks to look at—THE BURIED GIANT or the stories collected in NOCTURNES. Also, WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS which is narrated by John Lee (see more about John below).

Among the week’s newest reviews, there seem to be several that make a good run-up to Halloween. Since my post today happens to fall on Friday the 13th, a few scary tales to try your luck seem appropriate. Stephen & Owen King lead off with SLEEPING BEAUTIES. Women going to sleep and not waking up sounds pretty unlucky to me. THE BLACK HAND takes listeners to the wharves and warehouses of 1880s London and the origins of Italian crime syndicates. And if you want to to stay in the horror zone, THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, VOLUME 9 has a collection of stories to curl your toes with every whisper. 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.

Tease: Cozy Romance

Cuddle up in your favorite sweater with 6 new cozy romance audiobooks

Second Chance Girl

Second Chance GirlAs the crisp days of fall tread inevitably to the snowy invasion of winter — at least here in the Northeast — I start to hunker down and cozy up. My softest green Express sweatshirt from the ’90s comes out of the bottom drawer, I pace the grocery store for new and novel hot chocolate flavors, and I look for cozy listens. I’m a re-reader and a re-listener, so many of my cozy listens are old favorites like historicals or Mary Stewart mysteries, or books I read as a child like THE SECRET GARDEN or THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I have slightly different criteria when it comes to cozy romance. I don’t want to spend most of the book on the edge of my seat fretting. I want an intimate connection with the main characters. Even if they are flawed, I still want to love them. I look for comforting and wondrous elements such as a dreamy setting or heartwarming dialogue. This column features some cozy listens, including a few holiday titles for you to enjoy in your favorite sweatshirt — or even — no judgment here — pajamas after breakfast.

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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!

Self: Brain Science, Buddhism, and the Church

5 Audiobooks on Meditation, Joy, and Enlightenment

Unplug

UnplugGrowing up, as I did, at a time when most people in my city practiced the same Christian faith, standard practice was to look to the church for guidance about the nature of the universe, what is right and wrong, and how to think about ourselves as we live our lives. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Freudian psychology was prominent, and the brain science we had was speculative at best. Eastern religions like Buddhism were not on my radar.

These audiobooks draw their wisdom from a larger universe than the one I grew up with, so seekers of all stripes are likely to find a perspective or path that feels right for them. Nowadays, we have so much more information than we had in the past about the mechanics of attention and belief, the connection between our bodies and our minds, and how to approach the challenge of doing what we say we want to do. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

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.

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.)

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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: Curmudgeons in Crime

Cantankerous characters we love on audio

As kids, no one ever wants a curmudgeonly neighbor who’s regularly chastising them to “stay off my lawn.” That messes up all the games of kick-the-can and hide-and-seek. And what happens when your baseball accidentally goes in their yard? Lost. For. Ever.

But in other realms, the curmudgeonly characters are often some of the most well-loved. They’re the comic relief, the unfiltered voice, the personality we secretly hope we’re brave enough to embrace one day. And typically, there’s a pretty good heart buried deep inside as well. TV is full of these grouchy personalities: Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, Dr. Gregory House as the title character in HOUSE, and for those who can remember, Jonathan Higgins in MAGNUM, P.I.

Glass Houses

Crime fiction also claims a number of delightfully cantankerous characters.

Louise Penny, whose new audiobook in the Three Pines series is GLASS HOUSES (and an Earphones Award winner), has crafted an excellent curmudgeonly specimen in Ruth Zardo. Penny’s expletive-spewing poet may walk around with a rain cloud over her head, but she brightens every scene she enters. Both Ralph Cosham in the early recordings and now Robert Bathurst illuminate her cranky disposition with aplomb, allowing that hidden softie to peek out just around her sharp edges.

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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 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.

Self: The “Special Sauce” in Personal Growth Audios

Four audiobooks with stellar narrations that urge you to take steps toward a better life

Gretchen Rubin

From cleaning house to searching for meaning, the personal growth audios I listened to this month spoke to me as they always do: “There’s always room for improvement, Tom!” This is especially true now that I have more years behind me than in front of me and feel some urgency to do more with the blessings I’ve been given.

Gretchen Rubin, photo by Michael Weschler

What continues to impress me about personal growth audios is how they bring together the power of the human voice with insights that speak to us about our lives and opportunities. Someone speaking to us, whether in person or on a recording, offers us the speaker’s heritage and character as well as the experience and ideas that they believe have values for us. When listening to an author like Agapi Stassinopoulos, we of course hear the substance of her insights and advice. But we also get a connection with her based on what we hear in her voice, her vocal personality.

Gretchen Rubin, who is much loved by fans of her Happier podcast, narrates her latest audiobook, THE FOUR TENDENCIES, with a casual, friendly style that feels like welcome advice shared by a friend over coffee. This is what’s unique about learning from audiobooks—this “special sauce” of someone’s voice may be more powerful in some audiobooks than others, but it always gets my attention. When it’s there, something happens that awakens the desire to commit, to live more intentionally, and to take the steps needed to have a better life.

The Four Tendencies

THE FOUR TENDENCIES: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
written and read by Gretchen Rubin
Random House Audio/Books On Tape

Gretchen Rubin dives into a thorough examination of how and why we make our daily choices. She conveys her well-researched, home-grown four-tendencies matrix conversationally, using changes in pitch and speed to help differentiate the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout her book. She narrates her exploration of rebels, obligers, upholders, and questioners with obvious excitement, in a welcome and engaging manner. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Solve: Canadian Crime

Recognizing excellent and essential Canadian crime authors

This October, the world mystery convention, Bouchercon, is going to take place in Toronto. That got me thinking about Canadian crime fiction and Canadian writers of crime fiction. They offer a significant contribution to the genre; after all, it’s hard to imagine the mystery aisle at the bookstore without Louise Penny’s beloved Three Pines series or the heart-racing thrillers from Linwood Barclay.

Never Let You GoMy teenage niece has taken an interest in mysteries recently, and one of her favorites is Canadian author Chevy Stevens. Have you listened to her new thriller, NEVER LET YOU GO? Now that lady knows how to write creepy stories. Do you think the cold climates have anything to do with that?

Some Canadian authors I was already well aware of. Sean Chercover is one of my favorites, and he just released the final installment in his Daniel Byrne trilogy. Marriage brought Hilary Davidson to the U.S., but the author of the Lily Moore series is still very strongly tied to Canada. And of course, Alan Bradley won the Debut Dagger award with his first Flavia de Luce story, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE.

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!