September 27, 2011 Readers’ Advisory Round Table
NOTES: Audio books
Audio assignments for September: Listen to any title in audio book format narrated by George Guidall.
Listen to any title in audio book format narrated by a female narrator.
Listen to any title in audio book format in a multi-voice production.
Appeal to be read for September meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors while listening, but really think about the importance of the audible presentation in Audio.
Please post your RA review of all your titles on the RA RT Blog under the audiobook category under Genre.
Also—add anything else you are reading this summer—to the appropriate genre.
What is the appeal or non-appeal of Audiobooks?
Often we listen to something we would not read; nonfiction when usually read fiction, etc.
Often listen for 2nd time around for book discussions, book talks, etc.
Trust publisher/recording house record of matching story to narrator and quality of recording (shout out from Diane for Brilliance)
Appeal: Good match between narrator & audience
Good match between narrator & story
Performance vs telling the listener a story (could be negative)
Dramatic reading vs becoming the character(s) (could be negative)
POV of character sometimes makes a difference in the choice of narrator or should (Perhaps for certain audiences like YA – very important)
Actors usually do a great job interpreting and becoming the character
Narrator has to understand and interpret the character’s motivation
Listener may have new appreciation for a book because of interpretation
Non-Appeal: Change of narrator in a series
Example: Evanovich’s Plum series
Some authors who read their own work
Inconsistent performance or production is distracting
Some listeners do not listen to male narrators or female narrators
Some listeners do not like foreign accents or haughty British voice
Tone is sometimes an issue for listeners—what one person may find annoying another may enjoy as eccentric or funny.
Example: Alan Bradley’s narrator does Flavia, the main character a young British girl—someone found her abrasive and wanted something more soothing—I found her hilarious and snarky.
Diane sent me this: “We have to figure out a new vocabulary to describe narration in our reviews.” I think this is well worth pondering. When we describe an audio—play with your language describing the narrator and share with us in future sessions. The word “authentic” keeps coming back to me.
Suitable to story of Wiesel’s Night, grandfatherly, sober, good accents. Unless it was an older man GG’s voice was a distraction
Alan Furst’s Dark Voyage: actorly, presentation vs natural; dramatic reading vs. becoming the characters
Chris Crutcher’s Ironman: GG shared reading with Johnny Heller who became the character while GG did the other chapters as an uninvolved narrator.
Nicole Krauss’s The Great House—listener felt read to instead experiencing the story
Nathaniel Philbrick’s The Last Stand: GG made the NF subject matter easy to listen to, dramatic when needed, authenticity of characters/story, GG kept himself out of the narrative interpretation; listener felt GG respected author’s language and used the correct pronunciation which is particularly helpful with NF or foreign authors/stories.
Tony Hillerman series done well by GG.
Alex Berenson’s The Secret Soldier—GG was good with main character John Wells, did other voices well, even female—but was amazing as the aging King of Saudia Arabia—Abdullah.
Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana—while finding GG’s voice pleasant—eventually zoned out and stopped listening.
Caitlin Green in Blundell’s What I saw and How I lied. Did great job because I believed the character and even when I thought she was wrong—I believed the character believed she was right. This is a young girl coming of age—and the narrator got it just right.
Jennifer Ehle in Geraldine Brooks’s Caleb’s Crossing: Listener found her to be a distraction. She over-enunciated and the story become laborious.
Carrington MacDuffie in McLain’s The Paris Wife—was terrific. She even made the listener like Hemingway for a time.
Cassandra Campbell was very soothing.
Levine’s Fairest (YA) did a great job with 1st POV. Music added everything to the production but might not really appeal to the YA audience.
Jody Picoult’s House Rules—had 4 or 5 different POVs (so did My Sister’s Keeper) and a multiple cast works better for these stories.
Stockett’s The help was excellent—with three different narrators.
Niffennegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife was perfect for 2 different voices.
Kristin Cashore’s Graceling—done very well but sometimes it felt like the narrators were reading rather than becoming characters; music was distracting—because it was overdramatic.
ADDED VALUE: Often music complements but it can also jar and disturb the listener. Needs to fit the story. Sound effects in same category.
Author interviews are sorely missed in this MP3 world—still found on CDs and often adds to experience.
