Speaking of Audiobooks: Listening Challenges

A Civil ContractWhen choosing your next audiobook, what are the factors that most influence your decision?  The author is certainly first on the list followed by genre, narrator, affordability, and available formats.  But when we talk about our experiences with audiobooks, what is usually the first point of discussion?  The narrator’s performance.  Ahh, yes – it always seems to come back to the narrator.

During my first years of listening to audiobooks, I deemed numerous narrators as unacceptable for a second listen.  Possibly I didn’t care for their performance of a male or female voice, or maybe their accents irritated me, or even worse, their interpretation of a character did not fit the voice in my head.  With such a vast selection of romance audiobooks at my fingertips, I could be picky about the narrators I chose to grant my time.

Now, with many audiobooks sitting in my “already listened to” category, I’m taking a closer look at those audiobooks I passed up because I judged the narrators less than perfect.  Yes, these narrators didn’t fit my ear exactly in the past but if I worked at it a little and spent time accustoming myself to bothersome performance oddities, could I enjoy those audiobooks as well?

My first attempt to re-listen to a former audiobook failure was Judith Ivory’s Sleeping Beauty – one of my all time favorite historical romances.  In fact I related my thoughts in our first Speaking of Audiobooks column:

Unfortunately, there was no way I could wrap my mind around the nasal, snobby, almost effeminate voice the narrator gave James and the not-so-enjoyable listening session was soon over.

After hearing favorable comments about the narration of Sleeping Beauty from some of our listeners, I determined to give it another try.  My change of attitude coupled with a determination to enjoy the book despite the narrator’s performance of James, made all the difference.  Here are a few of my comments about the experience from a later column:

Oh, I never entirely accepted James’s voice but the overall narration is so entirely pleasing in all other aspects that I found myself a bit swept away.  As audio fans know, effective differentiation between the leads’ voices greatly influences one’s enjoyment of any audiobook and Ms. Primm’s performance of Coco, with a slight French accent, thoroughly distinguished Coco’s voice from that of James.  Yet I was even more impressed with Ms. Primm’s beautiful delivery of the love scenes and in that aspect – she gets an A+!

Georgette Heyer’s books received similar judgments from me.  Those totally correct English accents were just a tad too much for this Midwesterner’s ears.  There are numerous narrators for Heyer’s books but they all seem to have one thing in common – true-to-the-period English accents.  My first determined attempt was Black Sheep and, although it was difficult going in the beginning, I soon discovered the rhythm and enjoyed the actual story line quite a bit.

It’s still a task each time I begin listening to such authentic narrations but my appreciation is growing and I find myself quite thrilled at the increased number of audiobooks now in my future.  For me, it is certainly an acquired taste but one well worth the effort.

Another discovery I’ve made in my audio listening is the possible variation in a particular narrator’s performance from one audiobook to the next.  If I dislike a narrator’s performance in one book, it doesn’t necessarily translate into disliking her performance in another.  Natalie Ross is a perfect example.  My first exposure to Ms. Ross was her narration of Linda Howard’s The Touch of Fire.  Throughout the book I struggled to accept the western twang in the hero’s voice and, in the end, I wondered if I would ever be willing to listen to one of her narrations again.  However, two other Howard audiobooks, Son of the Morning and Kill and Tell, featured Ross as narrator and there was no avoiding giving her another chance.  And boy, am I glad I did.  Both were pure audio hits for me and music to my listening ears.

There is one aspect of audiobook narration however, that rarely finds a fix upon a re-listen.  If the narrator’s understanding of a character’s actions or the overall pacing or direction of the book’s energy differs greatly from my own, a re-listen to better appreciate the narrator is usually a failure.  Julia Gibson’s delivery of What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips easily falls into this category.  I rarely agreed with her timing, the modulation she chose for the leads’ voices, or her interpretation of the hero or heroine.  Irritated and unable to finish the audiobook, I turned to the print version at the halfway point.  Such a letdown cannot be fixed by a new attitude or sheer determination.  But my mind remains open and another of Ms. Gibson’s narrations may prove a success in the future.

