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Super thrilled to have author Diane Rinellawith us today, who has a ton of experience with audiobooks and has put together some great information for anyone looking to take the leap. Audiobooks are a completely different animal than ebooks or print, and this post can save your a lot of time, heartache, and money.
Plunging Into Audiobooks
I love audiobooks. Many find the convenience of listening to them nearly anytime and anywhere a virtue. But for me, the appeal is how I get to listen to another person’s dream.
For years, hearing your book come to life was a fantasy reserved for top-selling authors. But we live in an amazing age where technology makes yesterday’s imaginings today’s reality. Not unlike how Amazon helped drive the Indie ebook revolution with Kindle Direct Publishing, they are at it again with Audio Creation Exchange. However, much like the trials of ebook publishing, sharing your book with listeners is not as simple as reading it aloud. Thus before hiring a producer, or biting the bullet and self-producing, a few things are worth considering.
Before moving forward, let’s define a few roles:
Producer – The person who records and masters the material. This may be the same person as the narrator/voice actor.
Narrator – The general term for the person performing your book.
Voice Actor – May also be referred to as narrator. However, this person can also bring multiple voices to life and expresses emotion.
FIRST, DON’T RUSH INTO THINGS
Take a deep breath, because there are a few things to consider before you look for a producer. Remember everything you did (such as editing and formatting) to give consumers the best reading experience? Now you need to determine how to give them the best listening experience.
Pay Per Finished Hour or Royalty Split
Just like any other project, what you can afford will guide your decisions. ACX offers a great program called Royalty Share. The author provides the book, the producer records it, the author approves it—both split the proceeds. However, some producers will only accept projects paid by the finished hour. (If the producer spends forty hours on a project that comes in at eight hours long, you pay for eight hours.) All sales proceeds go to you. However, a finished hour can range between $50 and $200. Most novels are eight to ten hours long. Will your budget cover $400 to $1600? If not, you might consider a royalty share or self-production. (We will return to that can of worms later.)
Narration versus Acting
Would your book benefit most from narration, or should a voice actor bring the characters to life? Are you dead set about how the narrator, or any of the characters, should sound? These questions led me to a dilemma. Scary Modsters … and Creepy Freaks, was written in three, first person POVs, two of which are male and one of those is from East London.
I wanted multiple actors, not to mention a proper accent. However, I quickly found my dream scenario required hiring four people and heavy editing. Since the price tag would be at least a hefty $400 per finished hour, the only cost-effective option was to go with one, very talented producer. Fortunately, Hollie Jackson came to the rescue. Hollie is a partner worth her weight in gold. Partners can make or break a project. (More on partnerships later.)
Books Are Meant To Be Read, Not Heard
Writers often give visual clues that do not translate into audiobooks. Are you willing to consider changes that improve the experience, or must the audio version match the original text without fail? Some things can enhance the listening experience, either by adding or removing them. One of those is dialog tags.
The visual characteristics of a quoted sentence ending and a new paragraph beginning with another quoted line is an accepted cue a new person is speaking. If the conversation is two-sided, a dialog tag may not have been deemed necessary. If an actor uses vocal changes to represent new characters, a dialog tag may still be unnecessary. However, in the case of straight narration, where all voices sound alike, adding one would eliminate confusion.
Conversely, when a character’s speech spans multiple paragraphs, writers often add the clue, “he continued.” However, when a character is read with a distinct voice, not only do these clues become unnecessary, they become pace-breaking distractions.
Italics are often used to stress a word or to reflect deep thought. Stressing these items is part of a narrator’s job. However, quoted italics can reflect hearing a person’s thoughts, such as during telepathy. If you did not use dialog tags such as, “he thought”, translating the idea of telepathy into audio may be difficult, and changes should be considered.
Consider making listening-enhancing revisions before submitting your manuscript.
Ready? Let’s Dive In!
Let’s get to the fun stuff! There are many ways to create an audiobook. To keep this simple, I will focus on two methods; using ACX to hire a producer, and the self-production method—both of which I have experienced.
ACX: MAKING HIRING & PARTNERSHIP DECISIONS
Whether you seek a royalty split or to hire someone per finished hour, here are some things to keep in mind when pursuing talent and when listening to auditions:
Reputation – Simply stated, never jump into a partnership without ensuring it will be a strong one, and never hire a person you don’t want to work with. I turned down numerous offers for many reasons—some of which were less than stellar reputations for delivering the basics. Do not be afraid to ask your friends for recommendations or producers for references.
Voice and Characterization – Does the narrator have an appealing tone? Does she “feel right” for the part? Is the accent appropriate yet understandable? Determining voices and narration style before signing a contract is key. While the writer must be comfortable with the presentation, nitpicking over a performance is best saved for the actor. Both need to set realistic expectations. My partner, Hollie Jackson, summed the characterization process beautifully. “I truly think the absolute biggest thing is to trust your narrator, particularly in regards to characterization. If an author can provide notes to give us a direction to point our voices, it takes a huge load off of us trying to figure out how a particular character sounds. But by that same token, sometimes a character will strike a particular reference chord, and things might sound a little different compared to the voice in the writer’s head. Being able to work with that is a huge part of the process.”
Quality/Mastering(hiss, pops, clicks, timing) – Inadequate mastering can ruin a brilliant performance. While ACX has strict submission requirements regarding noise floor (the level at which hiss is heard) and level variation (a whisper and a yell need to be close in volume), there are no stated requirements regarding pops and clicks. Listen for these, along with timing. Timing is not only the pace at which a book is read, but also how lines are delivered. For comedy, the outstanding timing of Robin Williams and George Burns had us rolling in the aisles. Dramatic timing is just as important. The demo’s timing should fit the book’s genre.
