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Audiobook DJ
Thursday
Dec222011

The Bite Before Christmas - Audiobook Review

The Bite Before Christmas, by Lynsay Sands and Jeaniene Frost. Narrated by Paula Christensen and Tavia Gilbert. Published by Harper Audio.

For those who’ve grown weary of a certain Christmas story centering around the appearance of three ghosts, perhaps introducing vampires into your holiday festivities would help perk things up. The Bite Before Christmas intends to do just that, offering two short stories that give the song, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” new meaning.

In the first story, “The Gift,” Lynsay Sands dips into her Argeneau world of immortals as she tells the story of aging cop Teddy Brunswick and his efforts to avoid Christmas altogether by spending the holiday at an isolated cottage in the mountains. When a big snowstorm knocks out all electric power in the region, Teddy hopes the electric company will arrive soon.

When he goes outside to scout out the source of the power failure, he discovers that there’s another snowbound vacationer who is also outside trying to access the situation.  He’s pleasantly surprised to see that the newcomer is a beautiful young woman who seems inexplicably attracted to him. But what he doesn’t know is that Katricia is a vampire and if the roads are impassable for too long, her scheduled delivery of blood supplies may be delayed.

Narrator Paula Christensen narrates this winter wonderland predicament and offers an impeccable performance, giving both Teddy and Katricia distinct voices that allow their personalities to shine through her voice.

The second story, “Home for the Holidays,” is by Jeaniene Frost and narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I’ll admit I’ve never thought about a group of vampires sitting around the Christmas dinner table ready to dig into a traditional holiday meal, but this is what Kat is planning for Bones and her other close vampire friends. But Frost would never let things be that simple for anyone in her Night Huntress series. 

No one is prepared for a stranger who arrives, suggesting close kinship to Bones and making a claim to be part of the family. The stranger seems harmless enough, but that’s before Kat figures out there’s a demon involved and that demon is out to take Bones and the rest of her vampire “family” away from her. Needless to say, Kat isn’t prepared to accept this possibility and what she is willing to do to prevent it makes for an action-packed mini-adventure.

Tavia Gilbert delivers a flawless performance of this paranormal tale, her voice melding with each character to keep listeners fully engaged. Particularly notable is her portrayal of Kat, whose demeanor ranges anywhere between saucy and hellion, sometimes in a matter of seconds.

This collection offers a nice balance between two aspects of the holiday season. “The Gift” is rather relaxed, focusing on the romantic relationship between Teddy and Katricia, while “Home for the Holidays” takes on a frantic pace, as Kat races against time to save her beloved Bones from a horrible fate. This one is as much about the adventure as it is the romance.

Both stories give fans of the respective series a chance to learn a little more about some of their favorite characters. On the other hand, if you’re like me, who has never read a book in either of these series, it offers a chance to experience a bit of these two worlds and help me decide if I’d like to learn more.  Either way, it makes a nice holiday treat for anyone who’d like to spice up their holidays with a little paranormal romance.

Sunday
Nov132011

Illustrating Words

The Echo of One Hand Clapping
Notes on Audio Publishing and Production by Brian Price

“Two voices, a saxophone, a cello, an occasional banjo, a slide guitar, and a couple of drums—that’s all it takes for The Bee-Loud Glade Living Anthology of Irish Poetry and Crazy Dog Audio Theatre to create a sense of grace, openness and wonder that is the essence of the best in poetry.”  That’s pretty my opening line in a 125-word review I’ve written for AudioFile Magazine.  And I mean it. 

To paraphrase that old adage about death being easy, comedy is hard.  Well, comedy may be hard, but in audio publishing there is probably nothing harder than poetry. Read more...

Saturday
Oct222011

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor - Audiobook Review

Philip Blake had no plans to become a sadistic tyrant when the world changed into a feeding ground for the undead. In fact, before the outbreak of the zombie plague, Philip is just a good ol’ boy from Georgia with some anger management issues and a seven-year-old daughter whom he adores.

When folks begin turning into “biters,” Philip rounds up a couple of friends, his older brother, Brian, and Penny, his precious daughter. Together they head out toward Atlanta, a rumored safe-haven against the ever-growing zombie horde.

Those who can’t get enough Walking Dead from the television show and/or the comic series will truly appreciate this imaginative exploration of how The Governor came to be. Co-authors Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, along with narrator Fred Berman, immerse listeners in a physically and psychologically horrifying landscape of violence perpetrated by humans and non-humans alike. The result is a dark, mesmerizing journey which results in the transformation of Philip Blake into The Governor.

