Friday, June 29, 2012

Audiobook Week 2012: My Audiobooks



Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Find reviews? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us!

Finding reviews/recommendations:  In the past, I relied heavily on my fellow book bloggers, especially Jen from Devourer of Books, Beth Fish Reads, and Jennifer from Literate Housewife to suggest audiobooks.  My start was a bumpy one, and I found quite a few duds.  Since then, I feel I know how to find a great audio on my own since it has been a while since I listened to a stinky one.

I have to laugh.  Before my commute into NYC for BEA (Book Expo America) I needed a new audiobook.  I knew that Sheila from Book Journey and I had similar taste in books, so I called her to find out what I should download.  Every - Single - Audiobook  she recommended I had already read!  I knew we liked the same books, but that was too funny! 

Where/how do I download?  I used to have an Audible account where, for a monthly fee, I could trade credits to buy audiobooks.  They often had sales or bonus credits, so I could download at least two audiobooks a month for the fee, which is around $15/month.  (They have specials, so keep your eyes out if you like Audible).  I have since let my membership lapse, because I have found iTunes to be even easier to download, and I have received a few audiobooks from publishers for review (these are usually the CDs I load into my car!).  There is also an Audible App.

Secrets?  I don't think this is a secret, but sometimes, although not often, when I am used to a narrator's voice, and there aren't too many characters to keep track of, I will listen to an audiobook at 1.5 speed.  I can't do this with CDs I load in my car, but I can do it on my iPad.  I am able to cut down the time it takes me to get through an audio, which already takes me longer to get through than a printed book.

The Re-Read:  I realized this week, after reading other reviewers' experiences with audiobooks, that I'm an audio re-reader.  I have done this with several books - The Night Circus, Harry Potter, Shiver.  Sometimes as a book blogger, I will read a book a VERY long time before the sequel comes out, before the movie comes out, or before my book club can get to it.  In order to refresh my memory, I will do a re-read on audio.  It makes it a new experience for me! 

Happy Listening!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Audiobook Week 2012: Narrators



Who are your favorite narrators and why? What do you look for in a narrator? Have a preference between male or female narrators?
Alternate suggestion: Narration preferences – single narrator, multiple narrators, full cast, etc.


My audiobook reviews are mainly about the book itself, but all too often, a narrator can make or break a book.  On average, I listen to about 12-15 audiobooks each year.  I have not yet found a favorite narrator, and I do not have a preference between male and female (as long as it fits the book!) but I have a few things I look for.

Multiple Narrators work, as long as it's necessary to the story and the voices don't sound too much alike.  As much as I enjoyed Elin Hildenbrand's SILVER GIRL, the two female narrators sounded slightly too much alike.  On the one hand, it didn't make the transition from one point of view to the other jarring; on the other, I didn't see the need for it.  The entire book could have been read by one actor and it would have been fine.  A book like THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, on the other hand...oh my goodness, Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone were the perfect Hanna and Clay.  This dual narration WORKED.

A narrator can make or break a book for me. A good narrator helps me lose myself in the story, has a strong ability to switch up accents, and doesn't sound like they're reading. Yes, I can listen to Rob Lowe all - day - long. His STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS was swoon-worthy and I could listen to it again, just to hear his voice. With the young adult book, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, I started the series by listening to the audio. When I received an advanced readers' copy of BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, I read the text, but could still hear the narrator, Kevin T. Collins' voice in my head. Loved it!

A narrator can make an intimidating book less so. The mere weight of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones books made me shy away from them. When I decided to listen to the audio of the first book - SONG OF ICE AND FIRE - (all 34 hours of it) I knew I made the right decision. The utterly brilliant narrator, Roy Dotrice, allowed me to keep track of all the characters and story lines by his tremendous talent at voices.

They don't have to be professional actors! Jenny Lawson's LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED is the perfect example. She is The Bloggess. She wrote her memoir and recorded her own audio. Her voice is not one of a professional voice actor, but her authenticity and her familiarity came through loud and clear. I felt like she and I were sitting next to each other on a plane and she was telling me her unbelievable life story, with all the wit and hilarious zest she is known for.