Eliminate Surprises – If part of the audition seems unfitting, yet you still suspect the voice actor could be a match, express your concerns and request a new audition. Re-reads are not unreasonable and may save both the writer and producer many headaches.
Building A Partnership – I cannot stress the importance of this enough, especially if you wish to do multiple projects with the same person. I tell Hollie all the important things up front and then let her work magic. As a fellow actress, I completely agreed when she said, “Micromanagement is the hugest creative buzzkill around.” However, she also respects my concerns and will quickly make changes when things go awry. The bottom line is, if you are concerned that a producer will not give you the end results you desire, either find someone else or self-produce.
I will preface this by saying I have decades of acting experience—stage, screen, and voice. Since my husband is an Indie film director/producer, resources are at my disposal. Still, it took quite a bit of working with sound engineers before I could produce a solid audiobook.
The absolute basics to home recording include: a room with a low noise floor (I lined the quietest room in my house with moving blankets.), proper equipment (A good microphone, a pop filter, a pre-amp, a Mudguard, and a stand will cost several hundred dollars.), and editing software (I pay $20 a month to use Adobe Audition.).
In a nutshell, recording two takes without outside sounds (birds, pets, kids, cars, planes) generally gets you what you need. Edit these into one good take before removing pops, clicks, and rustling. In my case, I also have to remove background hiss. Top all of this off with balancing the levels. (By the way, you might want to consider that it takes Hollie about two hours to record and master one finished hour while it takes me three or four. Be prepared to invest some time.)
Have I scared you out of the self-production method yet? Learning the recording and mastering process is a hurdle, yet producing audiobooks is simple compared to other types of sound engineering. While I highly recommend ACX’s video series on recording, the installment on mastering falls short of providing usable information. Thus, you might want to consider hiring someone to master your files. However, if you really want to give it a go, ACX does have an Audio Masters class.
HYBRID: SELF-PRODUCTION & HIRING A PRODUCER
ACX does not offer the option to hire a producer, only to master files. Thus, you will need to pay someone outside of their system. Professional sound services can be expensive and offer more than you need for an audiobook. I strongly suggest contacting local filmmaker groups (Here in San Francisco, we have Scary Cow.) or colleges to seek emerging talent at a reasonable rate. Though there are also services that will perform this task for you, I’ve yet to find an author who has done this, thus I cannot make a recommendation.
This is a lot to digest, but once you get your head around the process, it’s actually a lot of fun. I have to say that having done this with a partner and now producing myself, I prefer the partner route. Then again, I struck gold with Hollie. With a little determination to find the right person, you can too. Either way, bringing your book to life is a rush akin to the time you held your first novel in your hands!
The benefits to partnering with an experienced producer are no learning curve, a faster turn around, often better talent than an inexperienced performer can provide, and a built-in audience, as many often have their own fanbase. The con is you may not get the creative control you desire.
The benefit to self-production is full creative control.The cons may include steep learning curves in voice acting, recording, and mastering.
Enjoying San Francisco as a backdrop, the ghosts in USA Today Bestselling Author Diane Rinella‘s one hundred and fifty-year old Victorian home augment the chorus in her head. With insomnia as their catalyst, these voices have become multifarious characters that haunt her well into the sun’s crowning hours, refusing to let go until they have manipulated her into succumbing to their whims. Her experiences as an actress, business owner, artisan cake designer, software project manager, Internet radio disc jockey, vintage rock ‘n’ roll journalist/fan girl, and lover of dark and quirky personalities influence her idiosyncratic writing. Hang out with her on Twitter, Facebook & Goodreads and find more audiobook projects here.
Taking her own love of storytelling, not just for her own work, but that of others, Hollie (aka Narratrix) found her true calling in the vocal booth. From the innocent to the risqué, the snarky to the serious, Hollie’s voice brings characters of all types to vibrant, compelling life, letting you sit back and allow the words to wrap around you and work their resonant magic. With over 300 audiobooks narrated and produced to date, Hollie enjoys an eclectic range of genres and has worked with authors/publishers who are both Indie and NYT/USA Today Bestselling.
Rosalyn possesses a sunny personality that is laced with quirks. Although she seeks acceptance in a world where she lives out of time, what she gets is ridiculed for her eclectic wardrobe and unconventional music collection.
One fateful night, Rosalyn bewitches Niles, a stylish man whose offbeat character perfectly complements her own. Unfortunately, he possesses a critical flaw that means relationship suicide for him and pretty much anyone.
While under the influence of insomnia-impaired judgment, Rosalyn summons Rock ‘n Roll deity Peter Lane back from the dead. Not only does he spin her hormones into a frenzy, Peter is also the precarious puzzle piece that brings sense into her world. When Niles learns that he can overcome his life-long challenge by helping Peter avenge his death, how far will he go to secure Rosalyn’s heart?
Have an Audiobook Production question for Diane? Her brain is stuffed with knowledge and experience, so let us know in the comments.
Many of my students are drawn to realistic fiction because it gives them a chance to immerse themselves in someone else's story. In fact, a recent study has shown that reading literary fiction helps improve readers' ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling (see this article in Scientific American).
Laura Shovan's novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, is full of distinct voices that prompt us to think about different students' unique perspectives. It's one my students are enthusiastically recommending to one another.