This is the first in a planned trilogy of books, The Governor Trilogy. As the first title, it comes bursting out of the gate with plenty of action, but also has more character development and carefully crafted descriptive elements within the story than I was expecting.

Sure, there’s more than enough blood and body parts to go around, and I never knew there were so many ways to describe mortally wounding a zombie’s head (about the only way to kill these monsters). The fact that I did a lot of listening during lunch breaks may not have been such a great idea, either. But let’s face it, you expect a certain amount of gruesomeness and gore in a zombie story.

Balancing out the violence are times when the characters’ personalities and motivations are gradually reveled as they change or don’t change, in response to their circumstances.  Some scenes in this post-apocalyptic world are stunning, as are the reactions of the characters to what they see. There’s also a clever twist near the end that is a real jaw dropper. I sure didn’t see that one coming!

It’s not necessary to have previous knowledge of  The Walking Dead universe in order to appreciate this story, but those who are familiar with either the comic or the TV series will definitely enjoy giving it a listen. Berman’s vocal handling of the text is simply stellar. It’s not so much a narration as a performance.

As I sign off, let me leave you with an example of how Berman’s voice draws the listener in, providing a sense of immediacy that raises the level of involvement with the characters. In the audio clip below, the group’s car becomes mired in the mud and, as they try to push the car out, the travelers attract unwanted attention.

Sunday
Sep112011

Thinking Big 

The Echo of One Hand Clapping: 
Notes on Audio Publishing and Production, by Brian Price

For the past twenty or twenty-five years or more, non-profit arts organizations have been under the gun.  Reeling from 10-20% budget cuts year after year after year after year, their boards are constantly battling among themselves about who to serve, how best to do it with what little is left, and who to ignore.  The stories of tough times are similar for community radio, tiny theater companies, hometown arts councils and local museums.

And so it has been for the National Audio Theatre Festivals.  Their budgets are half of what they were in the 1990s.  Their staff is paid half as much or not at all.  Still, NATF holds their annual Audio Theatre Workshop in West Plains, Missouri year after year and continues to introduce and train new converts to the wonders of live audio theater. (continue reading)

Tuesday
Aug022011

Connecting Audiobook Reviewers and Publishers

For a long time I've wanted to create a place where audiobook publishers could offer titles for review and reviewers could select titles which interested them. That dream became a reality yesterday, with nine publishers offering well over 100 copies of 42 titles for reviewers to request. I'd like to invite you to take a look at the listing and hope you'll see something interesting. If we all participate, more publishers will contribute more of the audio we love and we can tell others about more great listens! I hope you'll check out the Solid Gold Reviewers Program at Audiobook Jukebox. 

Saturday
Jul232011

The Coming Out Party

The Echo of One Hand Clapping: Notes on Audio Publishing and Production By Brian Price

The best in audio theater is seldom produced by the big publishers.  We know that.  We’ve known that for years. 

The big publishers don’t create new audio theater.  They don’t broadcast it.  They don’t understand it.  They don’t like it and they’d probably prefer that it didn’t exist. 

Most likely, those are also huge reasons why small independent audio producers love multi-cast audio theater so much--just because the genre is ignored by the big boys.  For as long as I can remember there’s been a loyal crazed crowd out there collecting old-time Jack Benny, The Shadow, and X Minus One shows and listening to classic recorded comedy and science fiction shows from the likes of the Firesign Theatre and Douglas Adams.  And all along this crowd has been trying to emulate these favorite shows, writing and producing their own original shows.  Learning.  Like everything; some were good, some were not so good.

 Then along came the Internet and podcasting and these small-time producers found ways around the big publisher gatekeepers and found audiences on the Internet.  Most importantly, these small-time producers started cranking out more and more shows.  They were practicing. [Continue Reading]

Friday
Jul222011

Go Mutants! - Audiobook Review

Go Mutants! By Larry Doyle, narratd by Robert Petkoff. Unabridged, 8 hours. Published by Harper Audio, 2011

It’s tough being a teenager. It’s even tougher being an unappreciated alien living on Earth. And when, like J!m, you’re both of these things at the same time, there’s enough adolescent angst to nuke the planet. In fact, nuking the planet is exactly what humanity did years earlier in order to defeat an alien invasion led by J!m’s father. Now, J!m and his mother live in a run-down section of town and try not to attract attention.