Authors we liked: Scott Brick, Lorelei King, Barbara Rosenblat, Johnny Heller, Will Paton, Jay O. Saunders, Ron McLarty, Tom Beaudette, Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Bill Bryson
Robin Sachs in Glenn Duncan’s The Last Werewolf
Erik Davies in Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen—Larsson readalike
Richard Armitage reading Georgette Heyer
Stephen King’s On Writing by both author and John Hurt
Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son by John Bedford Lloyd
Robert Ian MacKenzie’s Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street & Expresso Tales
Shelley reminded us about NetGallery—where we can get advanced looks at books.
Those of you interested in doing your own genre study at your library, check out the MLS program with Debbie Walsh & Shelley at the Marlborough Library on 11/28/11. Debbie Walsh is an amazing resource.
And Jan is conducting a workshop on Romance and Reader’s Advisory Service or I Love These Stories in Palmer on October 18th. Check the MLS CE page.
Genre: Teen, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Suspense/Thriller, Adventure
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
Narrator: Nick Podehl
Appeal Factors:: Fast Paced, Plenty of Action/Adventure/Suspense, Survival, Good vs. evil, (Audio: Distinct voices, clear diction, realistic tones, good pace)
Todd is almost 13, almost a man in Prentisstown, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a never ending stream of noise. The men of Prentisstown are hiding a secret and it’s so awful that Todd and his dog Manchee are now running for their lives.
Besides being a fast paced, suspenseful, inventive story, Nick Podehl’s narration is marvelous! He is able to create believable and distinct voices and accents for the characters and is not afraid of his powerful voice. In addition, there are some special effects that illustrate the effect of what it might be like to hear thoughts all the time. These special effects are used judiciously and enhance the narration, not overwhelm it. My favorite voices Nick performs are those of Todd’s dog, Manchee’s thoughts, and of Aaron, the preacher and one of the antagonists of the story.
I recommend this book and this narration very highly for teens and adults to listen to.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
The Poacher’s Son – Paul Doiron
Narrator: John Bedford Lloyd
Appeal Factors: fast paced, action, well developed characters, hero, descriptive of locale, suspenseful, strong sense of place
Game warden, Mike Bowditch, doesn’t believe his father (The Poacher) murdered 2 men. Against orders, Mike sets out to prove his father innocent,
antagonizing the local law enforcement, the FBI and his own colleagues along the way. First in a series.
A good, strong suspense novel with a multidimensional heroic protagonist and well developed secondary characters. Compare to CJ Box (Joe Pickett) and Nevada Barr for character and wilderness setting.
Narrator Lloyd has an appealingly deep grumbly voice that works well in
characterizing Mike and the others in this book. Lloyd distinguishes characters with simple tonal changes and always sounded authentic. If I may say, the Maine accent was done right! (I’m originally from Maine and nothing grates more than a fake Maine accent!). Truly, I fell in love with the narrator’s voice, and with Mike’s character.
Genre: Audio–Fantasy/Alternate History, humor, mystery/thriller
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
Narrator: Elizabeth Sastro
Appeal Factors: intricate plot, lots of dialog, eccentric characters, good v. evil
is clearly drawn, heroic protagonist, lots of wordplay, wit, satire, language/words are as important as the plot, playful tone, many humorous elements, alternate history, plot/culture/settings all based on literature
Set in an alternate London, literature is so important that it is a crime to forge verse and it is possible to travel into novels and poems. Someone starts to kidnap literary characters and it’s up to Special Operative Thursday Next to stop the kidnapper. Clever wordplay and a satire make this a fun romp. 1st in a series. Narration: Narrator was adept at managing character voices and there was a lightness to her tone that added to the playful tone of the book.
Similar Authors: Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett (Satire and Surrealism), Lewis Carroll (wordplay)
Mr. Chartwell – Hunt, Rebecca
Narrator: Susan Duerden
Appeal Factors: a clever, engaging and quick read, character and plot are revealed piece by piece as plot twists keep you reading, style: engaging, dark humor, wordplay, Tone/Mood: unsettling, a bit foreboding, optimistic at the end, Frame: story takes place over a period of 6 days in London 1964
Mr. Chartwell, a huge black dog used to characterize W. Churchill’s depression, becomes a lodger in Esther Hammerhans’ home 2 years after her husband’s suicide. The narrative shifts between Esther and Churchill’s experiences with Mr. Chartwell during the week before Churchill retires from Parlaiment. Extremely accurate, and not over dramatized, characterizations of the effect of depression and the feelings associated with it. Mr. Chartwell is menacing figure who knows exactly what he is and what he does–it’s his job. He is both attractive and repulsive while sometimes playfully and sometimes cruelly taunting his victims. The ending is optimistic and satisfying. NARRATION: British accent lent authenticity and her vocal characterization of Mr. Chartwell portrays him accurately as a devilish and playful villain just biding his time until his “assignments” succomb. Well worth the time, and it’s a short book anyway!
