Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I've had several books on my Kindle so long they are no longer accessible on the carousel. Recently I decided to open the device storage and take a look at what I've been buying. With me driving so many long hours on the road by myself, getting bored with music in all formats, I finally decided to give the speech feature a try on my Kindle.

The first couple books I started quickly discouraged me. If there are any editing errors in the book (poor grammar, misspelled/missing words, misused words), having it read aloud magnifies the annoyance. And of course, if the "voice" or pace is faulty- well, lets just say it takes me less time to close a book that is being read aloud to me than it does when I'm reading. At first I thought it was just me being too inattentive, letting my mind wander during the story. I've done that before while reading, if the story doesn't hold my interest.

To help with that problem, I took everyone's raving recommendations and downloaded a book with a free trial for audible. Can't remember the name of the book; started with a couple in an antique shop and trying to buy the old shop keepers pocket watch. Unfortunately, I did not like having  someone else determine "the voice" and pacing of the story. When I turned off the voice and just read the text, I was getting into the story, so that let me know I could try again, with a book I already know I like.

Next I played a book I previously read and enjoyed immensely, but it had been a while and some of the story details were fuzzy. This was a short story anthology written by those rascally talented Beer Boys, Bryan and Brandon (or is it Brandon and Bryan?) Anyway. . . after their repeated proclamations (they mentioned it in passing once or twice as the conversation rolled to my dislike of satyr) at how amazed and astounded I'd be with their axe wielding dragon slayer in The Graveyard Shift, I bought the book, read it in a couple days (yeah yeah, I'm slow, even when fully engaged) and had to agree I was thoroughly amazed and astounded. So amazed it took me more than a year to get the review up on Amazon and Good Reads. I wrote:
Fabulously quirky, frequently gritty humor; always chilling and exciting. One of my favorite short story collections. These Authors really know how to craft a thrilling and macabre plot in a variety of settings with believable characters. Turn on the lights, lock up the axe, make only happy memories in your home, never make envious wishes in the mirror . . . .
If you like almost-likeable, psychotic villains, hero's with more guts than common sense, and victims that return from beyond for vengeance; then this is exactly your kind of scary read.
 I liked the book every bit as well having it read to me off the Kindle as I did reading it myself. Yes, the voice was there - the voice the authors intended. I read with a bland voice in my head too, until I get to know the characters, and the Kindle works for that.

So I tried a few other books that have taken up long term residence on that particular e-book shelf. Some I liked, some just filled the long hours and I barely remember the stories, some I disliked so much I barely got to 8%. I can't remember too many, I think I posted reviews (of the ones I finished and could give at least 3 stars). Once I've been on the road a few days, and in need of another book-read, I tend to forget to review.

I'm partial to short stories, always have been, but especially now that I drive, then make frequent stops. COGS IN TIME Vol 2 is a steam-punk anthology of various authors. I don't think I know a single author - though I remember seeing it hosted on a book-blog tour on a blogger I follow. Anyhow, turns out it is a pretty good read. Sometimes I'd be listening to a story that captivated me for a long while, then arrive at a work site and be frustrated that I'd have to pause the story and go work for 2-4 hours; wondering what would happen next in whatever story I was listening to. Of course some were better than others, able to hold my attention as the landscape sped by outside the car. Not all these stories have happy endings - some did not even have satisfactory endings - and many had characters of dubious intentions. I loved the unexpected twists - and occasional predictability.

Stories ranged from macabre and chilling, to nearly too deep and abstract to understand, to endearing and romantic. Story length ranged from maybe 2000 words all the way to possibly 10-12k. In one story, the flying machine was nothing more than a short-hopping-flapping old fashioned bicycle - which made me laugh at the contraption - but that is one of the stories that stood out in excellence; very short but philosophical.

Another one was long, otherworldly, where common citizens are born into debt/slavery. A feel-good, christian romance, not entirely my usual read, but the social conscious message was so well written I was intrigued all the way through. It did not hurt that the Kindle pronounced the child robot - called an automaton - something like AuTomAton. You'd have to hear it get it. I thought it so unique I actually had to read the text to see what the adorable little thing was actually called. I'll never hear it in my mind the way it is actually pronounced again!!

I highly recommend this anthology to readers who like short or long-short stories; enjoys steam-punk in all forms ranging full mechanical to merely implied; and/or is open minded to alternate states of sanity and universes.