Unfortunately, that’s not easy when you look like J!m, with his blue-gray skin, periwinkle lips, independently rotational ears, and “his forehead was quite high, approximately ten inches, and bulging with brains, but even this evoked the slick upswept hairstyle favored by singers and delinquents, without the hair. A girl with enough imagination might find him attractive in a rugged, sun-dried sort of way. The girls at J!m’s school did not possess that much imagination.”

Author Gary Doyle (I Love You, Beth Cooper) has a field day taking the stereotypical traumas of high school and re-imagining them through the eyes of an impressionable alien who only wants to fit in. As J!m navigates the treacherous rapids of social interactions between aliens, mutants (remember the nuclear war with the aliens) and unfathomable human beings, his journey is enhanced by being told in a style reminiscent of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is one of the things that makes this story work so well.

Another thing that makes this story so much fun is the way it is structured around every science fiction B-movie from the 1950’s and 1960’s you’d care to remember. For example, J!m’s two best friends are a radioactive ape-boy named Johnny Love -- the son of King Kong and a  woman he carried off into the jungle -- and Jelly, who is a gelatinous mass that is basically The Blob (who can forget that gem of a movie?) in blue jeans and a tee-shirt.

This is a good time to sing the praises of the narrator, Robert Petkoff. He uses a slight British accent to do the main “Hitchhikers Guide” narrative part and nails it perfectly. Anyone who has heard the BBC’s radio production of Hitchhikers will appreciate what Petkoff does here. But he also switches back and forth between the various characters with ease, giving each one a voice that sounds just right for him or her. I especially enjoyed Johnny Love’s smooth, low, Elvis-esque voice, which was perfect.  

The print version of this book uses graphics to help clue reader in to the importance of the movie theme throughout the book. It is a little more difficult to pick up on this when listening to the audio – at least at first. Slightly confusing for the first couple of minutes, it won’t take you long to figure out that sci-fi movies are going to be an underlying theme of this book.

Although it’s true that the story is generally light fare served up with various brands of humor which usually work, at times it also surprises by making some insightful observations along the way. Teenage aliens begin to seem perfectly natural and Jim’s relentless persecution by the human school bullies makes it easy to want to defect from the human race and side with the aliens.

At a little under eight hours, this makes a great summer listen from Harper Audio that will have you laughing and pondering some deep thoughts at the same time. That’s a nice combination.

Sunday
Jul032011

Audiobook Month with Scott, Grover and Simon

"June Is Audiobook Month" was celebrated in fine fashion by many of us, but the efforts of three narrators stand high above the crowd in their dedication to post every day in June to mark the occasion. I thoroughly enjoyed their contributions and decided to make myself a "cheat sheet" to make it easy for me to go back and re-read or re-watch whenever I like. Thought I'd share in case anyone else would like a quick reference.

Scott Brick Grover Gardner Simon Vance
Intro

Day 1 Day 1 Day 1
Day 2 Day 2 Day 2
Day 3 Day 3 Day 3
Day 4 Day 4 Day 4
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Day 6 Day 6 Day 6
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Day 12 Day 12 Day 12
Day 13 Day 13 Day 13
Day 14 Day 14 Day 14
Day 15 Day 15 Day 15
Day 16 Day 16 Day 16
Day 17 Day 17 Day 17
Day 18 Day 18 Day 18
Day 19 Day 19 Day 19
Day 20 Day 20 Day 20
Day 21 Day 21 Day 21
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Day 25 Day 25 Day 25
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Day 27 Day 27 Day 27
Day 28 Day 28 Day 28
Day 29 Day 29 Day 29
Day 30 Day 30 Day 30
Sunday
Jun192011

APA Videos I Like

The Audio Publishers Association is having a video competition to celebrate June is Audiobook Month. There were ten finalists. This is one of my favorites!

Thursday
Jun092011

The Grover Gardner and Tanya Perez Show

http://www.literatehousewife.com/wp-content/themes/downtown-java-3column/images/150btn.gifThe Literate Housewife Review recently interviewed Grover Gardner and Tanya Perez to help celebrate Audibook Week. She asks lots of great questions and Grover and Tanya have equally great answers to share. It only takes a minute to read, so treat yourself to some entertaining insights into the audiobook biz!