Nigel Planer – Narrator

Nigel Planer – Bio

Born February 22, 1953

Westminster, UK

English actor, comedian, novelist, and playwright.  

Best known for his role as Neil in the BBC TV show The Young Ones.

Wife, Roberta and 2 sons Stanley and Harvey.

Nigel has professed in interviews that he gets bored easily.  I think that aspect of his character is definitely part of what makes him such a great Narrator.

I found Nigel through the works of Terry Pratchett.  As listed in my Special Mention post for Terry, one of my all time favorite authors.

Nigel’s narration is outstanding.  Currently he is in my top 5 of the absolute BEST narrators out there.  No joke!

Nigel can take multiple characters, from broadly separated backgrounds, and turn them into strong, interesting, and completely separate  individuals.

I get caught up in the stories because of his narration and credible characters, and the books are never the same.  They’re so much better!

A great surprise for me, in researching more of Nigel’s narrated products, I have found some Terry Pratchett books that I will definitely have to track down.  Yeah!

The down-side for you is that it will take a long time to listen to every one of the many books narrated by Nigel.  The up-side is that you won’t be bored for a long, long time to come:)

I would place Nigel as a 4 in my 1-4 Narrator rating, which puts him in my current top 10!

If you like Fantasy Fiction, and you haven’t given Nigel a try, my recommendation is that you shouldn’t let this truly exceptional talent pass you by.

From my library to yours, Happy Listening!


Quaker Cafe – book review

Author – Brenda Bevan Remmes

Narrator – Bahni Turpin

Book review –  

Liz Hoole married into a Quaker family 25 years ago.  While being more of a free-spirited liberal from the Midwest, she has learned to respect the Quaker lifestyle even if she doesn’t always agree with it.  

While preparing to run for public office and her son’s upcoming wedding, Liz doesn’t know how challenging this year will be not only to her, but to her family and the entire community.  

The underlying message to this story is that secrets are harmful and affect more than you realize, but don’t have to be the end of the story.

The struggle to understand and respect other points of view than what you feel.  How hard it is to keep a secret that isn’t yours to share, especially when the knowledge might help to save a life.  Liz is told a huge secret from someone that she has grown to respect greatly.  And it’s not a happy secret… not a surprise there.  But it’s a secret that has been part of a long standing injustice in the community, and which has continued to keep the community divided.  

As bad as the secret is, coming out 56 years later will wound countless members of the community in untold ways, but its time has come.  For better or worse, it’s time for the truth to come out, and Liz and others are determined to minimize the damage when it does. And to save the community they all love.

My first book from Narrator Bahni Turpin, I was pleasantly surprised.  There are some totally stellar character performances here.  Overall a great performance.  Having lived in the South myself, I found Bahni’s Southern accent to be very nicely done.   

Especially her portrayal of Reverend Brodnax of the Jerusalum Baptist Church. Her performance of Maggie, one of Liz’s best friends who contracts cancer, and Maggie’s struggle to try to defeat the cancer with the help of Liz and other friends is endearing and a bit heart wrenching.  

I would classify this as a drama, but it’s noted as Women’s Fiction which I found quite interesting because I didn’t know we had our own fiction:)

I found this story interesting on several levels.  One, as a look into the Quaker way of life, which although much more restrictive than what we are typically used to in this day and age, has many positive qualities and practices.  

Secondly, how life changing mistakes and misunderstandings  can happen when people are too quick to make judgements, assign blame, and try to seek retribution.  And how they can compound over time.

Thirdly, how people are ALL flawed, even those we respect.  Anyone can make choices that later become regrets.  And how support, and the right perspective can take a negative situation, and turn it into a positive future.  

The book is well written and the story engaging.  I did find that there were moments when the story lagged a bit for me (maybe that’s where the Women’s Fiction comes in), but Bahni’s narration carried me forward until I felt engaged again.  I highly recommend this book both for the classic writing and the intuitive narration.  

If this style of work interests you, you should really give this one a try.

And as always, from my ears to yours, Happy Listening!  

