How to Write an Audiobook Review – Audiobook Week Discussion

If you wrote a post on this or any of my other discussion topics today, Tuesday June 22nd, please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

If you read my announcement post for Audiobook Week, you will know that a lot of the genesis of the idea came from the fact that I am not great at writing reviews of the audiobooks I listen to. Part of that is that, historically, most of my audiobooks have come from the library and my review record with library and TBR books isn’t always the best, because nobody is waiting for them. However, I think I have also not been entirely sure how to write an audiobook review.  Should I even tell people it was an audiobook? If so, should they know right away, or not until nearer the end? How would I differentiate between problems with the work of the author and problems with the work of the narrator?

Since I’m trying to be more purposeful about actually reviewing my audiobooks – no matter what source they come from – I’m trying to really get all of these questions figured out. My current  solution has been on show today and yesterday with my Audiobook Week reviews of “Leaving the Saints” and “So Cold The River.”

I’m not generally one to break my reviews into ‘summary,’ ‘opinion,’ ‘final thoughts,’ I like those things to sort of flow together a little bit. However, with the difficulty of trying to explain my opinions about both the content and execution of the book and the execution of the audio production, I have decided to break my audiobook reviews into four sections: synopsis; thoughts on the story; thoughts on the audio production; and overall.

I would love to get your feedback on how you think this new review style works for audiobooks!

So Cold The River by Michael Kortya – Audiobook Review

So Cold the River by Michael Kortya, narrated by Robert Petkoff

If you posted an audiobook review today, Tuesday June 22nd, please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

After his attempt to be a famous Hollywood filmmaker fizzles out, Eric Shaw finds himself in Chicago, making films – essentially slide shows – for events like weddings and funerals. Based on his work for one funeral – in which he includes a seemingly-insignificant picture that turns out to have been extremely significant for the deceased – he is approached by a woman who wants him to do a documentary about the early life of her husband’s dying grandfather.

Eric travels to French Lick, Indiana, home of the newly restored resort hotel, carrying with him a bottle of the region’s famous Pluto water. Strange things begin happening, however, and what seemed to be a simple documentary is now a mystery that Eric must unravel for his own safety.

Thoughts on the story:

This was my first Michael Kortya, but I doubt it will be my last. Eric’s character was complex and relate-able and truly human. The story built slowly enough that events seemed to happen naturally, but not so slowly that I was every bored. I love the pitch that he built to, and I was rapt by the story that Kortya created; he balanced the supernatural aspects perfectly as well.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Let’s add Robert Petkoff to my list of narrators on whom I have an audio crush. He has an amazing voice that makes you just want to melt, for one thing. For another, he does a fabulous job differentiating between the voices of different characters without making it sound unnatural, as if he is trying to hard. I don’t always appreciate sound effects other than the narrator’s voice in my audiobooks, but there are a couple of scenes where Eric hears wind or a violin, and Hachette Audio did a fabulous job weaving those sounds into Petkoff’s narration so that as the listener I felt I was in Eric’s head, hearing the things that he was hearing.

Overall:

“So Cold The River” was sort of a suspense-y, mystery, not-quite-thriller sort of book. Those don’t always make for my favorite reads, but this one was both beautifully and artfully written and expertly narrated, and I definitely recommend it.

Buy this book from:
Audible.com: Audio
Powells: Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Print*

This review was done with a book received as an audio download from Hachette.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Why Audiobooks? – Audiobook Week Discussion

If you wrote a post on this or any of my other discussion topics today, Monday June 21st, please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Okay, so why audiobooks? Why have I been spending so much time since I returned from BEA putting together and promoting this audiobook week?

I love audiobooks primarily because they help maximize my reading time. Before, time spent driving, knitting, washing dishes, folding clothes, straightening my hair, walking places, it was all wasted reading time. Now, though, I just stick my earbuds in my ears, and I can consume more books as I’m doing a whole variety of activities that don’t allow me to hold a book in front of my face. I actually wrote a guest post last week for Recorded Books about how it was exactly that I learned to love audiobooks. It did take some time when I started listening to train my brain to take in books that way, instead of visually.

