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#AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks Nominations, Volume 2

The Amazing Audiobooks Blogging Team is back with another round of amazing audiobook nominations, featuring historical LGBTQ romance, nonfiction, a murder mystery, a quiet contemporary, and a fantasy romance.

The Gentleman's Guide to VIce and Virtue

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, narrated by Christian Coulson
Audio Published by: HarperAudio
Publication date: June 1, 2017
ISBN: 9780062743114

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue follows the story of Henry “Monty” Montague’s Grand Tour of Europe. Accompanied by his dashing best friend, Percy, and his head-strong sister Felicity, the trio manages to find danger and adventure along their journey. Monty’s sexuality and general debauchery incites disapproval from his father, who threatens to cut Monty off if he does not change his ways. The Tour is Monty’s last chance, with the expectations of obeying his chaperone and becoming the respectable member of the British aristocracy he was born to be. Rather than succumbing to his father’s whims, Monty steals an artifact from the French court after a disastrous party, then proceeds to wreak havoc across the continent. Throughout their exploits, Monty’s relationships with both his friend and sister change, leading to personal revelations and growth.

One of the aspects of the audiobook that stuck most to me was the yearning Monty felt for Percy. The narration captured the love that Monty had for his friend, despite believing his feelings to be unrequited. I love romances of all flavors and the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling I got from listening to Monty’s thoughts about Percy made this one of the best love stories I’ve read recently.

This novel is perfect for fans of young adult gay romances like Becky Albertalli’s  Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as well as books by David Levithan, Adam Silvera, and Benjamin Alire Sáenz. If could listen to British accents all day (Prince Harry, I’m available if you want to chat), and love your fiction with a dash of humor, this is the perfect audiobook for you. 

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Booklist: YA Alternate History

June is history month, and while there’s a ton of great historical fiction for teens out there, it’s also a perfect time to start asking “What if?”

What if the American Revolution never happened?

What if the Axis Powers won World War II?

Alternate history books are a great way to explore these questions, and alternate history for teens is becoming increasingly popular. Here are a few books to get you started.

ALTERNATE HISTORY IN YA FICTION

These stories can blend speculative elements with historical facts, which is perfect for prompting discussion about what is truth and what is fiction in the novels discussed. They can also prompt readers to explore more nonfiction about the time period. 

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Booklist: Fiction and Nonfiction for Teen Poets and Writers

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month to encourage the reading of poetry and increase awareness of American poetry.  It is a great time to support and inspire the teen writers and poets who frequent your library!  Below is a sampling of fiction and nonfiction books to help you do just that.

YA Fiction Featuring Teen Writers

Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett

Ever since her beloved Uncle Joe died, aspiring writer Anna has lost her muse.  This poignant debut novel follows Anna through her grief journey as she struggles to rediscover her passion for writing and cope with the knowledge that she may not have known her uncle as well as she thought.

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2015 Morris Award Winner, Best Fiction for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Top Ten)

In this novel in journal format, Gabi explores her feelings about her friend’s pregnancy, finds her voice in poetry, and works on her school’s zine.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

During November of her senior year, Darcy wrote a novel for National Novel Writing Month that was picked up by a major publisher.  In this unique book, chapters from Darcy’s novel alternate with her adventures in New York as she foregoes her first year of college to dedicate herself to the publication process.

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Reader Response: Amazing Audiobooks

The following is a reader response from BJ Neary, who participated in and finished the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.

This is my second year participating and completing The Hub Reading Challenge.  I am an avid reader of all things YA- enjoying all genres in YA especially nonfiction, novels in verse, and series books.  This year I discovered I had read many books on the list.  So I decided to push myself and delve into audiobooks in the Challenge.  Below are just a few of the award winning titles I listened to and RECOMMEND in the Amazing Audiobook section of the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.

love letters dead audioLove Letters to the Dead  by Ava Dellaira was awesome. Laurel is still reeling from the death and loss of her older sister, May.  Laurel has transferred to a new school. In English her first assignment is to write a letter to a dead person. This assignment begins a year- long letter writing campaign from Laurel to Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse, poets and many more…What I liked about these letters is that Laurel researches each subject and the reader learns about the lives of these dead people and we see parallels to May, Laurel, and her family. As Laurel struggles with her guilt, her silence, her own self- image, and her idealization of May…who will she become? As a reader, I savored the New Mexico setting, the flawed (but real) characters, the letters, and Laurel’s journey.  Teens will relate to Laurel, Sky, Natalie, and Hannah in their daily lives and interpersonal relationships in high school.