By concentrating on the beginning details of a book rather than the narrator’s performance, I do enjoy a greater range of audiobooks.  This also carries with it a sense of maturing in my audio listening skills.  These audiobooks that take more effort to get off the ground usually don’t end up on my absolute favorites list but I do find the ability to push beyond a less than perfect narrator and become lost in an otherwise moving romance quite wonderful at times.

EnvyMy Unofficial Personal Listening Challenge for 2010

It’s late in the year to start a 2010 listening challenge but I’m playing with the idea for our Speaking of Audiobooks listeners in 2011.  My goal is to listen to six audiobooks outside of my usual comfort zone.  As author of this column, I can’t drift too far from the romance genre since I must continually listen to romance (and that’s no chore – believe me) in order to have fresh content twice a month.  So where’s the challenge?

When I took a close look at my audiobook choices, I realized I tend to avoid these categories: romantic suspense, paranormal, mysteries, fantasy, or series (one continuous story line).  In addition, I’ve never listened to a Janet Evanovich and only a little Nora Roberts.  Despite my determination to listen to a number of Georgette Heyer books and become accustomed to those very English accents, I’ve actually only listened to one.  And finally, I don’t listen to abridged romances (although there are a few from years back).  I guess you could say all these categories are personal listening challenges.

So here are a few details of my 2010 listening challenge.  I’ll allow myself some flexibility in case another audiobook in a given category grabs my attention before the year is out.  Most of these choices are based on recommendations from our Speaking of Audiobooks listeners:

1. Romantic Suspense

Envy by Sandra Brown

Narrated by Victor Slezak

I do occasionally listen to romantic suspense (mostly Linda Howard style) but generally I avoid this category as much as possible.  I want the romance front and center rather than the suspense.  I’m really trying to change my outlook and enjoy romantic suspense for what it is supposed to be.

The Secret History2. Mystery with Romantic Elements

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Narrated by Kate Reading

To tell you the truth, I’m not certain this audiobook fits within the description of this category.  AAR categorizes it as romance – so romance it is, but in reading the synopsis it looks as though the mystery is the primary focus.  If you are one who has strongly recommended this series and I’m incorrect on this point, please let me know!

3. Abridged

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Narrated by Richard Armitage

Okay, I’m cheating here.  My first abridged book in five years has such a narrator.  That alone makes me want to listen.

4. Series

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Narrated by Johanna Parker

Countless listeners have raved about the Sookie Stackhouse series so it easily came in first when I started exploring the possibilities.  I’m expecting some great entertainment.

5. Fantasy

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Joyce Bean

Fitting the requirement for series as well, I chose this one primarily based upon my past enjoyment of Moning’s other writings.  Am I shallow in saying that I hope to make it to Book 4 and Phil Gigante’s joint narration with Joyce Bean?

6. In the Name of Mature Audio Listening

A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

Narrated by Phyllida Nash

Although I know I will enjoy Heyer’s books, those old-style English accents keep me from easily choosing one of her books as my next listen.  Just do it!

Time for Your Thoughts

What are your biggest challenges when listening to an audiobook?

Are you able to enjoy a book with a less than perfect narrator?

What aspect of narration makes for a complete loss – one you can’t overlook in an attempt to enjoy the book?

Will you join in this very informal 2010 Listening Challenge?  Is there a particular audiobook (outside your normal fare) that you will pledge to listen to before year end?

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook success of failure to share with us?

Ending Notes

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, please check out our audio archives as well as AAR’s main site for monthly lists of upcoming audiobook releases.

I’ll see you again later this month when we discuss May’s audiobook new releases.

- Lea Hensley

31 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: Listening Challenges”

  1. LinnieGayl says:

    Lea, The Secret of the Pink Carnation is most decidedly romance. There is a small chick lit component that doesn’t get resolved in this book (carries forward through the whole series to date), but the main focus of the book is a European Historical. There are spies, but it’s a romance. (I’m just re-listening to it right now).

  2. Lea AAR says:

    LinnieGayl -Am I incorrect in categorizing Secret/Pink Carn as a Mystery with Romantic Elements? Could it be Romance Mystery or is it just plain European Historical?

