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.

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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.

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!

Audiobooks and Literacy: Literacy Fitness Program

It’s time to wake up your listening skills

Sister Outsider

If you are an educated adult who likes to read, this post may surprise you. Our literacy skills, as research has shown repeatedly and in international as well as American studies, aren’t stable across our adult life spans.

Sister Outsider

Kids’ “summer slide” has been well publicized, but less well known is evidence that adult literacy requires practice in order to persist through life, and not just seasonally. No matter your level of education, advancing age can lead to deterioration of literacy skill sets. Even bookworms can lose their literacy edge if their reading habits stop requiring or inspiring the need to reflect, question critically, or acquire new information. Unfortunately, this becomes the case with many adults in middle age.

These “literacy losses” are actually critical thinking losses. Once we have basic literacy skills (typically achieved in third grade), literacy isn’t about decoding individual words but collecting and absorbing meaning from whole paragraphs, texts, and complex directions. Adult losses in these skill areas impact our abilities to sort information, follow technical directions, and experience empathy. From a practical perspective, these losses mean we feel unsure about where stated fact ends and opinion begins, we may struggle to make sense of the programmable thermostat, and our world may shrink to include only those who share our cultural identity. Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

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.

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.