On this last trip through Utah and Idaho I resurrected THE GHOSTS OF AQUINNAH by Julie Flanders. I have several of her books on my Kindle; and since I'm getting tired of angsty Were's and Vamps, I decided to give some ghosts a try. I will be giving this a four star rating when I get around
to posting on Amazon and Good Reads. The story concept is awesome; a young adult quits her day job to write about lighthouses, is having boyfriend troubles and thinking the relationship is one sided in favor of the user jerk, and the images on the webcam of an old-fashion dressed young woman become an obsessive distraction. The story is written in dual time zones, multiple third person perspectives that sometimes ebb into omnipotent, light on plot, moderately-heavy on romance, and has well integrated historical facts and info.

I found Julie's characters well rounded, deep, conflicted, heroic and vulnerable. The story was well conceived, the research seamlessly integrated into the setting. Its written in a Wuthering Heights tragic-romance style, which is more appealing to my cynicism than the Harlequin whirlwinds. I did wish Hannah's secondary story and relationship coincided with more with the tale of Stella and Christopher, and I was disappointed that the expected connection between Stella and Hannah was not really cemented. The story itself was overwritten (especially the epilogue), both leading and repeating phrases and concepts that the author needed the reader to keep in mind; so this took away a lot of the mystery, that essential (to me) sense of discovery as all the story threads knit themselves together. But I am a character and setting driven reader, and both were strongly written. I decided I would likely read another story by this author.

Luckily I had several hours to kill on the final drive home, and decided why not read another story by Julie - since I just stated I'd snack on another. I did not know THE TURNAGAIN ARM was a novella (or long-short story), but it suited well for the return trip. Vasyl and Aleksei (again the Kindle reader completely mispronounced Aleksei's name, making him even more endearing) are strongly written characters, the setting in Alaska territory well balanced and researched for the era, and the romance is tragic and nearly overpowers the chilling plot. It is nicely paced, not too repeatative, and the ending left me baring my fangs in anticipation of the next installment in the series. Luckily, that is also off the carousel, but easily retrieved on my next long drive to nowhere.

Of course, PARALELLS: FELIX WAS HERE is up next on the carousel . . . . tough decisions to be made on what to have read to me next.

What do you think; have I convinced you letting the Kindle's voice feature read to you is worth the free price on the device? Or are you still in need of a professional orator to assist the author in conveying a captivating voice?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's been years since I listened to an audio book, although at the pace I read, I probably need to try audio again.
Have Julie's and Brandon and Bryan's books on my iPad. I've read a couple of the guys' stories and they are definitely quirky and fun.
Enjoy Parallels! Hope we chose the stories well.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm so pleased you're reading Parallels next.

I don't have a Kindle but I do like listening to audiobooks. Julie's book sounds great.

Loni Townsend said...

I'll do something similar, where I'll convert my ebooks to audio using an external program and listen to them. You're definitely right about voice. If the written voice is good, it'll show through the computerized audio. I do have some Audible books, which are fun but sometimes limiting. Glad to hear you found something that works for you!

Pat Hatt said...

That is sure a great way to get some in.

Diana Wilder said...

Hmmm... Makes me want to see about using that method to 'read' on my regular six hour trips to visit family... Great post!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

As a rare blood courier, I love audio books. I have favorite narrators, too. I have a few special deals on my audio books where if you have the Kindle book, you can download the audio version for $1.99. Not a bad bargain.

Happy listening, Donna.

D.G. Hudson said...

I've tried audio, but can't get into it. I tend to get distracted too easily and don't stay as engaged with the story. But then, I don't do long drives by myself. (I am caregiver for hubs since he had his heart attack, so I'm still trying to fit writing back into the equation. . .)

Hope you have safe drives and many happy hours of listening!

Dixie@dcrelief said...

I'm not sure I can do the audio and stay with it. I'm such a popcorn brain!!

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't enjoy being read to, so no matter what kind of device, it won't work for me. Hubby loves audio books, though. He uses his iPhone and gets the books from the library. Free. Something to consider if you can't stand the robot-like voice.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Donna - I do enjoy a good Audio book ... but now I'm not travelling around I don't get the chance to listen ... I need to sort things out once I've moved and then perhaps get into listening to stories. The timbre does need to be right for me - otherwise I'd be put off ...

I'm looking forward to reading Julie's works ... enjoy your Kindle and the audio .. cheers Hilary

Yolanda Renée said...

Hubby and I used to enjoy audio books on the commute from Lacey to Tacoma, WA on a daily basis. I'll have to give it another try.
Can't wait to hear what you think of Parallels.
Happy Reading / Listening!