Now, for the other question: why did I spend so much time putting this together and coaxing people into participation?

Well, sadly, there are still some audiobook haters out there (link goes to a discussion on LibraryThing). Honestly, when I listened to my first audiobook I wasn’t too sure about the whole experience either. I wondered whether it really counted as something I’d read (my husband didn’t think so), but as I’ve spent more time with audiobooks, I know that they count. Are they exactly the same as reading a book? No, but that doesn’t mean they are any more or less. They are an equally valid way of absorbing a story or learning something new. They may not work for everyone, but I think most people who have a hard time with them could probably retrain their brains fairly easily if they so desired.

If you don’t want to try audiobooks, that’s fine, whatever works for you. But I do want readers to know that audiobooks are fabulous, and are totally acceptable forms of reading. Plus, I want to celebrate all the fabulous audiobooks, narrators, publishers, and listener/readers out there who make audiobooks awesome!

Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck – Audiobook Review

Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck, narrated by Martha Beck

If you posted an audiobook review today, Monday June 21st, please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

In Beck’s first book, “Expecting Adam,” she told the story of her chaotic second pregnancy while she and her husband were in graduate school at Harvard. I was fascinated by the story she was telling, until she started feeling mystical presences everywhere, then the book gave me a major case of the eye rolls. This memoir comes after “Expecting Adam” chronologically and details their move back to Utah to be nearer her family and away from the anti-family culture they felt pervaded at Harvard in the 80s.

Beck and her husband were both Mormons and, in fact, Beck’s father is a big deal Mormon scholar. When the two of them returned to Utah, they both quickly got jobs at BYU, but both of them also began to feel the pressure of the church censoring what they taught – or at least strongly suggesting that they stay within certain lines in their teaching. Both of them begin bumping up against those lines set by the church and,eventually, Martha begins to feel inexplicably ill, until she has a revelation about her past that changes both of their lives.

Thoughts on the story:

Beck tells her story in “Leaving the Saints” in a very fitting format. She alternates between a scene in a hotel room in which she is confronting her father about something – we don’t find out what until some way into the book – and a chronological telling of the rest of her story. She actually starts with her marriage in the temple, glazes over their time in Harvard, and then goes more in depth as she moves into their return to Utah. I appreciated that she was relatively respectful of Mormonism – or at least of Mormons – despite her personal problems and issues with the religion. For instance, she was relatively reserved as far as sharing most of the rituals of the marriage rites, which are supposed to be sacred and secret. Now, I’d understand completely if people inside the Mormon church didn’t fully agree with me about her respect because things are obviously different when something is directed at something else near and dear to your heart, but I felt like she tried to be respectful of Mormons-as-people even though she had problems with the political structure of the church.

I did have a little bit of trouble with the memories that Beck uncovered. I didn’t want to be that person who just didn’t believe her but, at the same time, it was just the way she remembered. She was living more or less happily in ignorance then – bam! – uncovered repressed memories. The evidence she presented for her memories made total sense, but the sudden and complete nature of the memory retrieval that seemed…odd…to me. It brought up my own memories of the eye roll-inducing moments in “Expecting Adam,” which probably made it all the more suspect for me. Even so, I decided to suspend judgement and just let Beck tell me her story as she wanted to.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Martha Beck narrated her own story in “Leaving the Saints.” At first, I thought this was an extremely bad decision by her publisher, because her voice drove me absolutely insane. It was scratchy and rough and did not make for a very good listening experience. However, I do think it ended up working in favor of the story because, as things got more and more personal and painful, it was very moving to have her narrating. Even so, I’m glad it was a short audio – under 5 hours – because I’m not sure I could have take her voice much longer.

Overall:

If you are interested in Beck’s story of coming to terms with difficulties in the religion she was born into, then the audio could be a good way to go. Just make sure you are willing to to go through a little auditory annoyance to get the added value of having the author tell you her own story.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Audio/Print*
Amazon: Audio/Print*

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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