I could do it better! No, not better than Roy Dotrice or Jim Dale (Harry Potter and The Night Circus audios). I'm not delusional! Unfortunately, there are some wonderful books, sadly to say, that are ruined by the narrator: The Young Adult book that is read by someone who believes all 15 year old girls have squealy voices and all teenage boys sound like Keanu Reeves; The non-fiction narrator that puts us to sleep instead of engages us with the interesting knowledge that brought us to the book in the first place - these audiobooks make me want to jump into a sound booth and record my own demo! (Still not out of the realm of possibilities, my reading friends! I have chops.)


Taste it first. The best way to figure out if you connect to a narrator's voice is to listen to the sound clip available.  Whether you download from Audible, iTunes, or order a CD from Amazon, there is almost always a sample audio.  Listen to it!  If the voice appeals to you, go for it.  If it makes you feel like someone scratched their fork along their plate, skip it. 

Happy Listening!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, read by Kate Rudd (Audio)

Sad, funny and smart all rolled up into one tiny YA grenade.

"I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend." - Augustus Waters

Synopsis:
Hazel is a sixteen-year-old girl whose cancer has been kept at bay for the last two years, but left her tethered to an oxygen tank willing her lungs to work.  She finished high school early, so between watching America's Next Top Model and reading her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, she attends a kids' cancer support group, where she meets Augustus Waters.  Gus and Hazel embark on an journey of love, loss, freedom and adventure.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS caught my eye a while ago, and it nagged me to pick it up.  So, when I was audiobook-less for my commute into the city for BEA, I wanted something fabulous, as is my BEA-commute tradition.  I picked a good one.  No, I picked a GREAT one!

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.” 

At first, I felt guilty for laughing with this story of sick children with cancer.  But the dialogue is so smart and funny!  Oh my goodness, this is why John Green is JOHN GREEN.  He believes that "smart teenager" is not an oxymoron. The banter, the wit, and the heart come together in such a way that make this story leap off the page (or out of the speakers of your car, as the case may be).

“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” 

Have you ever loved a book so much, you didn't want to finish it?  I didn't want it to end, but I didn't want to spend 5 minutes without it either. While I was at BEA (Book Expo America) I had the opportunity to meet John Green and received a signed print copy of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (He was one of the nicest people I met, by the way!  Awesome guy!).  It was around this time that I started both reading and listening to the audio.  There were parts that I wanted to hear again, so instead of rewinding the audio, I would search the passage out in the book so I could see the words.  As you can tell by this review, there were so many great lines throughout the book.  If I weren't so OCD over my books, there would have been pencil marks everywhere.

“You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” 

Note on the Audio Production: 
Fantastic!  Dare I say, the dialogue was made better by narrator Kate Rudd, who was hand-picked by John Green himself.  She was perfect.  The emotion was there without it becoming hokey, and the pitch of banter between Gus and Hazel was spot-on.

"It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

And this just about sums up my feelings for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.  It has been a privilege having my heart strings pulled and broken by this story.  If I had to fall in love with two characters and lose them, whether through creative devices or simply by the ending of a book, best it be two characters like Hazel Grace and Gus.

If you're looking for a thoughtful, funny and well-written Young Adult book to read, I strongly encourage you to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS.

Book Extras:
John Green website, blog, Facebook, Twitter
Penguin's Book Page
Read an excerpt


About the Book:
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green; read by Kate Rudd

  • Reading level: Ages 14 and up
  • Audio Production: Brilliance Audio;
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Print Publisher: Dutton Juvenile/Penguin (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525478817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525478812

  • About the Author: (from publisher)
    John Green is an award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author whose many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. He has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers (youtube.com/vlogbrothers), one of the most popular online video projects in the world.

    *Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this audiobook.

