Recorded Books Blog

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Starred review for outstanding audio!

Layout 1Niccolo Rising *. The First Book of the House of Niccolo. Written by Dorothy Dunnett. Read by Gordon Griffin.

Lewis Carroll once wrote “If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much.” This quote applies to Nicholas van der Poele (aka Niccolo, Nicholas, Claes), the main character in Lady Dunnett’s monumental saga of an 18-year-old bastard who has been raised by his dead mother’s family in Bruges, where he is an apprentice in the Charetty dye works. Claes, as he is known in the beginning, is a cheerful buffoon who is always causing disasters for himself and Felix, the heir to the Charetty fortune. However, Claes is really a genius at math and languages and business. The first novel of eight (the others being The Spring of the Ram, Race of Scorpions, Scales of Gold, The Unicorn, To Lie with Lions, Caprice and Rondo, and Gemini) finds Claes meeting diverse characters during the 15th century mostly in Flanders, Burgundy and Italy. He runs afoul early on with a Scottish lord who may or may not be his father. He expands the dye business to include a mercenary army and a messenger service. All of this proves too much for Marian de Charetty, an older woman and widow of the firm’s founder, and the two enter into a marriage of convenience for the sake of the business. Nicholas, as he is now known, has many friends but just as many enemies, some of whom seek to destroy him. He loves several ladies, impregnating one, although she hastily marries and does not tell him of his new son. And business goes on against wars religious and political. “From Venice to Cathay, from Seville to the Gold Coast of Africa, men anchored their ships and opened their ledgers and weighed one thing against another as if nothing would ever change.” But in the 1460′s things changed rapidly. The subsequent books take Niccolo and company to the Black Sea, Cyprus, Venice, Spain, Madeira, Africa, Scotland, Iceland, Italy, Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, Poland, the Crimea, Russia, and France. The novels are peopled with historical characters and fictional ones, all brought to life by English actor Gordon Griffin, narrator of over 500 audio books. He flawlessly creates characters of all ages, using a vast array of accents. Bedrooms and battlefields are equally dramatic, as clever Claes morphs into sophisticated Niccolo, avenging himself in secret on his enemies, at ease with kings and knaves. The series in highly recommended both for its array of history and characters and for Gordon Griffin’s masterful telling. (Janet Julian, SoundCommentary, March 2014 Issue)


Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001.


Starred review for outstanding audio!

Layout 1The Deepest Night *. Written by Shana Abe. Read by Elizabeth Sastre with Rich Orlow.

The Deepest Night is a continuation of Abé’s The Sweetest Dark, although it can be read as a standalone. The story is set in post-Victorian England in 1915. Lora, a sixteen-year-old orphan is a drákon. She is enchanted by the stars and can turn herself into a dragon. Lora is a charity student at the prestigious Iverson school. She has no friends except for Armand Louis, whose father is the owner of the school. Lora finds herself assigned to working at Armand’s estate for the summer as a nurse. Armand has turned his home into a military hospital. While acting as a nurse, Lora discovers there is another drákon like her being held as a prisoner of war in Germany. With her magical abilities she is the only person who can save him. Armand refuses to leave Lora, so together they set out across enemy lines to save a fellow drákon. As the two pursue this dangerous adventure they discover how closely bound together they are by magic.

This fully voiced reading by Elizabeth Sastre and Rich Orlow will keep listeners engaged till the very end of the story. The story starts off at a slow pace as the setting is laid out and then it takes off. Listeners will feel Lora’s pain as she mourns the loss of a loved one and her frustrations as she struggles with her feelings for Armand and her duty to save her fellow drákon. This was a wonderful listen that will make you believe in the magic surrounding Lora and Armand. (Amy Hogue, SoundCommentary, March 2014 Issue)


Starred review for outstanding audio!

RB Web StampHonor *. Written by Elif Shafak. Read by Mozhan Marno and Piter Marek.

Honor is an emotional story that brings an immigrant family face to face with moral dilemmas that exist when immigrants try to assimilate to other cultures. Having moved from Turkey to London in the 1970s, some members of the Toprek family felt strongly that appearances and age-old traditions must be maintained at all costs. Father Adem and mother Pembe, find it difficult to understand that their integration into British society means things may never be the same when old customs are brought to a new place.

The story opens in 1992 when the oldest son Iskander is being released from a British prison after serving a sentence for the murder of his mother. The murder was an attempt on his part to uphold the family’s honor as defined by his cultural upbringing in Turkey. The story flashes back to family experiences in a small village in rural Turkey and then in Istanbul. The focus then returns to London in the 1970s where the adjustments to a more modern life style prove almost impossible for the immigrants.