  3. Shebbie says:

    Franette Liebow ruined Linda Howard’s “To Die For” for me. I tried several times listening to it but I cannot get past the bad southern accent…I plan on attempting again this summer so I can finally move on to “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (Read by Joyce Bean).
    I also have a hard time listening to Savannah Richards. “The Vampire’s Bride” by Gena Showalter was my first exposure to her Her female characters are fine, it’s the males that I have issues with. They all sound the same…it’s hard to describe. It’s like they have a “sarcastic” tone about them…

  4. Gamatst says:

    Very thought provoking column Lea.

    I will have to listen to some old favorites that irritated me with a different ear and see if they work for just the sheer enjoyment of the story.

    I’ve found I can easily suffer a badly done heroine’s voice but not a badly done heroes? And narrator’s are always worth another try or two with different books/characters.

    But this statement from your column… “If the narrator’s understanding of a character’s actions or the overall pacing or direction of the book’s energy differs greatly from my own.”… is the absolute deal breaker for me. I just can’t take it when the characters don’t match what’s in my head, it ruins the story no matter how good the narrator may be.

    I like your reading challenge idea, I’ll have to give it some thought as I already listen in all the categories you mention. But there are some highly recommended books or narrators that I shy away from.

    My advice on Monings Darkfever is to leave it for one of your last “challenges”! If Barron’s and Mac catch you like they did so many others you’ll be suffering, with the rest of us, with the long wait for the conclusion, supposedly December of this year.

    Monings books are definitely Urban Fantasy, if you want to go with more of a straight fantasy you can’t go wrong with Bujold’s The Sharing Knife series, as has been mentioned numerous times.

    My most recent success after Bujold was the 5th book in the Mercy Thompson series, Silver Borne. Now Patricia Briggs is an author who can make you a UF fan if no one else can!

  5. BevQB says:

    Lea, Joyce Bean narrates only the first 3 KMM Fever books. It is Natalie Ross who shares narration with Phil G. in DREAMFEVER (book 4). And KMM consulted the latter two, even shared a few secrets about her upcoming plans, so they had a better idea how to play the characters. Virtually unheard of in the world of audio books!

    As for Joyce Bean’s narration, well as a Midwesterner like you, I don’t read in accents, so since I was already a huge fan of the Fever series in print (I think DARKFEVER is a master’s level class in the use of 1st person POV), I found Bean’s Southern accent quite jarring, which makes no sense since Mac IS from the South! LOL.

    Now contrast that with Harris’ Southern Vampire series. I read the first book and felt a bit “meh” about it. It just moved too slow for me. However, once I listened to Johanna Parker’s brilliant performance on the audio books, I realized that, because I don’t read in accents, I was missing a good deal– the “Southerness” of the pacing and characters is as important as the story itself.

    It really makes no sense to me. Bean’s “Southerness” distracted me from the audio book, yet Parker’s “Southerness” greatly enhanced the entire experience. Go figure.

    I had a related problem with Barbara Rosenblat. Her performance of Judith Ivory’s THE INDISCRETION was a JOY to listen to and elevated the story. However, I can’t listen to Katie MacAlister’s Aisling Grey series because I think Rosenblat’s voice is completely wrong for the character, too mature.

    Odd how that works, isn’t it? Just like I now choose to listen to British Historical Romances almost exclusively as audio books because I feel the Britsh accents add to the storytelling experience. And yet I cannot stand to listen to Western romances (historical or contemporaries) because the accents sound so… well, FAKE to me. Seriously, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    So there’s my challenge… can someone rec a Western Romance with a narration I will actually like? Not just tolerate, mind you, I mean actually LIKE because the narration/performance elevates the story?

  6. Laine says:

    I have an Audible account and buy audiobooks for both myself and my husband. I put them all on my Creative Zen and his ipod.

    So far I’ve listened to some of his choices but I’m not doing so well with getting him listening to mine.

    He likes J. D. Robb and tolerated Bujold’s The Sharing Knife but I’ve got Buckley’s getting him to listen to Georgette Heyer.