A Beer for the Shower said...

First off, thank you for the kind words! And for the review. I know it's coming from a place of honesty and not just kissing up to us, so that means a lot to us both.

You know, one of the weird (and sappy) things I always do when writing is that after we write it, I read it aloud to my wife A) because she loves it B) I want to share it with her anyway and C) I can hear how everything sounds read out loud. So I'm glad to hear that it sounds as good out loud as it did in your head.

dolorah said...

Alex: Audio is not my favorite reading choice; but a good alternative for all that alone time.

L Diane: I'm hoping I enjoy Parallels. As mentioned, I have a special fondness for short stories.

Loni: yep, voice always wins out.

Patt: yep, now I'm reading (sort of) again, lol

Diane: yep, audio books ae great for long drives :)

Roland: Yep, audio seems the way to go now. Thank you for the download :)

dolorah said...

DG: its not for everyone. Took me some desperation time to get into listening to books.

Dixie: sometimes I have to start over

Stacy: free is always good :)

Hilary: thank you for stopping by. I hope the move is going well.

Yolanda: thanks. If I wasn't driving I'd likely not get into audio either.

Bryan: Your book was awesome. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you: Bryan and Brandon's book was absolutely fantastic and so is their latest book, Tuck Watley. These guys are gifted writers. I was lucky to have Bryan as a mentor for my book. My son is a big fan of audio books on his long trips too.

farawayeyes said...

I've tried to get into audio books on those long drives through the desert, but they just tend to make me drowsy - nut a good thing when tooling down the highway at 80+mph.

Anonymous said...

I can't focus on audiobooks, but I like seeing what blogger buddies are reading. I voiced a fear yesterday to someone who likes to read...what if all my ebooks disappear because of technological changes? But I figure there's a way to protect these ebooks. I noticed one publisher discontinued an ebook I had already read, but it still shows up under "my orders," so I can always have it redelivered to any of my devices.

Tamara Narayan said...

I didn't even know there was such a feature, but it would come in handy on long drives. Now that my girls are older, I wonder if they would go for an audiobook experience. We usually let them watch a movie in the back seat on trips, but sometimes it gives them headaches.

cleemckenzie said...

I'm not a huge fan of audio books, but I have enjoyed a couple. I really liked one of Roland Yeoman's books recently. The voice actor did an amazing job. If the actor reading the parts isn't good, that can be a huge turnoff.

Glad you're catching up on your Kindle shelf reading.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I haven't really tried audio books for all the reasons you said you didn't enjoy it at first. But maybe I will try short stories. And the Beer Boys would be a great place to start. I just finished their latest novel. LOL

VR Barkowski said...

I use a Kindle Paperwhite, and Paperwhites don’t have the speech function—no headphone jack, no speakers. I do listen to audiobooks however. I love being read to sleep each night. Boston area libraries have a fabulous selection of audiobooks which I download from home for free. That said, I use my Mac’s text-to-speech function (which I assume is similar to the Kindle’s) on my own drafts. Since the digital voice is without inflection, I can focus on the writing and not the narration.

VR Barkowski

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Sounds like we like the same genre of books! I rely heavily on reader reviews before purchasing a book :)

Unknown said...

Yay for trying new things! I really enjoyed Julie's Turnagain Arm. It didn't go where I expected and I like that. I haven't read her ghost story yet. I haven't tried any audible books. I'm not sure I'd like anyone else's pace or voicing either. Plus I sometimes drift off or skim and then have to go back when reading, but how do you do that with an audible? Thanks for letting us know about your experiences. Brandon and Bryan's book sounds awesome!!

Denise Covey said...

Hey Donna, I can't stand listening to books. i'm a reader, not a listener. But there's definitely a market with the time poor listening on the way to/from work. I was interested in your review of Julie Flander's Ghosts of Aquinnah. You put your finger of what threw me off the story at times, but overall I did enjoy it. Was up there with the best of blogger/kindle books I've read.

Thanks for taking the time to write this informative post.

Denise :-)

Arlee Bird said...

I had no idea Kindle had an audible feature, but I do prefer an orator rather than some mechanical sounding voice. I'd try it though I guess.

I don't have an eReader yet but I'm considering it before I go on my next cross-country trip. I'll have to think on it just a bit more though.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Unknown said...

I absolutely love Audible books but I haven't really tried to listen to the audio that comes with a book. The few times I tried, it was too mechanical for my taste. Like you, I love short stories--as long as they actually have some "story" and are not just a description.