The Pleasure of My Company – Martin, Steve.
Appeal Factors: Overall a charming, playful and funny read. Steady pace,
protagonist is closely observed–we get to know a lot about him in a relatively
short book, inventive wordplay, conversational, self-depricating humor, Tone:
bittersweek, hopeful, a bit playful. Frame: a contemporary setting and an intimate look at this character’s life, Storyline: character centered with gentle and respectful explorations of protagonist’s neuroses and experiences.
Daniel Pecan Cambridge is a young neurotic mane with several firm rules for living. The story is a tender portrayal of loneliness and love and his journey to reach out and engage the world. NARRATOR: Martin is a very good narrator! He is a storyteller and I could feel the love he had for Daniel and this story through his narration. Not his “wild and crazy guy” voice but one that is gentle and effective. Martin is very kind to his character: Daniel is an innocent coming to terms with the world and Martin portrays that very well.
Similar authors: David Sedaris, but Sedaris is a bit harsher in tone.
Genre: Young Adult/Unabridged Audio
Ironman – Chris Crutcher
Narrators: Johnny Heller & George Guidall
Appeal Factors: Appeal: Pace – fast; Characterizations – quirky, funny, tragic, and resilient teens and adults, well-developed, secondary characters; Language – engaging, funny, some swearing, no F-bombs; Story – character-driven; Tone – bittersweet, emotionally charged; Frame – Washington State, Clark Fork High School, 1990’s.
Bo (Beau –ree—gard) Brewster is a high school triathlete with a sense of humor and a smart mouth. He’s at war with the adults in his world for a variety of reasons: his slight stature, his fear of being humiliated, and his controlling, distant father who tries to teach him some very cruel lessons ‘for his own good.’ To avoid suspension for lipping off to his coach/English teacher, Bo attends Mr. Nakatani’s Anger Management class with some of the school’s more notorious students. Bo learns a lot about life, himself, and his fellow students in Mr. Nak’s class. The narrative alternates between Bo’s ‘memoir’ told in letters to radio/TV host Larry King voiced perfectly with wicked humor and touching empathy by Johnny Heller, and a more standard storyline offered by the great voice of audiobook narrator George Guidall. Both narrators are outstanding, bringing a riveting story to life and creating appropriate voices for the various characters. Ironman is a great read, but it is even more compelling as an audiobook. Red flags: some swearing, no F-bombs; a few scenes of real emotional cruelty experienced by some of Bo’s friends in Anger Management class. Similar authors: Chris Crutcher, Ben Mikaelsen, Mal Peet, Francine Prose, Will Weaver, Will Hobbs, Ronald Koertge, Graham Salisbury, Kent Haruf
Genre: Audio by female narrator
What I Saw and Why I Lied – Judy Blundell
Narrator: Caitlin Green
Appeal Factors: Character/Pace/Tone
Another good example of 1st person narration that works really well with an excellent reader–Caitlin Green. If you don’t believe the main character Evie–then the book would fall apart.
Evie slowly finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies in this brilliant
mystery that won the 2008 NBA for YA. She becomes smitten with a handsome ex-GI who has a secret hold on her stepfather (who she has always worshiped) who has just returned from WWII in 1947. Her relationship with her mother and others is wonderfully rendered. FL & NYC nicely drawn. Compelling voice of confused teenage girl trying to find her way in the world–suspenseful because the listener believes Evie when she is confused and overwhelmed. Jewish secondary plot is well-defined and developed. I would suggest this to high school age and adult listeners/readers. Historical Fiction/Suspense/YA
Genre: Audio narrated by multiple voices
Graceling – Kristin Cashore
Narrator: David Baker (and a full cast)
Appeal Factors: PACE/CHARACTER/FRAME/PLOT
Read by David Baker and a full cast–the musical interludes between chapters is a bit cheesy and was the only annoying aspect of this delightful listen. In a world where some people are born with a unique and sometimes lethal gift, Katsa is very special. At an early age, she demonstrated on uncomfortable gift for killing. This gift is so rare no on else has it. This makes Katsa a perfect tool for her ruthless uncle, King Randa. But Katsa detests being used and decides to stand up for herself and fight the injustice surrounding her. Katsa’s voice is terrific and the others do a credible job with her friends and love interest. Very entertaining. There was humor, pathos, and suspense. Unique characters that made one curious to continue with them in other books.