I’m Not Lonely if You’re Reading This Book – book review


Bare Bones – I’m not lonely if you’re reading this book – 2016

Written and Narrated by Bobby Bones

I have been a Bobby Bones Show radio listener for years now.  I love the show, and I love the team, but mostly I love the family dynamic of the show.  They are not perfect, but still family.  In other words….real.

In this Autobiography by Bobby, there are few true secrets revealed since most of Bobby’s life has been covered publicly on his radio show over the years, due to two of the popular appeals of the show, authenticity and openness.

However, it is nice to get a condensed, yet more detailed version of Bobby’s story all in one shot as it were.  To hear about the influences in his life, and to see that you don’t have to be someone’s parent to make a difference.

Another appeal of the show is the connection that most listeners have with Bobby’s struggles.  We have all felt that we don’t belong at times.  Most of us, most people in general, have experienced loneliness at times.  And many of us feel broken in some way, yet we still carry on with our lives and our days, trying not to be consumed by what we feel we are lacking.

That is why I am inspired by the time and effort that Bobby has attempted, through years of therapy, to understand the reasons behind his emotional difficulties.  His efforts to learn how to have a healthy and secure relationship that will last, and not let his past decide his future.  

I admire the work that has gone into being the best that he can be, and knowing that it will be an ongoing process.

I also agree with Bobby’s belief that great things can happen given the right effort and respect, or in Bobby’s terms ‘ be reliable and on time’.  

I have often found it funny that in a time when jobs can be hard to find, basic courtesies can be so scarce and the idea of being ‘on time’ can truly distance a prospect from the rest of the pack of hopeful candidates.  Why is this such a mystery to so many?

If you have a passion, you should follow it.  That’s what Bobby did.  He knew from an early age what he wanted to do, and by showing up regularly and on time, he was able to get into radio without any formal training.   Then he kept the momentum going by focusing on what he loved and continuing to learn more and more of his chosen craft.

There were bad decisions made along the way.  Mistakes made that most of us can relate to in our own fashion.  Yet learning from our mistakes is another way in which we grow.  

It’s not the mistakes we make, it’s our response that makes the difference in who we become.  

I really enjoyed Bare Bones.  So, if you are a fan of the show, give it a try.  Or if you just like autobiographies, give it a try and maybe you will become a fan of the show as well. Either way, I think you will enjoy it.  

And in the words of Bobby, ‘every day that I’m moving forward, is a day that I’m not moving backward’.  So keep moving forward (also from the Robinson’s), and whatever your listening choice, from my ears to yours…Happy Listening!

Echoes of Betrayal – book review

Echoes of Betrayal

By Elizabeth Moon

Narrated by Jennifer VanDyck

I am always in for an Elizabeth Moon book, especially in the Pakesenarion series, so this was a real treat for me.  

I read the first 3 book series many years ago, so when I found out that Elizabeth had written 3 more from the same realm after such a long hiatus, I was so excited to give them a try.  

I love that she has taken supporting characters from the original series and expanded on their stories.  

In particular I really enjoyed learning about Dorrin, and following her story as she takes over the Verrakai family and battles to destroy the last of the evil Magelords that have given her bloodline a bad reputation.

As an unmarried woman, and previous mercenary with new-found forbidden magic, she fights to dissolve the fear and prejudices that surround her, and prove her loyalty to the crown.

While young King Mikeli fights to keep his kingdom’s peace as doubts are raised about his lineage and claim to the throne when magic is found in his cousin Becklan.

We see more of King Kieri, including his struggles with elves and the suspicious behaviour of the Lady of the Ladysforest.  His wedding to half-elven Arian, war with Pargon, and warnings from the spirits of his ancestors of treachery yet to come.

As usual, Elizabeth’s story telling combined with Jennifer VanDyck’s talented and compelling narration combine for the perfect mix in audio books.  

Great characters, surmounting terrific and sometimes terrifying challenges, all delivered through superb narration.  Everything you could want and more.

Jennifer VanDyck – Narrator

Jennifer Van Dyck – Bio

Born December 23, 1962 in Scotland

Actress and Narrator, also known as Jennifer Van Dyke

Graduated from Brown University with a double major in Religious Studies and Theatre Arts.

