Monthly Archives: June 2018

What Makes a Good Audiobook Great?

June_is_Audiobook_Month2018

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called The Joy of Audiobooks, in which I outlined some of the reasons I love audiobooks so much, and why you might too. I thought about revisiting the topic for audiobook month this year too, but when I re-read my earlier post, so much of it still applied, I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, I’ve been giving thought to another topic:

What makes a great audiobook? And conversely, what makes an audiobook not so great? I’ll be sharing my opinions on the topic today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too.

The Content

I’ve been known to claim I’d happily listen to certain favorite narrators read the phone book. And to an extent, I would. But really, if I’m being honest, I’d much rather listen to them read something I’m actually interested in. Especially if it’s something that lends itself well to the audio format.

Let’s face it. The phone book is meant to be searched as needed, not read linearly. The content makes a huge difference in the reader’s enjoyment. That’s why reference books with complex charts that readers may need to refer back to and graphic novels that rely heavily on images to communicate meaning probably won’t make for great listening experiences.

But that’s okay. Print formats have a place on our shelves too, right? 😉

The Narrator’s Voice

In my reviews, I tend to talk a lot about characters’ voices, but the narrator’s own voice generally comes through in the bits of exposition scattered amongst the lines of dialogue.

A particularly raspy or shrill or otherwise distracting voice can ruin an otherwise good audiobook. Some vocal habits like trailing off in volume at the ends of sentences, overemphasizing the ends of words, frequent mispronunciations, and extraneous noises like loud breathing outside of character, can adversely impact a reader’s enjoyment.

On the other hand, a pleasant and natural sounding voice can blend itself into the background, allowing the story space to shine.

Characters’ Voices

The characters’ voices a narrator creates for an audio production can make or break the audiobook. While I’ve heard there are readers out there who prefer an audiobook read matter-of-factly and without the use of distinctive voices for different characters, I tend to think that approach takes much of the fun out of the format. Personally, I love it when a narrator makes good use of differences in character voices.

Emphasis on good use. Too unique or nasal or whiny and a character’s voice can quickly become annoying. Similarly, too much exaggerated effort in creating a character of the opposite gender, can lead to some eye-rolling moments for the reader.

But on the other hand, one of the worst performances I’ve had the dubious honor of listening to was one where the narrator made absolutely no effort to distinguish voices or to pause between speakers. This made it harder for me to connect with the characters, but even more problematically, I found myself getting lost in conversations, unsure when one character stopped speaking and the next began.

In short, when it comes to character voices, moderation is a good thing. Variations in voices within a range comfortable for the narrator can translate to a fabulous listening experience for the reader.

Pacing and Enunciation

Pauses between paragraphs or lines of dialogue, and especially between scenes and chapters can be important to the reader’s understanding of the audiobook. Likewise, a narrator reading excessively fast or slow can result in a frustrating listening experience.

At the same time, judicious use of variations in pacing, such as speeding up the reading during a high-intensity moment in a thriller, or slowing to savor a romantic or otherwise emotional moment for the characters, can heighten the reader’s connection to the story.

As for enunciation, clarity is king. If I can’t understand what’s being read, or even if it requires too much concentration to catch all the words, it’s going to impact my enjoyment of the story.

Continuity Within a Series

I realize contracts and rights negotiations and timing and … life … can get in the way of keeping the same narrator throughout a series. But (for the people out there who decide these things) please, pretty please try?

One of my favorite audio series was mostly read by one narrator who did a fabulous job of both British and southern accents across genders. I was spoiled, and I fell in love with the characters. And then my heart was broken when a short story featuring the same characters was released by a different audio publisher with a different narrator who didn’t attempt their accents at all. It felt like I was meeting brand new people rather than visiting with old friends.

That was when it hit home just how much difference it can make for the character voices and reading style to be consistent from one book to the next within a series. Just listening to the voices in one book can bring back memories of the characters as read in an earlier book months or years ago and help tie the stories together.

So, yeah, sometimes it works to bring back the same narrator, and sometimes things get in the way of that, but whenever possible… pretty please?

That Special Something

So far, we’ve discussed content, the narrator’s voice, characters’ voices, pacing and enunciation, and continuity within a series as factors in making an audiobook great. But not everything can be that simply explained.