    Still, sharing like this exposes me to a wider range of books. I didn’t finish reading Elizabeth Moon’s Paks trilogy … but I may get around to listening to it. (Husband’s choice.)

  7. Lea AAR says:

    Shebbie – I must agree about Franette Liebow’s narration of To Die For. The book itself ranks in my top ten favorite contemporaries but the audiobook is another issue. I relistened to it (after barely making it through the audiobook first time around) and did find it more acceptable but this is one book I prefer to read rather than listen to. Its sequel, Drop Dead Gorgeous, is easier listening and last time around, I read To Die For and then listened to Drop Dead Gorgeous.

    GamaTST – I’m new to this whole challenge thing. My challenge is to listen to ANY audiobook you may usually avoid. As you can see, there is a lot of unexplored territory for me within the romance category alone.

    And I’m currently listening to The Sharing Knife so I guess my fantasy challenge is on its way to being fulfilled. But I’ll still listen to Moning’s Fever series – especially with comments like yours. Thanks!

    BevQB – Thanks for the correction about J Bean. I prefer Ross anyway! And I had no idea about KMM consulting with the narrators for Book 4 – now I have to make it all the way through the series.

    I’m actually at the airport in Phoenix and getting ready to board a flight home. I’ll be thinking about that Western recommendation. I know I have at least a couple for you. And I’m sure others do as well.

    Laine – keep talking and let us know what you have listened to that you really enjoyed and we’ll point you to more we think you’ll enjoy.

  8. Claire says:

    Lea, I’m dying to know what you think of Sylvester read by Richard Armitage. Can you post what you think on the board somewhere when you’re done with it? I’d like to hear any and all opinions on it! I love that man’s voice! A friend is going to let me borrow her copy soon so hopefully we can compare notes. My first official audiobook.

  9. LinnieGayl says:

    Lea, the Pink Carnation series sort of defies categorization. I definitely wouldn’t classify the series as mysteries, though (I read lots of mysteries). There is a recurring chick lit theme throughout the series, set in modern-day London, as an American PhD student is researching the Pink Carnation, and gets to know, and eventually becomes involved with, a yummy Brit.

    In addition, each book features a stand-alone European Historical romance. While there are spies, and a bit of a mystery in the historical portion, it would be no more appropriate to term them mysteries than to term any other European Historical romance with spies a mystery.

  10. kathy says:

    Lea I think you’re going to be very glad you started listening to the Carnation series. It’s very romantic and Kate R. is a GREAT narrator.

  11. kathy says:

    I am way too quick with that submit button. I also wanted to say I listened to “The Bride” by Julie Garwood read by Rosalyn Landor and was really dissapointed. I love Garwood’s historicals. I laugh so hard I wet my pants but there was none of that with the audio version. I really hope this isn’t true with the rest of her historicals. I’ll keep trying.p.s. I get excited whenever I see this column.

  12. Diane says:

    Good column. I already listen to many different genres so that wouldn’t really be a challenge for me. I totally refuse to buy abridged books and I don’t know anybody who does buy them. I have listened to them way back in the past though. As far as narrators go I seem to be able to tolerate most without too much trouble. The one who irritates me the most is Richard Ferrone doing some of Christine Feehan’s Dark series books. His voice is gravelly and his pronunciations are so way off on some things BUT I still manage to make myself listen to them. I’ve had issues with others but never bad enough to keep me from listening to them.
    Lea, Linnea Sinclair announced on her yahoo group today that her “Dock Five” books will be released through Audible on July 6th.

  13. Lea AAR says:

    Claire – I’ll be sure to let you know how Heyer’s Sylvester plays out for me. Abridged audiobooks (versus full length unabridged) are not my thing but I’m looking forward to this one.

    And it looks like the Pink Carnation series is not a Mystery with Romantic Elements. See how much I learn from you all?!! So, I think I’ll move Bujold’s The Sharing Knife into the Fantasy challenge and Darkfever into a new challenge category – Urban Fantasy. I’ll listen to Willig’s Pink Carnation series as general romance (no challenge involved).