    Audiobook Week 2012: Reviews


    Discuss the essentials of audiobook reviewing. What do you make sure to include? What do you want to see when you read other people’s reviews?

    Audiobook reviewing is not much different from writing my regular reviews. 

    I do not usually quote the text from an audiobook, as I do not have it in front of me.  Since there is an exception to every rule, I just finished listening to a book, which has a few lines I can not get out of my head - "I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend." (The Fault In Our Stars by John Green).  In cases like these, I will look up the quotes to make sure I get them, and the characters' names spellings correct.

    The main difference is that I always include my opinion of the audio itself - the narrator, the music and the atmosphere sounds (if there are any).  A narrator can make or break a book for me, s/he can also make an intimidating book less so, and they do not have to be professional actors!  There will be more on what I think makes a great narrator on Thursday.

    When I'm writing an audiobook review, I keep in mind the three things that I want to find in an audiobook review when I'm searching for the next audio to download:
    1.  Is it a great book?
    2.  Does the narrator do the book justice?
    3.  Is this a book that will keep me engaged while I drive, garden or walk?


    Happy Listening!!

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Audiobook Week 2012: My Audio Year


    Are you new to audiobooks in the last year? Have you been listening to them forever but discovered something new this year? Favorite titles? New times/places to listen? This is your chance to introduce yourself and your general listening experience.

    Thanks to bloggers like Devourer of Books, I have joined the audiobook fan club in the last few years.  This year I am participating in the 2012 Audiobook Challenge, and always have an audio going - in my car or on my iPod (walking, gardening, folding laundry, etc.)

    I have found that I mostly enjoy memoirs/autobiographies read by the authors themselves or Young Adult.  I'm not sure why these two genres appeal to me the most, but this is what I seek out lately.  This year I have read a few standouts below...

    My favorite Memoirs and Autobiographies read by the authors: 

    My favorite Young Adult audios:

    Other Stand-out Audios:
    (This audio was a commitment at 34 hours, but it was VERY well done!)

    (I listened to the audio AND read the book, amazing!)



    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Audiobook Week 2012

    AudiobookWeek2012 picture

    Welcome to the third annual Audiobook Week, hosted by Devourer of Books!  Through this event three years ago, I decided to try my first audiobooks...and now I consider myself a regular and knowledgeable listener.  Let me make one thing clear:  Audiobooks ARE books.  (and sometimes better)

    If you are a blogger and want to participate, head on over to Devouerer of Books and link up to join in the discussion and win some fun prizes!

    If you are a reader, listener, or general lover of books and want to find out more about audiobooks, or find your next audiobook, this week is for you!

    Starting tomorrow, I will give my take on some Audiobook topics here, including my favorite audiobooks, what I look for in an audiobook, and what I feel makes for a great audiobook narrator.

    Happy Listening!



    In My Mailbox


    Good morning! 

    In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, where bloggers come together to share what is showing up in our mailboxes, in our library totes, and in our shopping bags.  Since The Story Siren is a YA blogger, I am going to feature YA and MG books on this meme.  There is another Meme that I will start doing every so often on Mondays called Mailbox Monday, which is on "tour" and is currently being hosted by Burton Book Review.  In Mailbox Monday I will feature my Adult titles.  Cool?  Excellent. 

    RAPTURE (A Fallen Novel) by Lauren Kate (Delacorte Press; June 12, 2012; 464 pgs)
    The fourth and final book in Lauren Kate's Fallen series, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past, they must find the place where the angels fell to earth.  Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again. Yet together they face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies . . . and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed.  And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now is the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win?
    The astonishing conclusion to the FALLEN series. Heaven can’t wait any longer.
     
    JERSEY ANGEL by Beth Ann Bauman (Wendy Lamb Books; May 8, 2012; 208 pgs; Ages 14+)
    It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves
     
     
     
    DUST GIRL (The American Fairy Trilogy, book 1)  by Sarah Zettel (Random House; June 26, 2012; Ages 12+)
    This new trilogy will capture the hearts of readers who adore Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series. Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she's never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west" (California). Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there's also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.