Eighteen fifth graders keep poetry notebooks chronicling their year, letting readers peak into their thoughts, hopes and worries as the year progresses. Fifth grade is a momentous year for many students, as the finish elementary school and look ahead to all the changes that middle school brings. This year is particularly full of impending change for Ms. Hill's class because their school will be demolished at the end of the year to make way for a new supermarket.
Through these short poems, Shovan captures the distinct, unique voices of each student. The class is diverse in many ways--racially, ethnically, economically, and more. At first, I wondered if I would really get to know the different students since each page focused on a different child; however, as the story developed, I really did get a sense of each individual as well as the class as a whole. Shovan creates eighteen distinctive individuals--with personalities and backgrounds that we can relate to and envision. And these experiences shape how each individual reacts to the year.
I particularly love novels in verse because they allow readers a chance to see inside character's thoughts without bogging the narrative down in too much description. As researcher David Kidd said (in this Scientific American article), literary fiction prompts readers to think about characters: "we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations.” This is exactly what ends up being the strength of Laura Shovan's novel.
The funniest thing, for me personally, has been the shocked look of many of my students when I show them this cover. You see, our school is called Emerson Elementary School. "This is a real book?!?!" they say, incredulously. I know my students will particularly like the way these students protest the plans to demolish their school, bringing their protest to the school board.
As you can see in this preview on Google Books, this collection of poems slowly builds so readers get a sense of each student in Ms. Hill's fifth grade. The poetry feels authentic, never outshining what a fifth grader might write but always revealing what a fifth grader might really be thinking.
I highly recommend the audiobook for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. The diverse cast of Recorded Books brings alive each character. This would make a great summer listen, or a great read-aloud for the beginning of the school year.
The review copy for the audiobook was purchased from Audible and for the print copy it was borrowed from my local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
by Becca & Andye (squee!)
THE ROSE & THE DAGGERThe Wrath and the Dawn #2by Renee AhdiehAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: The Wrath and the DawnHardcover: 432 pagesPublisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (April 26, 2016)Audio CDPublisher: Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (May 3, 2016)Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
The much anticipated sequel to the
Review by Andye
THE PASSION OF DOLSSAby Julie BerryAge Range: 12 - 17 yearsGrade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (April 12, 2016)Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 11 hours and 42 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening LibraryGoodreads | Amazon | Audible
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will
Review by Krista
Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Length: 14 hrs and 39 mins
Narrated By Amanda Dolan
Series: Red Queen, Book 2
Release Date: 02-09-16
If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal
Review by Shannon
THE WINNER'S KISSby Marie RutkoskiSeries: The Winner's Trilogy (Book 3)Hardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 29, 2016)Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 12 hours and 13 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening Library Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new
Review by Leydy
THE SERPENT KINGby Jeff Zentner Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 9 hours and 7 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening Library
March 8, 2016
Goodreads | Audible | Hardcover
“The Serpent King is a book you won’t be able to resist or
forget. The Southern boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in
me fell in love with every page.” —John
Shelfie, the app that let users snap a picture of their print books to download an e-book edition, is now offering audiobooks.
The company recently partnered with audiobook distributor Findaway, to offer audiobook bundles to readers. Participating publishers include: Blackstone Audio, Gildan Media, Hachette Audio, HarperAudio, Naxos Audiobooks and Scholastic Audio. The deal brings titles from authors including: Joe Hill, Harper Lee, Chris Kyle, Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Suzanne Collins, Haruki Murakami, Nicholas Sparks and David Baldacci.
The reader must take a photo of their print book with their name written on their book’s copyright page to access audiobook (and e-book) editions of participating titles.
The Man-Eating Horses of Autumn:
Having moved to the sunny shores of San Diego, I haven’t yet become used to the mild weather. Unsurprisingly, it just didn’t click that it was the Fall. To help me beginning to enjoy pumpkin lattes, I decided to listen to the Scorpio Races to get me in an autumnal mood. The season for man-eating water horses to climb onto shore begins in October and
Stacey here chatting with my Doppelganger and fellow PubCrawler Stephanie Garber about one of my favorite ways to read a book—audiobooks! A good narrator can really enhance the “read” in so many ways. So Stephanie and I thought it would be fun to chat with the person who narrated Under a Painted Sky to get a behind-the-scenes look.
Before we begin our interview, some basic understanding. Audio rights are one of several rights one can grant a publisher, and they are another potential revenue stream. If you grant this right, your publishers can either make your audiobook themselves through one of their in-house audiobook imprints (an example would be Penguin Random Audio for adult books and nonfiction, and Listening Library for YA and children’s books), or license the rights to a third party publisher (like Tantor Media, which published UAPS). Whether an audiobook is actually made simply depends on whether your publisher believes there is a demand. I’ve seen several estimates of how many traditionally published books turn into audiobooks each year, and the one I’ve seen most cited is 10%.
Now onto our interview!
Stacey: How did you get started in the biz of audiobooks?
Emily: I got started in audiobooks through an audition process. I found out about the submission information through my network of actor friends at the time. I had just moved back to the US from having done animation in Hong Kong for a couple of years and was itching to get back in the groove somehow. I was already immediately involved in theater so that was my base.
The ironic twist in my life. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher told my parents that I needed to pay more attention and practice reading out loud because I was struggling. Ha! I guess I took that information to heart.
Stacey: Where did you come by your beautiful, clear voice? Is it something people commented on (or got you dates or jobs)?