Recipient of three Audiofile Magazine Earphones Awards

Jennifer Van Dyck, also known as Jennifer Van Dyke has hundreds of audio books to her credit.  Another prolific female narrator, Jennifer is probably better known for her acting.  On television, Broadway, and in movies she has performed in various avenues.

She has narrated radio plays for the BBC, and documentaries for PBS.  She received’s Best of 2013, for her narration on ‘Notes from No Man’s Land’ by Eula Biss.

Some books narrated by Jennifer that I have listened to are;

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, Oath of Gold, and Echoes of Betrayal  – all by Elizabeth Moon.

Elizabeth’s writing is always stellar, and Jennifer really brings her characters to life.  Her narration is clear and clean, and her character development is inspiring.

She personifies everything you want in great narration.  She is consistent with her voices, and easy on the ears.

I’ve listened to each of the above books multiple times, and each time reminds me how much I enjoy them.  If you haven’t listened to Jennifer’s work, give it a try.

So keep reading, keep listening, and always keep learning.  And spread the good word to others:)

Special Mention – Anne McCaffrey – Author

Anne Inez McCaffrey, born April 1st 1926 in Cambridge Massachusetts, died November 21st 2011 in her home, Dragonhold, in Ireland.  She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award, and the first to receive the Nebula Award.  Inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.  The White Dragon, published in 1978, was one of the first science fiction novels to appear on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Here is just a sample of the Anne McCaffrey books that I have in my library. Primarily from the Dragonriders of Pern series.  I believe I have read or heard all in this series over the years.  I have read many of her other works outside of the Pern sets as well.  Several from the Crystal Singer series, and several of her short stories.  And still there are so many more to go!

Bookshelf with books
Sample of Anne McCaffrey books

mccaff3-1  mccaff4

I was introduced to Anne McCaffrey’s work one summer when I was about 12 I believe.  (It might have been 13.)  My first book was Dragonsong.  Of course that’s not the first one in the series, but it was the beginning for me to Anne’s work, as well as a beginning into the fantasy fiction realm.  And I have been hooked ever since!

I used to re-read her books (those that I owned anyway) about every 2 years.  And then I found audio books and I started all over again.  There have been new books to add to the family as the years have passed, including new books preceding the original ones.

DragonsDawn for example goes back to the first settlers on Pern, and the original creation of the great dragons, but the book itself wasn’t published until 1989.  That was about 10 years after I had read Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and A White Dragon!

I saw an interview with Stephen King where he said that for him the stories come and they have to be told (or something like that).  It wasn’t as if he sat down and had to fight writer’s block to come up with something.  Rather he would get ideas that would simmer in his mind, often mingling with other ideas until a story developed that pretty much wrote itself.

From the interviews that I heard with Anne, it appears that it was very similar for her.  The stories just tumbled out.  Of course the hard part was making sure that the timelines, and specifics remained consistent, but she had a lot of help with that.

She surrounded herself with family, friends, and fans who helped to keep the details accurate.  I guess most prolific writers can be summarized as being ‘big picture’ people who can soar when they have detail driven people to keep them tethered to the ground.  Funny!  I’m claiming that as an original quote unless someone wants to prove me wrong:)

Anyway, Anne McCaffrey has always been one of my favorite authors, and I will continue to enjoy her life’s work for many years to come if I am that lucky.

Anne’s son Todd co-wrote with Anne on the Pern series before her death, and here Todd McCaffrey talks about Anne at the San Diego Comic Con.

Thank you Anne for leaving us such beautiful stories!

Blind Descent by James Tabor, audio book review


Blind Descent by James Tabor, narrated by Don Leslie, is a non-fiction work about the search for the deepest cave in the world.  The book follows two very different extreme cavers and their teams in their search to surpass the known world record.

Bill Stone is an American caver and engineer whose primary work, hopes, and dreams were on Cheve cave in South Mexico.  And Alexander Klimchouk, a Ukrainian caver and scientist had his sights set on Krubera in the Arabika Massif, Georgia(near Turkey).

Both men caught the caving bug early on during their teens.  Both make sure that cave explorations continue to be a part of their life throughout their lives.  Both are extremely different in personality, perceptions and practices.