The male and female narrators help the listener keep the names of the many charactesr straight. The two narrators also provide an urgent realism to the roles assumed by males and females within the large family. The few Turkish words and phrases in the dialogue maintain a foreign atmosphere to the story and is not distracting even when the meaning is not explained. At times the use of their native language demonstrates the isolation, felt especially by the children. Both readers do an excellent oral interpretation of the characters especially as the father and mother both fall in love with someone else resulting in several problems for the family. The author brings to light the conflicts faced particularly by women in a repressive society, and Honor is an eye opener about the customs of another culture where the term “honor” is defined and expressed differently depending on the circumstances and individuals involved. (Carol Kellerman, SoundCommentary, March 2014 Issue)


Elif Shafak’s books include the novels The Bastard of Istanbul and The Forty Rules of Love and the memoir Black Milk, and her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She has appeared on NPR, and the BBC, and at the TED conference. She lives in London and Istanbul.


Andrew Carnegie Medals 2014 Shortlist Announced!

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) will be announced at ALA Annual Conference on June 28. Winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award, and two finalists in each category receive $1,500.

Three Recorded Books titles are finalists:

Excellence in Fiction


Excellence in Nonfiction

Click here to view the complete 2014 shortlist. 


“Listeners will find it difficult to pause Halligan’s enchanting reading.”

Layout 1The Lavender Garden
Riley, Lucinda (Author) and Halligan, Gerri (Reader)

Upon the death of her mother, Emilie de la Martinières inherits a French chateau as well as a history full of family secrets. That history includes the grandmother of Emilie’s new husband, Constance Carruthers, a British agent in France during WWII. Halligan’s narration expertly ties the intertwined stories together, never missing a beat as she transitions from Emilie’s timid, uncertain tones, tinged with a French accent, to the gruff, exacting words of the German officers in WWII-era Paris, to the English accents of Emilie’s new family and neighbors in Yorkshire. Riley’s descriptions of the south of France and the English countryside serve as a backdrop for the history and romance, and Halligan’s narration captures the magnificence of these settings. Her reading is even and solid, yet she is able to slow and quicken her pace when needed to highlight the romance, fear, or action. Listeners will find it difficult to pause Halligan’s enchanting reading. — Elizabeth Nelson (Booklist, Issue: April 1, 2014)


The Best Sportswriter in America

As Dan Jenkins says in the first few pages of his memoir, “Sometimes, I envy my own childhood.” A lot of us can say that about Dan’s entire life. He grew up in the Great Depression, but he doesn’t seem ever to have been depressed. He was too busy having fun and enjoying life. In His Ownself, we now get to share in the fun. Dan takes us back to his youth in Texas and his eccentric, wealthy mother—with whom he never lived; he lived with his grandparents while his mother flitted in and out of his life—and his sports fan father, whom he barely knew. We see Dan’s growth as a sportswriter—from his high school paper through to his first job at the Fort Worth Press—and we understand what it was like to be a sports fan in Texas (it basically meant understanding a lot about passion, religion, heroes, and drinking).

And then it’s on to the glory days of Sports Illustrated, the most entertaining and most star-studded pages in the book. Dan was one of the handful of writers who made SI what it was for so many decades—the most important sports magazine ever. Not coincidentally, Dan was also at the center of New York night life in those days—hanging out at Elaine’s while swapping stories with politicians and movie stars and New York’s best writers and best bartenders.

Above all, this is a sports nostalgia fan’s dream book. And, in particular, a golfer’s dream book. There are two chapters on Ben Hogan, whom Dan knew well-enough to play many rounds of golf with. There are up close and very personal looks at Byron Nelson, Palmer, Nicklaus, Tiger. Dan has covered every Masters and U.S. Open and British Open for the past 40+ years. He takes us behind the scenes of those tournaments to capture the drama, the humor and the absurdity of those events. This book is Dan Jenkins remembering, spewing and mouthing off about everything under the sun—politics, hypocrites, political correctness, the past, the present, Hollywood, money, athletes—and, of course, writing the way very few sportswriters have ever been able to write.

Larry King has called Jenkins “the quintessential Sports Illustrated writer” and “the best sportswriter in America.” He is the only living writer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and if there was such thing as a Mt. Rushmore of Sportswriters, it would have to be Grantland Rice, Herbert Wind, Bernard Darwin…and Dan Jenkins.

His Ownself is an ITK Audio exclusive due out in June 2014.

Dan Jenkins Golf Digest contributions


Starred review for outstanding audio!