    Kathy – I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking the audio version of Garwood’s The Bride was disappointing. It is one wherein the characters playing in my head (from reading the print version) and the timing of the delivery failed to bring the laughs I too clearly recall from the print version.

    Diane – now see, you have the type of listening skills I want!

    Now that I’m back home, I’ll look for those western recommendations for BevQB.

  14. BevQB says:

    Diane, hang in there with the Feehan audio books. Not only does she reinvigorate the series with new storylines, but Phil Gigante and Jane Brown take over as dual narrators beginning with book 18, Dark Possession. He does all the male voices, she does all the female. The only problem is that they apparently weren’t given any background on the older characters so they had no way to know which ones didn’t have Carpathian origins. Nonetheless, this has become my favorite format for listening to audio books.

    Actually, anyone could probably jump ahead or jump into this series with book 19, Dark Curse, because it really gets the new storylines rolling and introduces a new character, Lara, to most of the previous couples and the Carpathian history. I don’t think a new reader would be lost at all.

    Quote Kathy: “p.s. I get excited whenever I see this column.”
    LOL, me too! Just try and find Romance audio book discussions at the oh-so-serious audio book sites. Geez, even the people at Audible kind of treat them as a dirty little secret.

    Oh, and Lea? Bring ‘em on, girlfriend!

  15. katyco says:

    Lea – I know what you mean about Julia Gibson. I could not finish What I Did For Love, but she was nearly perfect in the Lily Bard series by Charlaine Harris. Although not actually a romance, it’s a great mystery series with some romance in it.

    Some Georgette Hyer audio books I’ve had a little trouble getting into, but Cotillion had me from the first. I loved it.

    One narrator I have trouble with is Anne Flosnik. I liked her fine in the Mary Balogh books she has narrated but couldn’t listen to the Amanda Quick narrations. She’s very talented but sometimes she sounds like Daphne on Frasier. Right now I’m listening to Untamed by Elizabeth Lowell and I’m barely getting through it. I don’t know if it’s the story or the narrator (Anne Flosnik).

    As always, I love to read everyone’s ideas and suggestions.

  16. Diane says:

    BevQB – yeah, I’ve got all of Feehan’s Dark series on audio. I usually do a re-listen to them all before the new book comes out. I love Phil Gigante and Jane Brown’s narration. And yes I agree that they should have been given some direction on where the characters from the earlier books came from but that’s the only quibble I have with them.

    On Anne Flosnik, I thought she did a very good job on the Kushiel books. I got so used to her voice that I’m having a bit of trouble with Simon Vance doing the last three books. Not so much that I can’t continue listening though.

    Lea – I have a mystery type suggestion for you. I don’t remember if it’s been mentioned before but have you tried Arianna Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death? It is set during the time of King Henry I, if I remember correctly. He asks the ruler of Italy to send his “master” of death to him to help find out why a village’s children are dying. There is a bit of a romance but it’s not the story. There are three books in the series so far and I’m really enjoying them.

  17. Anne Stuart says:

    I’ve been devouring the SEP books but WHAT I DID FOR LOVE has stopped me cold. Maybe it’s the narrator. I’ll try it in print.
    The only abridged books I’ve listened to are my own, and it’s really really weird. They move stuff around, cut out subplots and entire characters, and the end result feels very flat. At least to me.
    However, Richard Armitage is tempting.
    The reader for THE RELUCTANT WIDOW by Heyer is terrible. It’s one of my favorite books, but she misses the heroine’s voice entirely. The heroine is amusingly sarcastic, but the reader makes her sound like a total whiner. Such a shame, too, because I adore that book.
    I do love Rosalyn Landor’s version of the first two Lisa Kleypas historicals. I don’t tend to like American heroes in British romances (THE INDISCRETION being the only one) so I can’t tell if that’s why the third fails for me.

  18. Lea AAR says:

    BevBQ – I see what you mean about Western audiobooks with tolerable accents. There aren’t many (from my previous audio listening) now that I take the time to look. Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series is not for the faint of heart (big time alpha rude males) but I did listen to three of the first four despite the less-than-adequate narrator, Richard Ferrone. I can’t recommend this series in audio.