Emily: Thank you! I’ve used and trained it my entire life. I started singing and dancing and learning how to use my body and voice from a very young age. As I got older, my studies became about understanding alignment and breath, which have saved my voice. And I’m always learning.
Over the years, I have played many great parts in musicals and theater so that’s primarily where I got my kicks using my body/voice.
As a budding adolescent, I was told on a number of occasions by peers that my voice was sultry and I could work for a sex hotline. Oh, 13-yr-old conversation! Now that I think about it, maybe that early exposure to a sexualized existence for women and girls and the limitation to it helped me along toward my feminist ways. Not that there’s anything wrong with working on a sex hotline or reading steamy scenes out loud, but being a sex worker was perhaps not the only aspiration for a 13-yr-old girl.
Stephanie: I would love to know how you prepare for work. Do you mark up the books so you know which voice to do? How do you ‘create’ a voice for a particular character?
Emily: I always read the book beforehand—a piece of crucial information about a character or the plot may come up at the end of the story and heaven help the person that has to go back and fix everything!
Sometimes authors provide a lot of information about a character and so the voice comes very clearly based on that. How does that person stand, walk, breathe, what culture are they from, why is their voice scratchy or smooth or high-pitched or low-pitched, etc.? Sometimes all you know is that it is a woman or a man who works at the post office or serves food. Then, I get to have a little more room. On my first job, I was told that I could take it easier with the character voices because people were listening to a book (not watching a cartoon). It also depends on the tone of the book. Some are more fantastical than others and varying points of view from book to book lend toward different tones of narration.
Stephanie. How does one learn to speak with a particular accent? Do you speak any languages?
Emily: I speak conversational Cantonese and some Mandarin…and I can parrot very well phrases in Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, etc. I love languages and accents and dialects and have had a lot of exposure to them.
Chinese is a language spoken at home and I studied Mandarin as a foreign language in high school and had a few dance teachers who spoke almost exclusively in Mandarin. I’m always listening for language variations and practicing. Perhaps being a singer/musician and learning both a tonal language and English together growing up helped with having an affinity and knack for a broad range of sound? If I weren’t doing it for books/work, it’d probably be a hobby! There’s also a great resource called the International Dialects of English Archive that I use when I don’t necessarily have an accent or dialect off of the tip of my tongue.
Stacey: During an especially emotional scene, when you sound like you’re crying, it makes the listening cry, too. Are you really experiencing sadness when you’re doing that voice in that a moment?
Emily: Often, yes. Narrating a story is participating in the story to a certain degree—sometimes more than other times depending on the nature of the text, but certainly always being invested in the telling of it.
Stephanie: How many hours a week do you spend narrating? Do you have a day job?
Emily: I am a full time voiceover artist and a good portion of the work I do is in audiobooks, though I sometimes also do work in animation, commercial, and other aspects of voiceover. I love the format of audiobooks. Though it can be very taxing recording long sessions for long stretches of days, especially as someone who does this work full time, I’ve learned how to take care of myself so that doing this work that I love so much is sustainable. I can’t record for more than 5 or 6 hours a day before everything (voice, brain, body) starts going haywire. I am an independent contractor who runs my own business, so the hours and work itself vary widely.
I also perform physical theater or something else where I’m acting, singing, and/or dancing. I am also a teacher, mostly teaching yoga now.
Stephanie: What’s your favorite voice to do?
Emily: My favorite voice is one that I have yet to use in a book or show! It’s a shy young boy who has really bad allergies. I’m working on getting him into a project with some colleagues where he can be an animated character or a puppet.
Stacey: For people who want to go into the business of narrating audiobooks, what’s your best advice?
Emily: Be prepared to work hard: Take acting classes. Pay attention to how people sound and what makes them sound that way. Practice. Listen.
Stacey is giving away the audiobook of Under a Painted Sky, so you can see for yourself how lovely Emily’s voice is!
By Becca & Andye
THE REVOLUTION OF IVYby Amy EngelAge Range: 12 and up Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Teen (November 3, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Beyond the fence. I am still alive. Barely.
My name is Ivy Westfall. I am sixteen years old and a traitor. Three months ago, I was forced to marry the president's son, Bishop Lattimer-as all daughters of the losing side
From Becca.. (AND ANDYE!)
WOLF BY WOLF
by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf (Book One)
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Little Brown, Books for Young Readers (October 20, 2015)
Audiobook Publisher: Hachette Audio
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the
About the Book: After an accident leaves Samantha homeless and fatherless, she's not sure what to do. It's Missouri, 1849 and her dreams of being a musician are not going to be easy-she's a girl and she's Chinese American. Without a place to go, she's invited to a local hotel run by her landlord. But he has other plans for Samantha in mind-namely working in his brothel. Samantha fights back and finds herself needing to escape and fearing for her life. She meets a slave who works at the hotel named Annamae, who is also planning to run. So together they disguise themselves as boys and set off on the Oregon Trail to find Annamae's brother and and a new life for Samantha. As Sammy and Andy, they meet up with a group of cowboys who become unexpected allies. But if they knew the truth, the group could be in trouble-Annamae and Samantha are both wanted by the law. A powerful story of friendship and family.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Who knew the world needed a YA Western? It's not a genre I get asked about regularly (although here in Missouri I do get asked this question once in awhile). Stacey Lee knew we needed an amazing girl powered YA Western featuring a diverse cast of characters and lots of keep you up reading adventure-and I'm so glad she did!