Sometimes, there’s just that special something that takes a good audiobook and makes it great. Could be a spot on accent. Could be an excellent use of music or sound effects. Or maybe it’s when the narrator verbally acts out stage directions like laughter, tears, singing, or slurred speech. You know, actually chuckling, rather than just reading “He laughed.”

Maybe, a narrator’s emotional connection to what he or she is reading shows through in the final production and draws the reader in. Or maybe multiple readers worked together to create a seamless theatrical production.

Sometimes it’s easy to point to one or two, or ten features of an audiobook that come together to make for a fabulous read. Other times, it’s not so easy to explain why the total experience is greater than the sum of its parts. Either way, I love discovering and listening to a great audiobook.

Audiobook Review: Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

Title: Troubled Waters
Author: Susan May Warren
Print Publisher: Revell
Audio Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator: Cynthia Farrell
Published: January 2018
Series: Montana Rescue, Book 4
Genre: Contemporary romance, Christian fiction.
Length: 11 hrs, 4 minutes. Unabridged.

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

With their past tearing them apart, it will take a storm to bring them together . . .

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. Despite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. Sierra has solved it, but a promise to the girl to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When Sierra needs funds to repair the damaged PEAK chopper, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the leisurely excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and Ian and Sierra find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this story ever since I first started reading the Montana Rescue series with Wild Montana Skies and If Ever I Would Leave You. The first book and prequel to the series introduced Ian and Sierra, among other characters, and that’s when I first fell for their story. Then, their story continued on the back burner through books 2 and 3. An agonizing wait! But now, in book 4, we get to see their relationship develop more fully. Their characters are well developed over the course of this book with faith journeys and character development centering on issues of control vs trust. Pete and Jess also see their relationship develop further over the course of this book as well. Readers who enjoy action, adventure, and romance will find much to love throughout this series. And those already familiar with the series, can look forward to a short-term change of setting with action and adventure on the high seas this time around. Highly recommended.

Specific to the Audio Edition:

I’ve listened to several of the titles in this series in audio format, including this one, and enjoyed them greatly. Cynthia Farrell’s reading is consistently excellent from one book to another. Accents, vocal inflections, pacing, and emotional delivery all contribute to the overall effect, and I appreciate the consistency in the way the characters are portrayed from one book to another.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library. I was not expected to write a review, but wanted to share how much I enjoyed the book.

Quick Links: About the Audiobook | About the Series | Audio Sample | Author’s Site | Narrator’s Site

June is Audiobook Month, 2018

June_is_Audiobook_Month2018

Because I #LoveAudiobooks, I’ll be celebrating “June is Audiobook Month” pretty much all month long on my blog, starting with today’s post. For today, I’m featuring some favorite recent listens, what I’m reading now, and a few of the titles on my to-be-read list. I’ll also refer you on to more “June is Audiobook Month” themed festivities you may want to check out elsewhere on the web.

With a 45 minute commute each way to and from work, and with plenty of other opportunities for listening (while doing laundry or dishes, while working out, etc.) when traditional reading just isn’t practical, I find I tend to read more audiobooks than print books lately. And I love every minute of it.

A few of my favorite recent listens include:

I’m currently enjoying:

  • The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

And eagerly anticipating (on my to be read list):

  • Where Hope Begins by Catherine West
  • Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin
  • Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson (Audie Award winner in Inspirational Fiction)

I’m always on the lookout for more great reads to add to my to-be-read list, so please share in the comments if you’ve been listening to any great books lately!

To keep the Audiobook Month festivities going, check out the following sites:

  • The Audio Publishers Association blog tour will be featuring audiobook themed posts and giveaways all month long.
  • There will also be free weekly giveaways at Audiobook.com throughout the month of June, including Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck (June 8th… It’s one of my favorite audiobooks).
  • The Sync summer audiobook program offers free weekly audiobook downloads aimed at teens 13+ all summer long. I’m especially intrigued to see that The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey has a giveaway scheduled for June 28 – July 4. (Check out this review by one of my favorite bloggers, to see why I’m excited to read it.)

Thanks so much for stopping by to celebrate audiobook month with me! I hope to see you again next week for more audiobook themed fun. :)