11 January 2009

Sunday Salon: Mixed audiobook experience

Although I've sampled several Librivox and Podiobooks offerings, my experience with traditional audiobooks has been limited. Until recently, the last audiobook I checked out from the library was back when Sue Grafton was still on the letter "D" in her alphabet mysteries :-).

I started my current audiobook experience because I was developing a mild obsession with Lori Wick's pioneer romances and hated waiting until the end of the work day to get back to the one I was reading. Her stories have turned out to be simple enough to follow on audio while I work; unfortunately, the library only has three of them on CD. So I had to go on the hunt for other books. So far my results have been mixed.

The bad: I picked up Fern Michaels' Hey Good Lookin' on a whim while I was trying to find another pioneer romance. The story was interesting enough but there seemed to be chunks missing. At the end of the last CD, there was some music and then some credits for the book. It was then that I found out that the audiobook was an abridged version of the original book. It wasn't marked anywhere on the case itself. I understand why a book might be abridged; the problem for me was the editing doesn't seem to have been done very well. A character was sent out to get information but the scene where he reports it is missing, leaving the impression that the villian got off scot-free. I think I will try to make sure I pick unabridged versions from now on.

The good: I'm having much better luck with Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. I found out about this online audiobook from another book blogger, but I can't remember which one (I've got to get better at jotting that kind of info down!). A new episode is being offered every weekday in audio and text form on the London Telegraph's website. I came in late, so I still have a backlog of 50 episodes to keep me busy. Once the 100 episodes have been posted,
the book is then going to be sold in traditional book form.

Some are viewing this as the modern version of Dickens' serial novels in newspapers, but Corduroy Mansions isn't particularly revolutionary in the online world. Authors like Mur Lafferty and Matthew Wayne Selznick have done the same thing with their books. The difference is that McCall Smith is a well-known author and has partnered with a major newspaper. Hopefully, this venture is successful and open doors for other lesser-known authors.

As for the story, I am enjoying it. It is following the lives of various people who live in the same apartment building. If I had to use one word to describe the writing style, I would say "gentle". Last year I watched the movie version of McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and it had the same feel. The characters' problems aren't earth-shattering, yet I still am caught up in them.

The readers: Several bloggers have talked about what genre is easier to listen to and follow on audio, but I haven't seen anyone talk about the readers. For me, the reader makes a big difference. The reader of the Lori Wick books, Barbara Rosenblat, has such a pleasant and engaging voice that I would be willing to try a book outside my normal genre preferences if she was reading it. I also have a fondness for British voices, so I pricked up my ears as soon as I heard the first sentence of Corduroy Mansions. The reader for that book is a British TV actor and he manages to differentiate between the characters without really doing voices. I've heard readers who go overboard trying to do voices, and it sounds like they are auditioning for Saturday-morning cartoon work.

Do you have any readers that you know by name and follow? Do you prefer male or female readers?


Kerrie said...

I've been listening to CORDUROY MANSIONS Dani. Not quite sure why. It is taking a while to get anywhere. But Andrew Sachs reading it!
There are some readers who just make an audio book. Like Penelope Keith reading Agatha Raisin.

Dani in NC said...

It didn't hit me until episode 50 that Corduroy Mansions was moving rather slowly. I was too busy enjoying Sachs' voice and the observations that each of the characters makes about society in general. I especially like the whole "should I bring a bottle of wine" passage.

Keesh said...

It annoyed me to no end listening to the female reader of Dean Koontz's THE TAKING speak the lines of the male characters. She sounded like a little kid imitating Santa Clause. The best readers are those who you can listen to and not make you intensely aware that they are trying to emulate the opposite sex's voice. My faves so far are Toni Morrison reading A MERCY (absolutely melodic voice), and the actor who read Stephen King's DUMA KEY (suspenseful, spooky, and great at developing distinctive voices for each character).