Layout 1Thursdays in the Park *. Written by Hillary Boyd. Read by Joanna David.

Boyd’s insightful and entertaining story of finding love at a certain age is engagingly narrated by Joanna David. Her ability to portray Jeannie, a woman of almost 60, and her husband and other family members (including a 2 year old granddaughter) convincingly is craft of the highest sort, as she employs changes in tone and pace to seamlessly inhabit the story with its myriad characters.

Jeannie is living in a loveless marriage (her husband left her bed without explanation 10 years ago) and it is only when she meets Ray, another grandparent visiting a London park with his grandchild—as she is with hers—that she realizes that there are feelings and emotions she has never experienced that can transform and uplift her life into something very different from everything she has ever known.
The listener/commuter will have many driveway moments with this book as Jeannie’s love story with Ray unfolds. Highly recommended. (Melody Moxley, SoundCommentary, March 2014 Issue)


Hilary Boyd grew up in London. Educated at Roedean, an all-girls boarding school in Sussex, she went on to become a nurse and marriage counselor. In her 30s, she went back to school to earn a degree in English Literature from London University. After graduating, she became a health journalist, writing a Mind, Body, Spirit column for the Daily Express. She has published six non-fiction books on health-related subjects such as depression, step-parenting, and pregnancy. She has been writing novels in her spare time for 20 years. Thursdays in the Park is the first to be published. Her second novel, Tangled Lives, was released in the UK in early 2013, and she is working on her third, Straight To The Heart, about a middle-aged nurse who falls in love with a mountaineer. Hilary is married to film director and producer Don Boyd (Aria,Scum and War Requiem).


Discovery Monday: Prisoner 88 – Leah Pileggi

When facing a new week, you deserve a new book!
This week on ‘Discovery Monday‘ we introduce Leah Pileggi‘s debut book Prisoner 88.

Untitled-1Ten-year-old Jake Oliver Evans is the newest—and youngest—inmate at the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary. It’s 1885, and he’s been sentenced to five years for shooting a man who had threatened his pa.

Alone in a dark cell at night and ordered to muck out hog pens by day, Jake makes the most of prison life. A boy among men, he refuses to be bullied by hardened criminals and lifts the spirits of the inmates who befriend him. Mostly, though, he’s just happy to be fed. But when Jake finds himself caught in the center of an explosive escape attempt, it becomes clear that a penitentiary is no place for a young boy.

Inspired by an actual ten-year-old boy who served time in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary, Prisoner 88 tells the story of a courageous boy who faces danger and finds friendship under the most unusual circumstances.

The Idaho Penitentiary was closed in the 1970s, and it’s now a historic site known as The Old Pen. Click here to view photos the author took of what remains.


This series is only getting better …

RB Web StampThe Last Word. Written by Lisa Lutz. Read by Christina Moore.

At the end of the previous Spellman file, Izzy had staged a hostile takeover of the family business with the help of her two siblings. We open The Last Word with Izzy at the helm. It’s a disaster. There isn’t anything that isn’t crashing down. Her parents are on strike. Her niece, now dubbed Princess Banana, has been indoctrinated against anything Izzy. Her brother is attempting reverse psychology. It isn’t working. Both Izzy and her boss, Mr. Slayter, are being set up. Izzy is watching everything go down in flames and it only gets worse when her father gets sick. If she can’t use her detective skills to solve these issues maybe she doesn’t deserve the business, even if it means she has to grovel to a porn-loving tech-geek to get her computers back on line. Christina Moore continues to elevate this series to something more than just another mystery. Her deadpan delivery gives Izzy her three dimensionality. Moore could easily sub for any three year old as she issues commands with the surety of royalty. At the same time, Moore embodies Izzy’s parents during her father’s battle with leukemia; the fear, the exhaustion; the determination. This is not as comical as the prior book but it’s a strong entry in a series only getting better. (Jodi L. Israel, SoundCommentary, March 2014 Issue)


Lisa Lutz is the author of the bestselling, Edgar Award- and Macavity Award-nominated, and Alex Award-winning Spellman series. She is the coauthor of Heads You Lose, written with David Hayward. She lives and works in upstate New York.


“De Ocampo’s craft is our good luck.”

RB Web StampDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck
Kinney, Jeff (Author) and de Ocampo, Ramon (Reader)

Greg Heffley’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story?

“In particular, the Magic 8 Ball is voiced like a silky-smooth radio announcer. De Ocampo’s craft is our good luck. This is an excellent addition to the titles in this series, all of which are all read by de Ocampo and available from Recorded Books.” — Sharon Hrycewicz [Booklist, Issue: March 15, 2014]

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