At first glance, Under A Painted Sky might be a hard sell to readers. Like I said, it's not every day I get asked for the western genre or even historical fiction. But there's one way to sell this book-have readers just open it up and read the first chapter-or even the first two chapters. The book starts with such a bang and within just a few pages, our main characters have met up and are off on the trail. There's not much waiting around for the adventure to start-it's there from page one. And it never stops. Each chapter brings a new setback on the trail, a new hardship, a new adventure, a new crisis to overcome. The details of trail life are hard and brutal (and eye-opening for readers who might be very familiar with this period in history) But it's not all dreary. There is lots of humor injected into the story as well. I love Annamae and her various quips and the cowboys can be a jovial bunch.
The thing I loved most about Under a Painted Sky, aside from how fast paced the plot is, is how diverse the cast is. Sammy and Andy meet up with cowboys who are from Texas and one of the cowboys, Petey, is from Mexico. Along the trail they meet up with people who have come from all over-a group from France, a gang of boys from Scotland. I listened to this book on audio and this is where I really fell in love with the audio-the narrator does an excellent job with all the various languages and accents.
I will admit that Sammy is a bit too perfect at times. She has overcome a lot of odds in a society that is against her and while that makes her a strong character, it also felt a bit too perfect. She can speak many languages so she can translate along the trail, she can play the fiddle (mostly seen as a man's instrument), she is well educated. I liked that she fought against expectations, but at times it felt a bit too much for the novel overall. Sammy could always save the day.
The friendship that develops between Andy and Sammy is the strongest relationship overall. They develop a strong and powerful bond and it's a beautiful picture of female friendship. They have been through something very hard and it's not going to get easier from here-the road ahead of them is still full of many trials and tribulations. Yet through it all they grow close to each other and find family in each other. I loved seeing two strong female characters in this book and I enjoyed reading about both of them.
The cowboys-Petey, West, and Cay-add another element to the novel both of drama and fun. Cay is the most lighthearted-always joking, flirting with various girls they might meet up with, and having fun along the way. Petey and West are more serious with West having the most difficult background and prejudices to overcome. His story is handled deftly. Sammy develops feelings for West, but as she's keeping her true identity a secret from the boys, the romance isn't very angsty. And since they have bigger things to deal with-like surviving-there's not much dwelling on the idea of a starcrossed romance. There is still romance in the book, but it's not the main plot point and I felt that it was well done and added a nice depth to the novel without feeling out of place. The focus is on Andy and Sammy, their friendship and the overall trip to California.
I absolutely loved this book. I've been suggesting to everyone and couldn't stop talking about it after I read it. I even got Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan to read it (which is huge!) and he enjoyed it. (He loved that there wasn't much angst in it as well) I would recommend it on audio, as the narrator does a wonderful job, but reading it is just as enjoyable-I couldn't wait to get through the last disc and finished the last 80 pages by reading it myself. I can't wait to see what Stacey Lee has in store for us next-I'm sure it will be wonderful! Even if you think you don't need a YA Western, give Under A Painted Sky a try-you might be surprised to discover a book in a genre you never knew you enjoyed.
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my library and finished book received from publisher
Review by Rachel & Andye
THE DEAD HOUSE
by Dawn Kurtagich
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 15, 2015)
Program Type: Audiobook
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Hardcover | Audiobook | Goodreads
Welcome to the Dead House.
Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.
Two decades have passed
For me, the bright spot of every winter happens after the Midwinter conference, when YALSA releases its list of Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. This list is compiled by the Amazing Audiobooks Committee, which listens to many hundreds of hours of audiobooks and engages in spirited debates in order to select the very best titles for the list. This committee is composed of nine voting members and one incredible administrative assistant. In 2016, the committee will undergo some exciting changes, as it will be transitioning into a virtual committee. This means that committee members will not be required to meet during the Annual and Midwinter meetings but will instead conduct their business in an online environment. Hopefully, this change will make it possible for more people to participate in this dynamic group.
As the committee chair, I am often asked how our committee works. How do we receive titles? How do we share our votes and our reviews? How do we decide what titles are the very best?
As far as titles are concerned, we seek out and receive regular submissions of CDs, MP3s, and digital downloads from various audiobook publishing houses. We also actively seek out suggestions from our members and the public. In fact, if you’d like to suggest a title, please do! The form ishere.
Our committee typically considers between 350 and 400 titles a year. That’s a lot of listening! In order to get through all of these titles, we ask that each member commit to an average of 2 hours a day of listening. In addition to listening, we also write reviews and discuss the merits of the titles with our fellow members. We maintain a robust set of spreadsheets, where we list our assignments, voting history, and nomination details. We share our evaluations on ALA Connect, where we are able to carry on discussions about the audios that we’re considering. We also have occasional online meetings and information sessions.
When we first receive a title, it is assigned to a single committee member. That first listener decides whether the title is good enough for further consideration. If it is, it is assigned to five more members. All nominated titles will be listened to by six committee members, all of whom will participate in the year-end discussions in order to decide whether that title is good enough for the final list.
Beyond these nuts-and-bolts details, one question remains--What is it really like to be a member? Debi Shultz and Charlene Hsu Gross, both new members to the committee, share their thoughts:
As a lifelong lover of audiobooks, I thought this committee would be fascinating to join. I have not been disappointed. I have learned so much about evaluating the production of an audiobook and discerning that almost undecipherable element of “amazing.” After many months of experience and gaining insight from other committee members’ evaluations, I gained some confidence and can now usually tell within the first 15 minutes if the title is going to be a yes, maybe, or no. I find that maybe votes are the hardest because there are lots of positive aspects to the production and content, but they might lack that obvious mark of a “yes!” This is when a second listener helps to confirm the pieces that make the decision to go forward with a title or to leave it behind.