    FLIRTING IN ITALIAN by Lauren Henderson (Delacorte Press; June 2012; ages 12+)
    
    Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

    LIES BENEATH by Anne Greenwood Brown (Delacorte Press; June 2012; Ages 12+)
       Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.
       It's going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love--just as Lily starts to suspect there's more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.
       One thing's for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty.

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    To Link or Not To Link?

    Dear Book Marks Readers,

    First of all, thank you for your support!  When I started my blog three years ago, I never imagined anyone would read what I had to say about books, yet here I am a global entity!  I am in love with the written word, and hope that my passion flows through this website.  

    I am honored that I have regular readers, and I am even more honored that Publishing houses want to work with me and send me their books for an honest review.  I understand it's strategic marketing, yet the thrill of finding out which books I will pull from my mailbox hasn't subsided at all.  Even though life gets in the way of my reviews on occasion, my goal is to serve you, my readers.  Honest reviews, interesting posts, fun giveaways, and industry news - it's all for you!

    Many of you have told me that after you have read one of my reviews, you immediately go to another website to download the eBook or to order a copy. Again, I have to say it:  THANK YOU for your faith in me and my opinions!!  For your convenience, I try to put links in the bottom of my reviews to IndieBound and Amazon. I am an affiliate with both, which means that I get a percentage of everything purchased at the site after someone goes there directly from my site.  Honestly?  It barely covers the cost of mailing books throughout the year.  It's more for your convenience than my benefit.  Sometimes, the links don't work or they won't format correctly and I leave them off.  (I'm impatient) After all, I'm not sure who actually clicks on the links and who doesn't. 

    While I try and stay out of the battle between Amazon and Indie Bookstores, I feel like I need to make something clear:  We Need Local Bookstores

    I can't imagine a world where my kids can't walk into a bookstore, pick up and hold the books on display, find a new series, and want to plop into the beanbag chair seconds after I've paid for it and started a conversation with the bookstore manager.  Bookstores have always been my Happy Place, and I want to help them as best I can.  When my older son was an infant, my husband worked late, but he rarely got home after the bookstore closed.  He would walk in the door, and I would set off to my happy place, browsing the new titles while drinking a decaf chai.  When I moved to a small town, I came to appreciate not only the bookstore, but the friends I would make there as well.  My local Indie, Clinton Book Shop, is run by two men that I affectionately refer to as my Book Whisperers.

    This website is not just about me, the publishers, or the relationship I have with my Book Whisperers, it's about you, my readers, and what you want.   

    Before I stop linking to Amazon, I need to know what YOU want. For the sake of privacy, instead of asking you all to comment below (which you are welcome to do as well) I have created a quick form that asks only 5 quick questions.  Please answer them and help me be a better Book Marks. 

    Thank you again!

    Alison


    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

    Read.  This.  Book. 

    Andy Barber is an assistant District Attorney in his suburban hometown, well versed in the law and how to put a criminal behind bars.  The entire town is rocked when a fourteen year old boy was found brutally murdered, and Andy's world is thrown upside down when his own son, Jacob, is the accused.  Can Andy Barber prove his son innocent?  Should he? 

    Ever since I turned the last page, I have been telling everyone I see to read DEFENDING JACOB, just so I can have another person to talk to about this book. 

    One friend to whom I recommended the book told me he, "inhaled it like it was oxygen."

    I read it with my book club and thank GOODNESS I had a room full of people to talk to about it!  Full disclosure time: our book club usually talks about a book for about 25 to 45 minutes tops, and then we spend the rest of the evening laughing, catching up, and drinking wine.  (Shocking, I know.)The night we discussed DEFENDING JACOB, we talked about the book the ENTIRE time. 