Fast paced with excellent world building, this is a first in a series and is followed by a prequel: Fire. I would suggest to anyone who likes High Fantasy and even someone who enjoyed the relationships and the characters’ trials of the Hunger Games.
Genre: Audio narrated by George Guidall
The Secret Soldier – Alex Berenson
Narrator: George Guidall
Appeal Factors: Character/Pace/Tone
If you enjoy a plot laced with elements of espionage and current events, this series will resonate and entertain you. Guidall does a superb job making each character different and gives the main character John Wells gravitas. His portrayal of the aging Saudi king is terrific. CIA operative John Wells goes undercover in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon to find conspirators bent on tearing down the monarchy of King Abdullah. If the conspirators prevail, it will mean more than just the fall of a monarch — it may be the start of a final conflagration between America and the full force of Islam itself.
I broke my own rule and listened to the 5th in the series before I have read any of the others and I will eventually go back and start with the first. Wells is a complicated spy and one whose history is something hinted at in this book. Good introduction to a series I felt I should be familiar with–and one I shall share with Clancy, Silva & Ludlum lovers.
Genre: Mystery (Audio Multi-Cast Production)
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow v.1; “Wisteria Lodge” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Narrator: Clive Merrison & Michael Williams (et al)
Appeal Factors: Ah…
Plot? I’ve next to no idea. Something about someone waking up in a lodge – the Wisteria Lodge – to find that there was not a single other soul in residence, including staff, but that a murder had been committed. With such a bizarre happening turning the finger of blame in “someone’s” direction, who else is there to go to but Sherlock Holmes?
My ability to pay attention to and/or concentrate on the story being told in audiobook form is poor to begin with, but throwing multiple cast members in the mix makes my brain hurt. I found it difficult to keep the characters’ voices straight, and too often ended up mentally scratching my head, trying to puzzle out just who was speaking. The lone female voice that threw in with the rest of the lot was a welcome relief, but still…Ouch.
Genre: Audio by George Guidall
The Dark Voyage – Alan Furst
Narrator: George Guidall
Appeal Factors: Character/Atmosphere/Suspense
Dutch merchant Captain E.M. DeHaan is approached by the Dutch Naval Intelligence to repaint his ship the Noordendam to be a Spanish freighter in order to smuggle supplies and spies to the allies at the beginning of World War II. DeHaan agrees, but often seems to doubt, whether or not he and his multi-national crew will be able to pull off their missions. DeHaan can be introspective at times, but the element of suspense and the dangers encountered by the Noordendam even out the pace. Character and atmosphere are the main appeals for this novel. George Guidall is well-suited to narrate this story told mostly from the point of view of the aging Capt. DeHaan
Nanci Milone Hill
Genre: Books on CD
Queen of Broken Hearts – Cassandra King
Narrator: Laura Hicks
Appeal Factors: Humor, Voice, Setting, Female relationships, Man/woman relationships
Claire is a divorce coach who can’t seem to get past the death of her husband. While freely giving advice to her friends and other townspeople on how to move past grief, she closes her heart off to both men who try desperately to
break her shield.
This was a wonderful story, full of female friendships, sexual tension and humor. Laura Hicks, who does the narration, has a wonderful, calm, lilting southern voice. Her reading brought to life the small, southern town and the people who inhabit it.
Genre: Books on CD
Bloodroot – Amy Green
Appeal Factors: family dynamics, voice, setting
A multi generational Appalachian family is consumed by long-buried secrets, including magic and insanity. I don’t normally like multi-voice casts. I find them harder to follow, believe it or not. Perhaps because I listen to them in the car and I find they take more attention on my part. At any rate, each voice in this story was unique, which I believe would definitely add something for those who enjoy multi-cast performances.
As for the story itself – I would recommend it to readers who enjoy Brunonia Barry or Sarah Addison Allen.