I’m really looking forward to our final discussions in January when we work toward delivering a list that is the absolute best we can offer and celebrate the wonder of listening to good books for young adults.
I have been a HUGE fan of audiobooks since the early 1980s when I drove 300 miles every weekend for a job in another state. Audiobooks kept me entertained, engaged and awake while they allowed me to keep up on some of my favorite authors and genres. Since then audiobooks have come a long way from simply being read-alouds to now becoming performances. Multiple voices, multiple narrators, music, and sound effects are fairly commonplace and serve to not only support the text but also often enhance the story.
Since becoming a member of the Amazing Audiobook committee I have been listening to a wide variety of YA genres. Books I wouldn’t read in print I find I will listen to (and enjoy) on audio. My listening habits now go beyond just when I’m driving and include listening while I get ready for work, as I do routine cleaning, when I’m knitting or sewing, and of course when I’m outside gardening. My work on the committee has also fine-tuned my ears. I now listen critically for uniqueness of voices, quality of speech, wet mouth sounds, p-pops, and audible breaths I had always considered myself a fan of audiobooks but since joining the Amazing Audiobook committee, my fan status has changed to that of an addict.
I think that Debi says it best, and most of our members would heartily agree: “While my work with Amazing Audiobooks is intense and often time-consuming, I love being part of this group.” We hope that if you’re thinking about volunteering for YALSA, you consider joining us and helping to create the next list of crazy good audiobooks. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
To learn more about participating on a YALSA committee, visit the FAQ on the web site. To learn about volunteer opportunities other than committee work, visit the Get Involved page on the web site.
About the Book: Miles is not excited to be moving to Yawnee Valley-how exciting can a place be when there's a yawn right in the name? Miles was known as the best prankster in his old town, always pulling stunts on his friends. When he discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, Miles has to figure out who it is-and take the prankster down. Each one tries to one up each other, leading to more epic pranks and jokes in a hilarious prank war.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This book is sure to inspire tween pranksters everywhere! The Terrible Two is the hilarious tale of two epic pranksters had me cracking up. I listened to the audiobook, so while I'm sure the book itself is great (there are illustrations inside making a perfect book to give kids who are enjoying chapter books with illustrations) I loved the audiobook so very much. Adam Verner, the narrator, offers up a variety of voices for the characters and I laughed so much while I was listening-I especially loved his principal voice!
The pranks in this book are awesome and hysterical. These boys are not your average chalk in the eraser, whoopie cushion on the chair pranksters. They go above and beyond and their pranks are over the top that I know readers will get a kick of all their planning and pranking. The supporting characters are also very exaggerated, which adds to the humor. The principal comes from a long line of principals and he's a hapless leader. I loved the jokes about his speeches and principal lessons-I think adults would get a kick out of this book too.
The Terrible Two was a quick listen and a book I immediately went back to the library and started putting in the hands of my readers. It's perfect for readers who enjoy Jon Scieszka and when kid asks for a funny book, I know exactly what to give them. But make sure you have your readers promise they won't pull any of the pranks they learn on you!
Full Disclosure: reviewed from audibook I checked out at my library
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I hate retellings.
If there is a retelling written. I basically hate it.
Ok, that's going overboard. I don't usually hate them, but they seriously just don't do it for me, and I really have no idea why. I find them boring.
Like, name a retelling. Just name one.
Nope. Didn't like it.
Of Metal and Wishes? Cruel Beauty? Dorothy Must Die? The
Pen-pals River and Meena reveal their "own true selves" to each other through the letters they write, and in the process they share their distinct voices and feelings with us. This is a truly wonderful story to listen to, either as an audiobook or read-aloud.
At the outset, Meena and River seem as different as can be. Meena has just moved to New York City from India, while River has lived all his life in a small coal-mining town in Kentucky. Meena begins writing River as part of a summer school pen-pal project, but their friendship slowly develops as they share their hopes and frustrations, discovering how much they are alike despite their differences. They both have been raised by their grandmothers for much of their lives, and they both love the mountains-- River loves the Appalachian Mountains, and Meena misses the mountains in Mussoorie, India.
Their honesty and sincerity especially comes through in the audiobook, as you can hear River and Meena's emotions and accents. Silas House and Neela Vaswani actually became pen-pals as they wrote this book, writing letters and mailing them back and forth to each other. Although River and Meena are fictional characters, they are closely tied to the authors. The fact that the authors narrate the audiobook makes it even more powerful.
I know that my students will be able to connect with Meena and River as well. Whether they know first-hand how hard it is to have your father gone for much of the time because of work, or whether they can understand how River and Meena feel because of they way they describe themselves, this is a story that will help kids feel more at home with themselves and understand the world around them. I especially want to share a story with a character who's recently moved from India, since there are not many books in my library with East Asian characters.
I don't remember exactly when I first started listening to audiobooks. Most likely from the time I was very, very young. I remember checking out book and cassette tape sets from my local library. You know, the ones that had a beep to tell you when to turn the page. Then as I got older, I checked out chapter books. I would listen to them at night before I would go to bed and then I'd have to remember where I left off and rewind the book in the morning! My most favorite audiobook to listen to as a kid was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler-I listened to it so much I had parts of the book memorized. I'm sure most of the check outs on that audiobook from the library were from me!
