Robin’s Roundup: October 20 New Audiobook Reviews

Seasonal—spooky—listening from Joe Hill, and essays on feminism by Rebecca Solnit

Strange Weather

Strange WeatherTopical essays, historical portraits, and short story collections can all give listeners a useful introduction to an author, but also showcase the variety offered with the audio version. Author Joe Hill’s collection of four novellas, STRANGE WEATHER, is a great example.

Four top narrators—Wil Wheaton, Dennis Boutsikaris, Kate Mulgrew, and Stephen Lang—each take on one of Hill’s stories. One can binge the whole collection or dole out the listening one dark scenario at a time. AudioFile is hosting a conversation between Joe Hill and narrator Dennis Boutsikaris as part of our podcast series, The Download. Keep an eye out for more on this program. 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.

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: 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!

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.

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.

Solve: Partners in Crime

Discover what it’s like writing with a co-author from the pair behind Michael Stanley’s audiobooks

I’ve often heard authors talk about the solitude of writing, so people who write as a team fascinate me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several writing teams through my attendance at conferences and book signings and such.

Jefferson Bass - Without Mercy

There are pairs who have always written together like the authors of the Body Farm series, Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Blass—collectively Jefferson Bass. The creators of Detective Kubu are the duo from South Africa, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, also known as Michael Stanley. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child simply use their own names to publish the Pendergast series.

Family members can make good writing partners. The sister writing team of Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols make up P.J. Parrish. They publish the Louis Kincaid series and the Joe Frye series. And Charles and Caroline Todd, mother and son pair, write two popular historical fiction series, the Bess Crawford series and the Ian Rutledge series. 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!

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: My Personal Time Machine

Why stay in the 21st Century when you can experience another?

Enter Pale DeathAs a kid, I spent hours perusing an illustrated coffee-table book about ancient Egypt, imagining myself as Queen Nefertiti. Then I went through a period of wearing wooden clogs, not because they were trendy, but because they were favored footwear in 16th century Holland. Clearly, if a functioning time machine were invented, I would hop aboard. Until then, I voyage into the past on S.S. Audiobooks.

Barbara Cleverly’s mystery series about Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands is set in India, England, and France in the 1920s and 30s. It’s replete with high adventure, murder, a tiger or two, edgy social commentary and comedy, and dressing for dinner – which everyone did, don’t you know. I wear my best after-dinner outfit (aka bathrobe) to listen. Two of my favorites are ENTER PALE DEATH read by Matthew Brehner and THE DAMASCENED BLADE read by Terry Wale, but if you, too, love this time period, go for it and read all thirteen (and counting!). 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.