acidaudioAcid by Emma Pass – I couldn’t stop listening as Jenna Strong is imprisoned by the police (the most barbaric force known as ACID) for murdering her parents when she was 15 years old. But all is not as it seems; if you love action, suspense, and thrillers; you will not soon forget Jenna’s world of lies, espionage, and sinister brutality—what will she do to remember her life as it was and as it is now? This audiobook has riveting plots, characters (nasty and nice) and a dystopian world you won’t forget! 

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2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden
Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)

acidaudioscorpioracesaudio

  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)

curtsies and conspiracies audio  screaming staircase audio

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Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

day of the dead by violetdragonfly
Image by violetdragonfly

In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities.  Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed.  To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.

Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations.  I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes.  The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate.  If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration.  And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!

tequila worm viola canalesIn The Tequila Worm (2006 Pura Belpré Award winner), Viola Canales writes a semi-autobiographical story about Sofia, a Mexican-American teen who has grown up in a Latino neighborhood in South Texas.  Her excellent work in school earns her a scholarship to attend a prestigious and mainly white boarding school over 300 miles away from her family.  Much of the novel centers on Sofia’s efforts to convince her parents to let her attend this school.  Throughout the novel, family traditions and celebrations are described, including those connected with the Day of the Dead.  There’s lots of humor in this novel, yet it also covers serious ground including discrimination, the difficulty of separation from family and death.

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Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

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June is Audiobook Month!

The Audio Publishers Association has declared June to be Audiobook Month–but even before the month started, major news outlets were perking up their ears at the sounds of great stories. In mid-May, The New Yorker ran a piece by John Colapinto called “The Pleasures of Being Read To” that, in a lovely, meandering sort of way, explores the delights of listening to a book, the writer’s personal connections (or not) with specific recordings, the history of audiobooks, and some of the luminaries in the field.

Colapinto specifically mentions how listening to an audiobook can change our feelings about and perception of what we’re reading:

There are exquisite pleasures to be derived from hearing how a talented actor brings forth characters and stories—indeed, often in a way that points up one’s own inner-ear tone deafness to certain books. Not long ago, I rented the audiobook of “The Sun Also Rises” […]

[Actor William] Hurt, eschewing the kind of caricatured, brawny-man speaking style favored by readers-aloud of Hemingway, went for an eccentric, slightly stilted, halting, almost delicate diction as Jake Barnes—a strange-seeming choice that at first clashed badly with my own inner ear but that now, after repeated, delighted listenings, seems like the only way to render Barnes’s voice, since it best accentuates the deadpan hilarity that is too little commented upon in Hemingway. I’d failed to understand, until I listened to Hurt’s performance, just how funny and touching the book is.

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What’s So Amazing About Those Audiobooks, Anyway?

In addition to identifying outstanding young adult literature and great graphic novels (plus lots of other lists of superior titles of various sorts), YALSA also publishes a yearly list of amazing audiobooks. But what makes an audiobook amazing? I was one of the librarians who helped create the most recent list, and I’d like to highlight a few of our top ten titles and explain what it was for me that made them stand out from the crowd.

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (written by Louise Rennison and read by Stina Nielson) and The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (written by L.A. Meyer and read by Katherine Kellgren): Both of these were a lot of fun to listen to and while they’re very different stories (in the first, Georgia deals in her own distinctive way with the day-to-day life of a British teen, and in the second, Jacky continues her piratical adventures on the high seas), the thing that made them amazing for me was similar: the narrator becomes the protagonist. Both Nielson and Kellgren have an incredible command of spoken language, matching their pitch and pacing and accents perfectly to the situation in which their characters find themselves. While I was listening to both of these, I felt so swept up in what was happening, so immersed in the story, that I almost forgot I was listening to an audiobook. With such a natural (although very enthusiastic!) performance, it’s really storytelling rather than reading.

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