I didn't listen to audiobooks after elementary school much and didn't give them much thought for a long time. Then when it turned out we were moving and it would be a 9 hour car ride, my mother-in-law suggested that we listen to audiobooks to help pass the time. Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan and I listened to Harry Potter and I fell in love with audiobooks all over again.
Now I recommend audiobooks to every patron who comes into my library, I have a list of favorite narrators, I eagerly await the announcements of the Audies Awards and the Odyssey Awards each year, and I even review for AudioFile Magazine!
So to celebrate audiobook month, I plan on sharing lots of audiobook reviews this month. First up are a few that I reviewed for AudioFile Magazine and gave Earphones Awards to (the equivalent of a starred review) You can click on each title to read the full review.
Some stories can be at their funniest — and most poignant — when read aloud. The following audiobooks, recommended for intermediate and middle-school listeners, offer lots of laughs and lots to learn.
Lynne Rae Perkins’s Nuts to You tells the wacky story of a trio of industrious young squirrels saving their respective colonies from the impending danger of human deforestation. What’s lost in the absence of Perkins’s quirky, digressive illustrations is made up for in Jessica Almasy’s all-in, over-the-top performance. Making the most of the sensory descriptions, comical dialogue, and tangled action, she maximizes this classic-feeling animal fantasy’s considerable entertainments and adds weight to the deeper environmental message. (Recorded Books, 8–11 years)
Albie, star of Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost, is not having a good fifth-grade year at his new school. His best friend from his old school, Erlan, is distracted by being on reality TV, and Betsy, his only real new friend, isn’t speaking to him. But there are spots of brightness, including Albie’s punning math club teacher, his free-spirited babysitter Calista, and, of course, doughnuts. Noah Galvin’s narration is engaging and earnest, reflecting Albie’s naiveté and his heart in equal measure. The quick pace pulls readers along to the hopeful, satisfying conclusion. (Recorded Books, 8–11 years)
With his depressed mother in the hospital and his ne’er-do-well father out of the picture — but lurking — Joey becomes “man of the house.” The unexpected arrival of Olivia, “the meanest blind girl in the world,” helps lessen the load, but Joey must still prove himself to himself in order to move beyond his wired-kid past. Narrated by author Jack Gantos, The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza is the fifth (and final) Joey Pigza story, and there’s nuance and emotion at every turn. It’s a satisfying sendoff for a uniquely imperfect kid in a very imperfect family. (Listening Library, 9–12 years)
On its surface, The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm delights as a comic tale of a middle-school girl coming to terms with her grandfather’s fountain-of-youth breakthrough, which has turned him into a teenager. As the plot bounces along, however, subtle character development and substantial inquiry add layers of meaning, posing important questions about bioethics and family responsibility. Georgette Perna’s frothy narration enhances the novel’s lighter elements, keeping the pace brisk and humorously reflecting the adolescent cadence of the dialogue; when the novel’s deeper revelations surface, they are that much more surprising and reverberant. (Listening Library, 10–14 years)
From the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
About the Book: Felicity Pickle is tired of moving around is hoping that Midnight Gulch will finally be the place where her momma's wandering heart will settle down. Felicity is a word collector and she sees words floating all around the people and places of Midnight Gulch. It used to be a magical place, but the magic is long gone. But Felicity and her newfound friend Jonah just might be able to stir some of that magic back into Midnight Gulch-and into everyone who lives there.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Sometimes a narrator and a book were just made for each other and I think that's the case of Cassandra Morris and A Snicker of Magic. I mean, there's a reason that this book is an Odyssey Honor Book! Just listen to the preview from Audible!
Natalie Lloyd's debut novel oozes charm in such a good way that you want to curl up with Snicker, a bowl of delicious ice cream and read (or listen) all night long. This book has magic in it and it's the kind of magic that makes your heart sing and you just have to smile after you put the book down.
Felicity is the type of person who I want to be friends with. She smart and has some spunk, but she's also a bit shy, as being moved around has made her grow more into herself. She's nervous to get close to those around her because she knows her family may just up and leave again so it's hard to make friends. But she can't resist Jonah-and really, who could? If I want Felicity to be my friend, then I want Jonah there with us leading the way. Jonah is wonderful and funny and is the perfect pull to Felicity's shyness and they compliment each other beautifully. It's a fantastic friendship and I loved every moment of it.
The rest of the cast of characters are eccentric and delightful and the town of Midnight Gulch is a character all its own. I wish Midnight Gulch was a real place because I would love to visit-especially for that ice cream! (Did I mention there was ice cream that sounds so good it will make you so mad that it's fictional in this book?) Felicity and Midnight Gulch are a wonderful next step for readers who are looking for something after Anne of Green Gables or The Penderwicks. I think if they could, Anne and Felicity would be great literary kindred spirits. Reading A Snicker of Magic brought me back to those books I grew up on with the characters I wanted to be and I can see a young reader out there hoping she can grow up and become just like Felicity.
Cassandra Morris has a sweet voice with the perfect southern accent to really bring Midnight Gulch to life and her slow deliberate narration and drawl add to the atmosphere of the book. I loved this one on audio! If you have families looking for a great listen on a car ride, I would give this one a try.
If you read it or listen to it, A Snicker of Magic is an adorable and a splindiddly turn of words and phrases. Felicity is a word collector and Natalie Lloyd is a master of words herself. I can't wait to get lost in her book.
