Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Reviewer's Mind

Plus Great Suggestions for Your Audiobook Collection
Dora Machado

I love to listen to a good story. I find it comforting, relaxing and fun to hide in a quiet corner, plug in my headset, and bask in the wonders of a great tale. My love affair with audiobooks probably began early on as a child, when my parents shared their love for books by reading aloud to me. I remember thinking that it was such a treat! I then read to my own children and relished our time together. Reading aloud to our children is not just fun; it’s also a loving gift and a lasting legacy. Look at me. I’m still craving the story that the voice tells. Or is it the voice that tells the story?

I am pleased to bring you today my interview with the founder of, Mihail Abadzhiev, Mike, as his online friends like to call him. is one of only a handful of sites dedicated exclusively to audiobooks. I discovered this new site by accident, when my publicist submitted Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone Audible edition for review. It's packed with helpful reviews, discussions, articles and tips for audiobook addicts. So if, like me, you love to listen to your books as you commute to work, wash the dishes or before you turn in for the night, don’t miss

Hi Mike, welcome to MB4! Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become a reviewer, when did you start and why audiobooks?

I started my blog just a few months ago and it has been quite fun so far. I just wanted to create a place where I can talk about all the audiobooks I'm listening to and inspire others to read more or find their next favorite book. There's just so much awesomeness in audiobooks. They make reading a different experience and put it in entirely different context. That makes them not only very enjoyable but also useful.

What advantages/disadvantages do audiobooks have over print or e-books?

Reading in general comes down to personal preference, but one undeniable advantage of audiobooks over print or e-books is convenience. I could be listening to a book as I'm typing this answer right now. Well, maybe not, but in situations where my hands are occupied and my mind is free, audiobooks are perfect. Walking in the park, driving, cleaning the house – why not immerse yourself in a good story while getting things done? Can't do that with your Kindle!

Also, the books I've read in audiobook form somehow feel more real. It's like your favorite childhood stories your parents read to you in bed – you still remember them and they feel special and dear to you. There's just something almost tribal and primal about one human telling a story to another and it feels great.

Now, there are some disadvantages to this type of reading. You lose the opportunity to imagine how the characters sound like, is their voice deep or not, etc. Another thing which I discovered when I started writing reviews was, I didn't know how to spell characters' names or places (that's really awkward with fantasy novels) because I only heard the narrator's pronunciation, which results in me having to constantly look up things online to make sure I'm spelling them correctly.

Wow. You are absolutely right! I never thought about that before, but it would take some research to find out the spelling for the characters' names and such. What's the difference between reviewing an audiobook and reviewing a print book?

Reviewing an audiobook is, in my opinion, reviewing an entirely different work of art from the original. I could read a book in print and rate it as mediocre then listen to it on audio and rave about how awesome it is. They're different reading experiences and as such they have different properties I expect to find. For audiobooks, the narrator in most cases makes or breaks the final result. That's why I make sure to mention how the narrator's performance affected me while listening.

Does a great book always make for a great audiobook?

Well, nobody would want to listen to the Encyclopedia Britannica, right? I think that all fiction and a big portion of the non-fiction books are well suited to be read on audio. Then there are the instances where a great book gets done perfectly as an audiobook and it's just magical. No better word for it.

How do you decide which audiobooks to review?

Well, I review the ones I find interesting. I don't get them just so I can review them – reading comes first, reviewing is second. I usually read the blurb and if it sounds intriguing I'll pick it up. If I'm on the fence I'll look for reviews online and see what others thought of it so I can get a better idea if it's something I'd be into.

In your opinion, what makes for a great audiobook?

Hmm... You can't have a great audiobook without a great story, so that's first and most important. Second is the narrator, of course – his/her tone of voice, ability to convey emotions, genders, accents. As I mentioned, a narrator can make or break a good audiobook experience but ultimately it's a totally subjective thing. This is something I think isn't mentioned enough but all of this falls as a responsibility on the audiobook producer. He has to point the narrator in the right direction, make them pronounce things certain ways and in general help them do their best. So, yeah, the producer is another vital element.

What makes for a not-so-enjoyable audiobook?

Again, this comes down to personal preference but for me the narration could stop me from enjoying an audiobook. The narrator could be reading too fast or too slow, his accent may be too thick and hard to understand. I've given up on audiobooks before just because the narration is annoying me and it feels like I'm wasting my time.

Technical issues like missing chapters or parts of the story are really annoying as well, but that happens very rarely anymore.

Here come the holidays, and people are going crazy thinking about gifts. Do you have some great audiobook recommendations for us?

I like to read various types of books but my absolute favorite is the sci-fi genre and I feel that's where I can give the best recommendation. For younger people or any sci-fi fan really, I recommend the Ender's Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition. I've not listened to it yet but everybody says it's amazing. One of my favorite audiobooks ever is Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi and narrated by Wil Wheaton. It has greedy corporations, lawyers, humor and cute fluffy aliens. Just go check it out, it's awesome! Going for a more cinematic feel or, as their tagline is “A movie in your mind,” try GraphicAudio's Vatta's War series. It's a very high quality production and really entertaining. That's three solid gift ideas for you right there!

I'm not sure if this is a fair question, but I'll ask anyway: What's your favorite audiobook of all time?

Oh, man... That's like asking a mother to pick a favorite child! Well, if I had to choose just one, it would be The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfus. In my mind it's one of the best fantasy stories ever written and the narration is flawless.

Thank you so much for chatting with us and thank you also for giving us writers an insight into the mind of an audiobook reviewer. We wish you much success with 

To contact Mike:

Twitter: @audiobookjungle

To Read Mike's Reviews, including his review of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone:

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at or contact her at:

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit:  http://twilighttimesbooks.comthingsTheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

For a free sample of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, Audible edition, visit:


Mayra Calvani said...

Great interview, guys!

I also LOVE audio books because I can listen while driving, doing housework, walking my dog, etc. And there's something about them that I find deeply inspiring--they make me want to run to the computer and write. So they can be an effective medicine against writer's blog.

Right now I'm listening to "Eat, Pray, Love," "The Power of Now," and I recently listened to Aaron's "Write Like the Wind" book 2 (I LOVED it and plan to review it soon).

If only they weren't so expensive. I think I should become one of those Audible premium members, I have to check what is it they offer.

Keep up the great work, Dora and Mihail!

Mayra Calvani said...

Of course, I mean to say writer's "block" and not "blog" :-)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Wonderful interview, Dora and Michael! In the past few years, I've become totally hooked on audio books. I love walking (3 plus miles every day) with a good story, then continuing the book while I drive to and from work, and then finally, when I go to bed, I listen til I fall asleep. I usually have to "back up" the story in the morning, but it's just so much wonderful...

Mayra, I also become inspired to write by great audio books - I am especially moved by John D. MacDonald's books and Dick Francis's books read by Simon Prebble. Amazing stuff! (and thanks for the mention of my Write Like the Wind book!)

I also agree about the spelling - that's the only thing that drives me crazy, I have to look up the names so in my mind's eye I 'see' them when the narrator is speaking. ;o)

Happy listening!

Unknown said...

You make a great point about audiobooks as a source of inspiration, Mayra. I never made the connection, but you are right! I think audiobooks help my eyes and brain to relax after a long day of writing. Aaron, your obsession is contagious! LOL. I think Mihail brings an awesome perspective to audiobook reviews. From now on, every time I submit an audiobook for review, I also plan to submit a sheet with character names to make it easier for reviewers. Thanks Mihail!