I read some of the reviews of this book and it seems that most people really enjoyed it.  The writing, the subject matter, and the narration.  Yet there are some scathing reviewers, who found the writing trite and the narration raspy.

For my part, I really enjoyed the audio book.  This is the second time that I listened to it.  If I really like a book, I tend to listen to it at least twice, because I always find I pick up something on the second reading that I missed on the first.

I found the writing intelligent and the subject fascinating.  Getting to know the personalities that drive these deep explorations.  Visualizing all the work that goes into preparing for them, and the dangers and hardships that deep cavers experience.

I’ve always been a bit of an explorer myself.  Hiking mountains, wading through streams, following the smallest animal trails.  Yet this long term exploration is beyond anything that I’ve ever imagined.

Just the thought of being underground for weeks at a time, for long periods without any source of light, and nothing but tons of rock between you and the sky.  Often times cold and wet for days on end, and hoping that you don’t fall off a cliff while trying to save your batteries!

I admire those who have the curiosity and drive to make such efforts for science, or just the challenge itself.  I enjoyed the audio book very much and I would recommend it to anyone whose interests lie in true life adventure stories, or scientific exploration.

If you have suggestions for truly stellar non-fiction audio books, please let me know by leaving a comment (see the link to the left of the page, or the comment section below).  And as always, Happy Listening!

Check out the links below for more detail on Alexander Klimchouk, and Bill Stone.

Out sick, what a bummer!

sick, in bed,
Sick in Bed

I was recently sick with the flu.  You know when you are sick, truly sick where everything aches and it seems like you will never feel good again?  Yeah, it was that kind of sick.  I rarely get sick like that.  There are few things that can help in those situations, but my favorite audio books helped me make it through.

There are books that you read once, and there are books that you can listen to over and over again. For me, that would be anything by Terry Pratchett and any of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Also Elizabeth Moon, the Paksenarion series.  What I would call Comfort books.  When your head feels like it’s going to explode and you can’t bear the light, it can help to have something to focus the mind on.

That’s another one of the many reasons that I love audio books.  There is rarely a time when an audio book doesn’t make my life brighter.  If I’m cleaning house, it makes the work go that much faster.  When I’m at work in our busy office, it helps to block out all the noise and distractions from the other cubicles.  Working in the yard?  Yep, it helps there too (except when running power tools where I can’t hear anything).  Taking a shower, getting ready for work, going grocery shopping (one of my least favorite errands!).  All of these are better, easier, more enjoyable when I have my audio books with me.

For me, anything that I am doing alone, I can do better with audio books along for the ride.  The only thing that I don’t do, or enjoy more with audio books is having a conversation with another person.  When my kids come in and they really want to talk, I pause my audio and give them my attention.  When you really want to connect with someone, you need to give them your full focus.  The audio book will be there when you get back, but some conversations only come around once, especially when you are dealing with children.

For everything else, I would rather be connected and listening!  So the next time I am out sick, I know my friends will keep me company.  Although I seriously hope that isn’t anytime soon.  Well, I better get back to the research because I am way behind!  I am sorry for that, but as they say ‘ Life Happens’.

Hoping you all are well, and Listening.

Take care always:)


Sally Darling – Narrator

Sally Darling – Bio

Narrator, Actress, Director, Coach, and Cabaret Performer

Over 250 Fiction and Non-Fiction books

Winner of the 2016 MAC Hanson Award (cabaret)
When I found audio books and my passion for them around 2007, one of the first book series that I had to find was Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums set.  And that is how I was introduced to Sally Darling.

(I found this GREAT YouTube review (below) of the 3 book series if you would like more detail on the actual books.  Of course, for our purposes, we are focusing on the audio portion here at NarrationZone, but this is a great book review of the full 3-book series, so check it out!)

I remember reading this series as a pre-teen (wow) many years ago.  The Dragonriders of Pern series continued after Anne’s passing in 2011, with her son Todd carrying on her work. Sally does a beautiful job on this 3-book set in the series.