Book Pairings: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook sent by publisher for reviewAdd a Comment
About the Book: Nate is off to New York City to start auditions for E. T.: The Broadway Musical! The show is full of child actors, a director who no one thinks can actually pull this off, and understudies who are even crazier in person! Will the show make it to previews? Will Nate make his Broadway debut?
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I adoredBetter Nate Than Ever so very much. so I was thrilled to have Nate back and enjoy more of his naive optimism when it comes to show tunes, Broadway, and people and life in general.
As usual, Nate sees the good in everything around him and that makes him a very charming character. While the rest of the cast isn't sure this show is going to take off and just doing it for a job, Nate is there because he's living his dream and his belief that the show is magical makes it magical. He also could make Jordan, the lead child actor who is playing the role of Elliot into his nemesis, and while there is some early rivalry, Nate doesn't let that stop him from befriending Jordan-or the other kid actors. He even manages to make his way into the heart of one of the other E.T. understudies. Everyone who Nate comes in contact with really ends up falling for his charms-as do the readers, which makes this book so wonderful. Nate's optimism is infectious.
In addition to all the Broadway talk, show tunes references, and theater geek goodies galore, Tim Federle explores two tougher topics in a deftly and perfect way-the absence of Nate's parents and the topic of Nate's sexuality. While the topic of Nate's parents is hard to discuss in an otherwise happy-go-lucky feel of a book, but instead of getting too deep and bogged down, it's handled seamlessly in the story. Nate struggles with the absence of his parents, why they don't check in, why they don't seem happier for him, and why they don't share his passions and his dreams. But he finds comfort in his Aunt Heidi, who steps in as caretaker while he is in New York, and while I think it will take longer for Nate's dad to come around, I think there is hope for his mom to come visit him and see her son on stage someday.
Nate has a secret admirer in the book and he suspects it's one of the girls in the cast-and Nate isn't sure how he feels about that. And he's in for a surprise when he discovers who it is! The sweet, tender romance, of a gay boy isn't often explored in middle grade novels and again, the author does a great job fitting this into the story. Nate's romance is adorable and you just want to cheer him on throughout the entire book.
I listened the first book on audio and knew I had to listen to this one too. Tim Federle needs to narrate more audiobooks because he is awesome! Not only is his writing hilarious, but his narration is spot on. He nails the innocence of Nate, the overprotective stage parent, the tired (and a bit washed up) actors, the clueless director, the tough choreographer who rules the stage-they are all wonderfully created on audio via Federle's narration. I was so excited to see this auidobook win an Odyssey Honor!
While the book does have a bit of a 42nd Street ending, I thought it fit Nate's story well and loved seeing the world of Broadway through his eyes. I can't wait to read more from Tim Federle-my inner theater kid needs more!
Book Pairings: Jack & Louisa: Act 1 by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Weatherhead Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook sent by publisherAdd a Comment
Add to Goodreads Visit Sharon Biggs Waller Online About the Book: In 1909 London, girls are expected to follow the rules, behave, and marry well. But Victoria Darling wants none of those things-she wants to be an artist. Her passion for art takes a turn when she scandalizes her family by posing nude at her secret art class. She is pulled from her finishing school and returned home where her parents arrange a marriage for her to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky wants other things for her future-she wants to attend the Royal Academy of Art and she knows she can make it-but she has to finish her portfolio. She befriends a local policeman who becomes her muse and gets caught up in the burgeoning suffragette movement. Vicky wants to choose her own path and she is determined to make that happen. GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I love historical drama set in this time period anyway, so I was sure to fall for this book, but there was so much happening and Vicky is such a fantastic strong character that I think I would have fallen head of heels for it anyway-even without the historical setting! Vicky is a cross between Sybil Crowley and Arya Stark. She's passionate, she knows what she wants and she's not afraid to go after it herself. In a time where women were told to stay quiet and behave, Vicky doesn't listen. Instead she stays strong, follows her own path and makes her own way. It's not easy and she doesn't expect it to be, but that's also why she's incredibly tough. She knows what she's giving up to go after her dreams-she knows she's giving up a nice cozy future and while it takes her awhile to fully let it go, she comes to terms with it in the end and realizes that some dreams are worth working for. I'll admit there were times I wanted to scream and Vicky and ask what she thought she was doing! While she eventually realizes that marriage to a stuffy rich boy is not the way to art filled future, she is somewhat naive about others. She thinks that she'll be able to fulfill her dream of attending art school once married and it took her a long time to figure out that wasn't going to happen! I saw that coming and would get frustrated with her, but I also had to remind myself that she was coming at it from a naive viewpoint and was acting exactly as I would expect her to-frustrating or not. I adored the romance in this book and loved that Vicky wasn't all about focusing on Will, the policeman she befriends. There is romance in the book, but it's not the focus and it's not something Vicky spends a lot of time fretting about. Instead she is more concerned with her future and working with the suffragettes. I also loved the details and characters from Vicky's work with fighting for woman's rights. These women went through a lot to fight for equality and the author doesn't shy away from the way they were treated or the horrific things they experienced-from beatings to starving in prison and being force-fed. Vicky is an incredibly strong and thoughtful character and I loved her story. While the book dragged at times (which I think was especially noticeable while listening to it on audio) overall I really enjoyed it. Historical fiction readers, readers who enjoy strong female characters, and readers interested in women's rights are sure to enjoy this-and check it out on audio! Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook I checked out from my library