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SYNC Audiobooks for Teens

SYNC imageThe SYNC Audiobooks for Teens program, sponsored by AudioFile Magazine, and powered by OverDrive, will start next week on May 5th to give teens, librarians and educators the opportunity  to download a selection of free audiobooks during a 15-week program that ends on August 17, 2016.

Each week, SYNC offers a thematic pairing of  two YA books or a YA book with an classic adult book. You must download the Overdrive app to the device of your choice to access the audiobooks each Thursday after 7 pm (EST). Each week’s selections are only available for download for one week, so if you don’t download them during that time period, you won’t be able to get them later, since they aren’t archived. Teens, librarians, club leaders, and educators can sign up for email or text alerts to receive reminders of when they’re available.

Many of the selections are award-winners or titles frequently assigned for summer reading. They are notable for their excellent narration that enables readers to master the listening skills so necessary for literacy. During the summer of 2015, the SYNC program gave away more than 129,000 downloads to 41,000 participants.

With the continued discussions of the loss of reading skills over the summer, SYNC hopes to help keep teens engaged and stimulated throughout the summer. Public librarians have also used SYNC as part of their summer reading programs.

SYNC has a toolkit you can use to publicize it to teens and other librarians by going to their website. There are downloadable posters and a brochure with the list of each week’s audiobooks, and even audio snippets of the books you can listen to.

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to listen to books I may not have read, or adult books I wouldn’t normally listen to. I really love that they’re free and that I can keep them forever once I’ve downloaded them. I’ve only participated over the past three or so years. Since this is the seventh year of the program, I’ve missed out on a lot of great audios! So you don’t miss out like I did, the list of what’s available is here, with annotations from WorldCat. You can also go to SYNC’s website to see the list too.

Vivian Apple at the End of the WorldVIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Katie Coyle (Dreamscape Media) 

Sixteen-year-old Vivian Apple returns home after the alleged ‘Rapture’ to find her devout parents gone and two mysterious holes in the roof. Vivian never believed in the Rapture, or the uber powerful Church of America. Now that she has been left behind, Vivan’s quest for the truth begins.

WITH

Great Tennessee Monkey Trial Peter GoodchildTHE GREAT TENNESSEE MONKEY TRIAL by Peter Goodchild (L.A. Theatre Works) 

Presents a dramatization of the Scope Trial in a small-town Tennessee courtroom in 1925 which set the stage for the ongoing national debate over freedom of inquiry and the separation of church and state in a democratic society.

 

Sin Eaters Daughter audioTHE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic Audio)

For four years sixteen-year-old Twylla has lived in the castle of Lormere, the goddess-embodied, whose touch can poison and kill, and hence the Queen’s executioner–but when Prince Merek, her betrothed, who is immune to her touch returns to the kingdom she finds herself caught up in palace intrigues, unsure if she can trust him or the bodyguard who claims to love her.

WITH

Divine CollisionDIVINE COLLISION: AN AFRICAN BOY, AN AMERICAN LAWYER, AND THEIR REMARKABLE BATTLE FOR FREEDOM by Jim Gash (Oasis Audio)

Los Angeles lawyer and law professor, Jim Gash, tells the amazing true story of how, after a series of God-orchestrated events, he finds himself in the heart of Africa defending a courageous Ugandan boy languishing in prison and wrongfully accused of two separate murders. Ultimately, their unlikely friendship and unrelenting persistence reforms Uganda’s criminal justice system, leaving a lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of lives and unearthing a friendship that supersedes circumstance, culture and the walls we often hide behind.

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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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Some Thoughts on “Real Reading”

read-all-the-thingsI am sure I am not the only librarian who has repeatedly heard the phrase “real reading.” Whether I am in the midst of a readers’ advisory interview with a parent who insists that audiobooks are not “real reading,” or whether I’m meeting someone new in a social setting who proudly tells me they never read e-books because that’s not “real reading” and being a librarian I must agree with them, I always cringe at the phrase. I have no problem with readers having a particular preference. Everybody has their own inclinations towards specific formats. What bothers me is the complete lack of exposure that youth may suffer due to a parent’s bias against particular formats, or readers of any age feeling inferior and self-conscious about something as individualized and personal as a reading choice.

As library workers, I don’t believe it is our place to promote any format over another, but I do feel that we should provide our patrons exposure and access to as many formats as possible and strive to validate all reading preferences. Below are some topics that often incite the dreaded phrase “real reading.” I hope that by sharing some of my own experiences, I can either encourage you to broaden your reading horizons or at least give you and, by extension, the patrons you serve, something to think about.

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Great Road Trip Audiobooks for Teens (And their Parents!)

photo by Flickr user Julien Sanine
photo by Flickr user Julien Sanine

It’s summertime and you know what that means: sunny skies, windows down, time to take a road trip! If you haven’t discovered the joys of audiobooks, summer road trips are the perfect time to dive into this medium. What could be better than having a book read to you? Have a talented, professional actor perform a book for you. The miles will fly by as you listen to a story come to life when presented by great voice talents.  But if you are traveling this summer with your family, choosing an audiobook can become complicated. You want a book that will be of interest to everyone, no matter their age, but you also want to avoid embarrassing plot lines. The Hub is here to help you.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury read by Scott Brick the-martian-chronicles-book-cover
First published in 1950, this book is a “future history” of Mars. It is a set of connected short stories that together, tell of the people of Earth colonizing Mars and of how folks from Earth become Martians after a long enough time. It is beautifully written, as so many Bradbury works are, and it is hopeful yet grounded too. Scott Brick is an experienced and talented narrator whose smooth voice imparts all the drama and solemnity of humans making their way on an alien world. His voice trembles with rage and fear, soothes with velvet tones, and practically shouts with excitement when talking about rocket ships. These old fashioned tales are entertaining for all ages.