    Here are a few that worked for me with average narration:

    Elizabeth Lowell’s Winter Fire (loved this one in print) – Performed by Vanessa Hart

    Angel Creek by Linda Howard – Performed by Natalie Ross

    Reckless Love by Elizabeth Lowell – Performed by Laural Merlington

    I love Western romances and I’m starting a search for some decent audio versions – now.

    I tried posting this earlier today but accessing the blog was difficult for a while.

  19. Lea AAR says:

    katyco – Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed made such an impression on me when I read it some years ago. On my personal review log, I not only rated it an A+ but I wrote “Yea!!!” beside the grade. Very excited to see it released on audio in 2008, I immediately purchased it and started listening. Wow, was I disappointed. It may have been the fact that I’d grown as a reader in the 7 years since that first read but I think it was mostly due to the narration. I did not see this story or the characters as read.

    Diane – thanks for the mystery recommendation. I don’t recall it being mentioned previously but you’ve sparked my interest and it looks as though I finally have a Mystery with Romance Elements challenge!

    Anne – So glad you are enjoying the SEP audiobooks. Unfortunately, What I Did for Love didn’t improve greatly once I switched to print but I still enjoyed it much more since I could place my own interpretation on characters.
    And I’ve kept all your Heyer recommendations from months ago and using it as a sort of beginning guide.

  20. Diana says:

    Lea, I really hope you like Envy – since I pushed it on you so hard. It’s the first audiobook I absolutely loved. I listened to wobbly library cassettes and thought hey, maybe I should look into buying some of these.

    A challenge for me will be trying Heyer and it may as well be Armitage. Confessing that I’ve tried reading Heyer and…no go.

  21. BevQB says:

    Thanks Lea, I’ve placed those 3 recs on my Audible wish list. Although I have to admit that I’m not too sure about Reckless Love. Oh, not because of the author (love Elizabeth Lowell, I just wish she’d come back to *US*, although I agree about the Only series) or the story, but because of the narrator. Now don’t get me wrong, Laural Merlington is VERY good, maybe TOO good. My problem with her (and it’s definitely MY problem) is that I identify her voice so strongly as LKH’s Merry Gentry (she’s perfect for MG) that I have a terrible time listening to her narrate any other books. My poor old swiss-cheesy brain keeps trying to insert Merry Gentry into other author’s stories! LOL, am I the only one that has idiosyncrasies like that?

  22. Diane says:

    Good question Bev. I haven’t had your exact problem but I do have problems when there are more than one narrator to a series. I love the male/female combo. My problem is when one person starts the series and then they bring in a new person to do more or the rest. I get used to the way the first person reads and then it takes me a good bit to get used to the second, third, etc. (however many it takes to finish the series). I think they should stick with the first person or couple who starts the series. It drives me nuts to have to adjust to someone new every few books or so.

  23. Gamatst says:

    Lea I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Beguiled. I know it’s a book I would have struggled to read, yet the narrator sucked me into that world so easily and I couldn’t get enough.

    katyco, Yesterday I started listening to the first Lily Bard, Shakesperes Landlord, after seeing you mention it here more than once. I agree that Julia Gibson does an excellent job. Thanks :)

    BevQB, I agree about skipping around with Feehan’s Carpathian’s once you have the basic idea of their “world” down. Both of my audio favorites are short stories because of the excellent narrations. Dark Descent and Dark Dream. I’m looking forward to Dark Curse when I get to it.

    I know what you mean about the same narrator for different series of books. I was afraid that after hearing Lorelie King as Stephanie Plum for so many years that she wouldn’t work for me with Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series. But it has worked out well, for one thing the story lines are so different that my attention is totally caught up in Mercy’s world, so I rarely think, hey, is that Joe Morellie’s voice? when I hear a similar tone. :)

    It also helps if I don’t listen to the same narrator doing another book with a different set of people too close together.

    I’ve decided what my 2010 challenges shall be:

    I’m going to allow Dark Lover, the first of the BDB books, to be “read” to me instead of preformed. I didn’t make it past the first chapter last year. I’ll force myself to finish it (I do really like the story) this time and see if that style of narration will ever work for me.