A Brief History of Montmoray – Michelle Cooper
Narrator – Emma Bering
Appeal Factors: quirky characters; humorous; YA fiction that adults will enjoy
Told through the eyes of sixteen year old royalty living on a fictitious island in the Bay of Biscay, Sophie recounts how a ragtag family of blue bloods have to deal with a crumbling castle and a threatened invasion by the Nazis. This title reminds one of Dodie Smith’s “I Capture the Castle” . The characters are absolutely charming, the story is humorous with lots of wonderful dialogue and zany but exciting episodes. The narrator Emma Bering does a excellent job performing all the voices from ten year old Henry(etta) to Sophie’s brother, cousin and the older man she has a crush on. Cooper’s second book about the family “The Fitzosbournes in Exile” came out this spring and the third book will be delivered next spring. Can’t wait. Listening Library , 2010 ISBN: 978-0307707789
Genre: Audio narrated by female
Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
Narrator: Jennifer Ehle
Appeal Factors: Voice, Character, Sense of Place, Absorbing storyline rich with
historical detail, Lovely language
Set in the mid-1600s on or nearby Martha’s Vineyard, this story is narrated by Bethia, the repressed but curious and unusually intelligent teenage daughter of a minister; and her secret friendship with a young Wampanoag, Caleb, whom she first meets alone on the beach when she is 12 and he is a couple years older. Despite many obstacles and clashes of their cultures and religions, they establish a deep friendship and learn to trust each other amidst the joy and overwhelming sadness of their everyday lives. This is all beautifully evoked by Brooks’ wonderful writing.
Caleb is based on an actual young Wampanoag, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Little else is known about him. In some ways the narration helps us to envision the character’s antiquated speech and manner of speaking: deliberate, matter-of-fact, absolute – which also reflect the beliefs of her people. But I found the narrator’s way of speaking almost immediately mildly annoying, and only realized exactly why after I read another reader’s comments bemoaning the way Ehle painfully enunciates every single word she utters. Also, the narrator didn’t really vary her tone or pace when she took on the voices of characters other than Bethia. I needed to listen for short periods of time, lest I fling my iPod across the room. So, the narration overshadows the beautiful writing, and I plan to read the book eventually. I have not read People of the Book, but intend to do so now that I’ve read this title by Brooks.
Genre: Full cast audio
Fairest – Gail Carson Levine
Narrator: Sarah Naughton and full cast
Appeal Factors: Plot-driven, Romantic, Action, Humor
This is a fairy tale with a modern day twist: Fairest refers to the connection to Snow White, while the modern twist involves the importance of accepting oneself and being worthy of love and respect because of one’s actions, not one’s looks.
Aza is not beautiful, even in her loving adoptive parents’ eyes: she is pale with dark hair and lips, and much larger than other humans in her beloved kingdom of Ayortha,. But she is perhaps the finest singer in the land, as becomes obvious as the story progresses. And in Ayortha, singing ability, along with composing songs, is prized above all else. Aza begins as a lowly maid but soon has the opportunity to compose, sing, and even throw her voice when she visits the court.
Here is a story that begs to be listened to because of the original music developed to accompany the text. There are many lyrics, chants, songs, and even hymns written into the text, and composer Todd Hobin has set them all to music. The result is lovely – it adds immeasurably to the story, as do the easily distinguished voices of all the characters. A fun listen!
That said, I don’t think the audio will have a huge audience. I might give it to a middle or even high school student with a strong interest in music or drama, or the drama teacher, but I’m not sure that most students that would have the patience or interest to listen. Perhaps it would be better as a read rather than an audio for those students who like fairy tales written for this age group, like Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Ever, or even Avi’s Midnight Magic.
Genre: Audio narrated by George Guidall
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Bighorn – Nathaniel Philbrick
Narrated: George Guidall
Appeal Factors: Historical accuracy, Dramatic, Setting, Richly detailed, Well-written
Where do I begin? This is an amazing and fascinating account of one of the most recognizable battle names in American history. I say battle names, because most people probably aren’t familiar with the (seemingly endless) details of the battle itself, not to mention all the other related battles that are revisited as the story unfolds. The story of Custer and Sitting Bull and all the other players in the drama addresses courage and cowardice, loyalty and vengefulness, selflessness and vanity, love and loathing; and manages to raise all kinds of philosophical questions around fate and luck and fear and war and death, not to mention the impossibility of ever really knowing that one understands the true story of a complex event, even in hindsight, no matter how unwavering the search for truth.
This is the first book I had heard narrated by George Guidall. I thought he was very easy to listen to, was alternately matter of fact and dramatic (but not overly so) at all the right times, and was very good at communicating the tone and mood throughout. What came through was the authenticity of the story; Guidall somehow inspired confidence that the story itself was believable and well-researched, while at the same time keeping himself out of the account altogether so that the details and the writing could be appreciated. I loved the audio and intend to read the book, for two reasons: to better enjoy the writing at a slower pace – to be able to go back and re-read; and to actually be able to visualize the details of the battles and the setting. For me, that takes a re-reading. This particular “war book” is in the minority for me in that it merits a close reading