Reaready player onedy Player One by Ernest Cline read by Wil Wheaton
In the future, life is so terrible that most people escape into a virtual reality video game called OASIS. OASIS was created by a super rich, super smart techie who had a love of all things 80’s. This mastermind hid a puzzle inside the game. If players figure out the puzzle, they will inherit the game creator’s fortune! Needless to say, playing becomes vicious and potentially deadly. Actor Wil Wheaton, best known for his turn on Star Trek: The Next Generation performs Cline’s wonderfully kitschy dystopia with gleeful, nerdy energy. And I mean that in the best way. Families that enjoy pop culture and games and science fiction will get a kick out of this simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic novel.

Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen read by Kirby Heyborne skink audio
Hiaasen writes great, goofy, strong characters and it is delightful to hear narrator Heyborne having fun, bringing them to life with his performance. The story is set in the wilderness of Florida’s rivers, where 14 year old Richard teams up with wild man Skink to find and rescue Richard’s cousin Malley from a kidnapper. The amazing descriptions will make listeners feel they are in a swamp, while Heyborne’s performance of young girls, teen boys, concerned moms, old men, and 20-something lowlifes is a delight.

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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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Audiobooks: Fact and Fiction

photo by flickr user dano
photo by flickr user dano

I wish I could be reading constantly.  I really don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Audiobooks have helped me out with this a lot. Three years ago, I associated audiobooks with being forced to listen to a boring biography of Walt Disney on a road trip that took about 200 hours, not to mention about 200 cassette tapes. But, when I started grad school I drove forty-five minutes one way for school and thirty-five minutes the other way for work, and it was putting a serious dent in my reading time. When I rediscovered audiobooks, my number of books read per year easily doubled and I was hooked. Now I will talk about audiobooks with anyone who will listen (pun intended).  If audiobooks strike fear in your heart too, keep reading, and you might want to give them another chance.

  1. Fiction: Audiobooks are outdated and expensive.
    Fact: Audiobooks are up and coming and affordable (or free!)While it is true that purchasing audiobooks on CD can still set you back around fifty dollars, digital audiobook downloads usually cost about the same as a digital music CD download.  And of course, most libraries circulate audiobooks on CD and for downloading straight to your smartphone for free.
  2. Fiction: You do not have time for audiobooks.
    Fact: You wouldn’t believe the time you have for audiobooks!Very rarely do I sit down on my couch, crank up the audiobook, and stare into space awkwardly (maybe if I’m really sleepy). Usually I listen to my audiobook when I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, knitting, crafting, standing in line, etc. etc.  If you are a really avid reader, I think it’s safe to say that you have been cleaning your bathroom and wishing you could be reading instead.  Or maybe you love crafting but find that your crafting hobby is seriously cutting into your reading time. Perhaps your local librarian has given you a talking-to about not taking new hardbacks into the bubble bath with you. Just download the book on your phone, and set it atop the toilet!

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ALA Annual 2014: Odyssey Awards Presentation

alaac14_logoThe seventh annual Odyssey award presentation was held at the ALA Annual Conference on Monday, June 30, 2014.

The Odyssey Awards are the awards for the best audiobook of the year produced for children and/or teens in English and available in the United States.  It is a joint award presented by ALSC and YALSA.

The room was packed full of librarians and audiobook fans.  It was definitely exciting to see all the honorees that were able to make the presentation of awards.  Here is a slightly blurry photo of the awards winners that were present:

Odyssey 2014 winners present

From left to right:

  • Booklist consultant, Rebecca Vnuk
  • 2014 Odyssey Chair, Ellen Rix Spring
  • Daniel Kraus (author of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Timothy Federle (author/narrator of Better Nate Than Never, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)
  • Kirby Heyborne (narrator of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Kelly Gildea (producer of Scowler, 2014 Odyssey Winner)
  • Sunil Malhotra (narrator of Eleanor & Park, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook)
  • Rebecca Lowman (narrator of Eleanor & Park, 2014 Odyssey Honor Audiobook) 
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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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Listen Up: Get Ready for the 2014 Odyssey Award!

odyssey award sealWhen awards season rolls around, the main biggies are the most anticipated. Newbery, Caldecott, Printz. Who will win? How many honor books will each committee award? These are all really exciting for me, especially since I became a librarian about two years ago, but the one award I always wait for is the Odyssey Award.

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard of this honor, it goes to the best audiobook production of the year. As a big audiobook fan and listener, I’m always looking for the next one to bring with me on my 40-minute commute, or on my morning runs. The Odyssey Award helps me out in a big way. But what makes a great audiobook?

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