    I’m going to try Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Straight UF with, “ack”, no romance angles. I’ve heard great things about the author and James Marsters, as the narrator.

    And I’m going to commit to (isn’t it 36 hours?) Outlander and Davina Porter once and for all before the year is up.

  24. Lea AAR says:

    Diana – My husband listened to Envy (based upon your recommendation) and considered it a definite audio success. It will be interesting to see if we can start sharing a few books (we hardly ever listen to the same books). I then felt confident in recommending one of the Karen Rose books you mentioned and he has purchased it as well.

    BevQB – I have the same sort of problem with narrator Barbara Leigh-Hunt. She played Lady Catherine DeBourgh in the A & E version of Pride and Prejudice (which I’ve watched at least 20 times) and when one of her characters gets angry, she sounds exactly like Lady Catherine telling Lizzie off in the park. Talk about hard to focus on the book and not the memories!

    Gamatst – The first volume of The Sharing Knife is going very well. I’m really drawn to both of the lead characters and understanding the world they live in quite easily. I’m so glad so many heartily recommended this.

    And yea! on the Outlander decision. I will also add that I recently listened to the “reading” of Lover Awakened and it worked totally for me. I’ll have my review in our next column. I now plan to listen to all of the BDB books.

  25. Diana says:

    Lea, oh good! You and your husband might like Ricochet (Dennis Boutsikaris), Smoke Screen and Play Dirty (Slezak). They’re mystery/police procedural. Sandra Brown’s recent books are exceptionally well done. She’s a favorite mystery writer for me even though I didn’t like her category romances.

  26. Libby Emond says:

    If you want a historical romance in audiobook format that, in my opinion, is the absolute best, then Notorious by Katherine Sutcliffe and narrated by Josephine Bailey. The narration is, without a doubt amazing. Josephine Bailey, a Briitish actress, can literaly play a crowd of characters without a pause, and you can distinguish each character without being told who is who. If she could read all historical romances, I would be thrilled. Another of her’s that is outstanding is Pride and Predjudice. Her narration is clear, and you can understand every spoken word, unlike other British narrators.

    Then, for the best contemporary romance narration, Shem Creek, by Dorthea Benton Frank, and narrated by Sandra Burr and Dick Hill. They are completely adorable, believable and amazingly talented.

  27. Lea AAR says:

    Libby – Thanks for the Notorious recommendation. I’ve been on the fence about this one but I hadn’t realized it was narrated by Josephine Bailey! Bailey also narrates Dream of Me by Josie Litton and I consider it one of the best narrated romances out there. So, Notorious has been placed on my Wish List at Audible and I’m now waiting for my next month’s credits!

  28. The Imp says:

    I was spoiled in that my first audio book was Dark Lover (JR Ward), read by Jim Frangione, who IMO has the best delivery ever. Everyone else has a high bar to reach there!

    So far there’s only one book I haven’t been able to get through. Suz Brockmann’s Unsung Hero (which was GREAT in print) is read by William Dufris and I just can NOT get into how he portrays the characters. The voices are too extreme, I think.

    Oh, and Joyce Bean did a good job with Darkfever. I have a harder time with female narrators for some reason, and I was leery at first, but once I let myself just go with this I was quite pleased.

  29. audiobook says:

    is a very dependable website.
    AudioBook to MP3 Converter for mac is a powerful AudioBook Converter that allows

    you to convert audio books into any format supported by iTunes, including MP3, for playback on any MP3 player.

  30. Lea AAR says:

    The Imp – glad to hear about Darkfever. Right now I’m listening to Brockmann’s Out of Control and loving every minute.

  31. delmartian says:

    My favorite female narrators are Rosalyn Landor and Jenny Sterlin. They are amazing. Rosalyn Landor really shines in the Hathaway series of Lisa Kleypas. She does such a great job I can’t tell it’s a woman reading a man’s part. Jenny Sterlin is also just as good. Listen to The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn. It’s funny and touching and so well read you really just get sucked into the story. You don’t even notice the narrator. Jenny Sterlin is just that good!