    One can't help but become totally engrossed in the story, the way William Landay lays it all out is brilliant.  He mixes his text with witness testimony throughout the book, which is so powerful.  The way Andy and his wife each reacts to Jacob's trial will make your head spin, wondering what you would do, how you would feel, what you would do differently if in the mother's or father's position.  The end...holy $hit...you won't see it coming from a mile away!! 

    This book needs to be made into a movie. 

    I can't even talk about it any more here without ruining it for you.  Just go read it!!  One of the best books I have read this year! 

    Book Extras:
    Author Website, Facebook, Blog, Twitter, Tumblr
    Goodreads
    Read Chapter One

    About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 432 pages 
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press; 1 edition (January 31, 2012) 
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN-10: 0385344228 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385344227



  • About the Author:
    William Landay is the author of the highly acclaimed Mission Flats, which was awarded the John Creasey Memorial Dagger as the best debut crime novel of 2003. A graduate of Yale University and Boston College Law School, he was an assistant district attorney before turning to writing. He lives in Boston, where he is at work on his next novel of suspense.



    *Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book from my local Indie Book Shop

    (Funny aside.  After I wrote my review, I went over to read a few others on Amazon.  One person said it was a "fun easy read"...um, no.  Twilight was a fun, easy read.  This was so far beyond. Please, for all that is holy, do not trust an Amazon review!)


    Shop Indie Bookstores


    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Summer Reading 2012 - Middle Grade Edition


    School is out and it's time to talk about Summer Reading!

    First, a few ground rules:
    1.  FUN!  Children's pleasure reading should be at or one level below their academic level.
    2.  Quality, not quantity.  Keep track of how much time your children spend reading, not how many books they go through.  Everyone reads at a different pace!
    3.  Carve out "reading time" at home.  Shut off all the electronics at a certain time each day (late afternoon before dinner works well in my house!)
    4.  Visit the library!  Many libraries have summer reading programs, but kids also have access to rows and rows of books!  My kids like to bring home 4-5 books with each visit, and we don't feel guilty if one isn't a good fit, we just bring it back for another one!  Insider's Tip:  Check out the "to-be-shelved" racks, this is where all the hot books are hiding!
    5.  Speaking of Summer Reading Programs, sign up for the Scholastic Summer Challenge.  It's free!  It's fun!  Encourage their friends and classmates to sign up too! You can search for your school and log their hours. (There are several long book lists there too!)
    6.  Incentive?  Books before the movies!  There is a long list of Middle Grade books that have been made into movies.  Read the books and then rent the movie! (List below)



    My recommendations for Middle Grade (Ages 9 - 12) Readers:
    (Please keep in mind that my list is full of great books for boys!)



    The Bad Apple (Merits of Mischief #1) by T.R. Burns (Aladdin; April 24, 2012)
    Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Knopf; February 14, 2012)
    Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet; August 2011)
    The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (Putnam; October 2011)
    The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (Aladdin; July 2011)



    Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum; May 2012)
    The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman (HarperCollins)
    Big Nate Goes for Broke by Lincoln Pierce (HarperCollins)
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Ages 10+)
    Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald (Square Fish; May 2012)



    Aliens on Vacation by Clete Smith (Hyperion; May 2012)
    The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (HarperCollins; June 2011)
    Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger (ABRAMS; August 2011)
    Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf: March 2012)
    The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (Walden Pond Press; May 2012)





    The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic; April 2012)
    The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander (Walden Pond Press; February 2011)
    Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson (Little,Brown; June 2011)
    Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Scholastic; September 2011)
    Holes by Louis Sachar
    James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    Bone, Vol. 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith (Scholastic; series)
    The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) (GRAPHIX; series)
    The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull (Shadow Mountain)
    The Journal of Curious Letters (13th Reality) by James Dashner (Aladdin)


    For the girls (according to my son!):





    Breadcrumbs by Anna Ursu (Walden Pond Press; September 2011)
    When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery)
    A Wrinkle in Time: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition by Madeline L'Engle
    Savvy by Ingrid Law (Puffin; March 2010)
    Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Dial; May 2012)


    Books Before Movies:



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