Her portrayal of this set seems to show a sensitivity to the characters that invokes images in my mind of sitting around the kitchen table in long conversations with Anne.  In reading about Anne over the years, I know that she was a very social person.  Often having friends over, other authors, fans, friends of her children, to discuss books and stories.  Getting their input and views on her works and other books that caught her fancy.  I can picture Anne and Sally doing the same.

Of course, it probably didn’t happen anything like that.  There were probably emails and maybe some phone conversations, but it’s not likely that Sally went all the way to Ireland prior to completing the projects.  Still, I like to imagine that it could have been like that.

I can’t say that I’m into the Cabaret aspect of Sally’s work.  She is obviously very good at it and I do find it interesting, but not as fascinating as other art forms. I can say that I see Sally as an accomplished narrator, with an impressive line of works.  I mean, think about it.  Over 250 narrated works!  That’s awesome!

So many to choose from, and too many to list here.  However, you can see below for just a small listing of some of the narrated works that are available for your listening pleasure.  I hope that you enjoy them.

If you have a favorite Sally Darling narrated work, please feel free to list it in the comments below.

Happy Listening!

Continue reading “Sally Darling – Narrator”

Kindle Unlimited Audio Book System Review

So I signed up with Kindle’s Unlimited program this week, and I have to say that I am very disappointed.  The premise is that you pay a monthly fee ($10) and you get unlimited access to borrow ebooks and audio books.  You can have any 10 out at any time.

What they don’t explain up front this that you have to pay more to add the audio narration to most of the books offered.  Ok, that could still be a savings over buying the audio books from the standard audio sites, but the additional costs could add up quickly if you use it much.  Also the ‘Unlimited’ library of books is much smaller than they led me to believe.  I didn’t find much in the way of ‘current’ works available either.

Ok, so maybe that could still work out depending on what you are looking for.  There are still a LOT of great books out that that were written/recorded years ago after all.  But when I searched for older works that I knew to be exceptional and plentiful, I found nothing available to me in the program.  When I searched for authors or narrators that I like, I found the books available for purchase, but NOT available on Kindle Unlimited. Not cool!

I’m always trying to look at the bright side of things, so I figure surely I can still find good authors and narrators. But, I found the narration setup very awkward and difficult to work with too.  I DO like that the narration is complemented on the ebook with a read-along highlighting feature.  If you are the type of person who likes to follow along in the book as the narration plays, you might really like this setup.  And I’m ok with that part.  I can take it or leave it.  Sometimes I followed along in the book, and other times I just listened to the narration.

What I found most annoying was the way the narration kept skipping back, multiple chapters at times.  I would be listening along, and I would think ‘we already went over that part’.  So I would take a look and sure enough the book had skipped back again.  This happened multiple times to me, and even at times when the device I was using (my phone for this first one) was totally hands free.  So it’s not like I could have touched a button or something.

I’m really disappointed in the mis-representation of the service, and especially in the difficulties experienced using it.  I’m sure if you are really into reading ebooks and they don’t have to be current releases, you could find this service perfect for your needs.  It’s still reasonable in pricing if you read a lot, and don’t want to keep your books as this is a borrowing service.  You don’t get to keep the books.

I’m not finding it works very well for my needs.  I still have 3 weeks on my ‘trial’ period, but I’m not sure that I will make it that far.  It’s just more hassle than I think I have the time to mess with.  I will amend this review if I find my first representation to have been an anomaly.

If you are a member of any audio book services (Audible excluded as I am already a member, also the Public Library as I am a total fan and patron there), that you find either very economical, easy to use, exceptional on availability, quality, etc.  Anything that you would like to give a shout-out or a high-five about, please note it in the comments below.  Thank you.

And as always, Happy Listening!

Update on Kindle Unlimited – So I realized that the audio side of the ebooks on the Unlimited program get saved to the Audible app as well as the Kindle app.  If you listen to the audio on the Audible app, it works fine.  If you listen to it on the Kindle app, it has problems.

I still think the ‘Unlimited’ title is very misleading, especially since the number of new/current books offered is very ‘limited’ indeed.  There should be more current releases available for this program to live up to it’s name.

However, since I now have a good working audio platform, I will continue with the program a while longer to see if I can still find value enough to keep the subscription.

If you have questions or comments, please let me know.

Thank you, and Happy Listening!