Speaking of Audiobooks: Challenges, Bookshelves, and the Like

booksOver the past months, our discussions have included a good bit of brainstorming on additional audiobook features we, as listeners, would enjoy here at AAR.  Today we’re continuing that discussion by zeroing in on a 2011 Listening Challenge and the idea of creating personal audio bookshelves to share with one another (virtual bookshelves).

But first…

An Update on AAR’s Audiobook Features

Our requests for more audiobook features here at AAR have been heard and embraced by our management.  I can’t disclose the details at this time but it does look as though a few of the most requested items in our recent discussions may soon be a reality at AAR.  Yes, I’m quite excited!

Listening Challenges

We are in the planning stages of a Speaking of Audiobooks listening challenge for 2011.  I played with the idea this year and kept you in the loop of my personal listening challenge.  A number of our listeners have voiced their interest in joining an audio listening challenge and the official planning begins today.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The ideal time for the beginning of our challenge is January
  • Our challenge should be low key – we want participants to have fun
  • I need a few volunteers to help with the brainstorming and setting the parameters for the challenge.  Two of our listeners have already volunteered but we need another two.  Please email me at afriendatheart at cox dot net.
  • There’s a lot of room for imagination at this time!

The Latest on My Unofficial Personal Listening Challenge for 2010

Five of my six categories are now completed.  Although it appears that I’ve listened to only five books, those books have led to at least another fifteen.  The completion of each category has felt like a victory which spurred me on to further exploration and entertainment.

My latest category:

In the Name of Mature Audio Listening

A Civil Contract – Georgette Heyer

Success – Yes, But Did It Serve Its Purpose?

I usually have a hard time listening to those old-style English accents but I believe I will eventually accustom myself to those accents if I just work at it.  However, I clearly chose the wrong book for this particular task as narrator Phyllida Nash is extremely easy on the ear and her voice quite beautiful.  I think success lies in the fact that I have now enjoyed three Heyer books and feel less hesitant about attempting more.  But it did little to mature my listening ear!

Other Completed Categories:

Fantasy Romance

The Sharing Knife – Beguilement – Lois McMaster Bujold


Beguilement led me to listen to all four in The Sharing Knife series and I highly recommend all.  It prompted me to listen to other Fantasy Romance books as well.


Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

Unqualified Success

The first in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I’ve now listened to eight of the ten books with books 9 and 10 sitting in my audio library.  This one was out of my supposed comfort zone in more ways than one.  A real challenge with a huge payoff.


Sylvester – Georgette Heyer

Success – Mostly

Not a fan of abridged audiobooks, I chose well with a book narrated by none other than Richard Armitage.  Being unfamiliar with Heyer books, I didn’t miss the content and thought this a decent abridgement as well.  Armitage is outstanding and this one easily falls into the “Listen again” category but I’m still wary of most abridged audios.

Romantic Suspense

Envy – Sandra Brown

Total and Complete Success

Anyone reading Speaking of Audiobooks over the past few months knows that I now have a new love in audiobooks – the combination of Sandra Brown and narrator Victor Slezak.

Urban Fantasy

Darkfever – Karen Marie Moning

My final challenge category, I plan to listen to this one in November.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much this challenge has increased my enjoyment of audiobooks.  Not only have my options increased significantly but I’m amazed at the jewels I’ve missed in the past (but thankfully are still available today).  I believe the primary reason for my challenge’s success is the fact that I chose titles, for the most part, that had received profound praise here in our discussions at Speaking of Audiobooks.

Hopefully, this inspires you to join us in our 2011 Listening Challenge!

DarkfeverVirtual Bookshelves – Goodreads

Our past discussions also include brainstorming on how we, as romance audio enthusiasts, can share our audiobook libraries.  Actually there are several sites that make doing so quite easy by allowing you to create your own virtual bookshelf.  It’s simple – you create your own library by recording books you have read (or plan to read).  You rate each book and have the capacity to review if you are so inclined.  Such sites also allow the creation of groups with similar interests.  With the addition of even one book, you have a shelf and can invite/accept friendships or join groups.  And I would be remiss to leave out that a huge advantage of having such a shelf is the ability to organize your books.

After looking over three such sites, Shelfari, Goodreads, and Library Thing and reviewing our discussions (as well as emails I received on the subject), I’m proposing that we try Goodreads for the purpose of creating our personal audiobook libraries to share with one another.  Library Thing charges an annual fee for booklists containing more than 200 books and I have heard more complaints than praise about Shelfari.  My own virtual bookshelf for print books sits at Shelfari but as I was setting up my audiobook shelf at Goodreads recently, I discovered many features I had only dreamed of at Shelfari.

For your perusal, here’s my personal Goodreads profile.   The More link (mid page slightly to the right) takes you to my book shelf where you can view my audiobooks by author or in alphabetical order as well as see my grades and reviews.  My shelf is only in its beginning stage as I have at least 250 audiobooks.  I’ll continue to add books over the next several months.

I have also set up a Speaking of Audiobooks group at Goodreads.  Groups are used primarily for identification and discussion.  Friendships are quite beneficial when you discover other audio enthusiasts with similar tastes to your own.

I encourage you to take a look at Goodreads and consider joining us in building our audiobook shelves.  It just takes a few of us to enjoy the advantages of sharing our libraries and, in turn, we can work to build our Goodreads group for others.

Column Research

Thanks to those who volunteered to help extract data from our past columns to utilize in other AAR audio features.  I’ll be contacting you soon to start the process.  Anyone else who wants to volunteer, please email me – I’m so appreciative!

Recent Additions to My Audio Library

A Hellion in Her Bed – Sabrina Jeffries

Narrated by Antony Ferguson

Jeffries is an author who runs hot and cold for me.  But the book’s synopsis sounded just odd enough to grab my attention.

Beyond a Wicked Kiss – Jo Goodman

Narrated by Jenny Sterlin

The fourth and final in the Compass Club series, I’ve listened to the first three and want to find out the fate of West.  I’m not fond of Sterlin’s narration but I’m pushing on.

All the Queen’s Men – Linda Howard

Narrated by Megan Gallagher

I read John Medina’s story years ago – now I want to hear it.  I recall that it was more action than I usually preferred but with my new attitude towards Romantic Suspense, who knows?  And it is one of those hard-to-finds.

Bayou MoonBayou Moon – Ilona Andrews

Narrated by Renee Raudman

After hearing some positive hype on Bayou Moon, I’m ready to try another fantasy romance.  Plus Renee Raudman – remember Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas?

Recent Listens

After the Night – Linda Howard

Narrated by Natalie Ross

If you like Linda Howard even the tiniest bit and can tolerate alpha heroes, I suggest you run to buy this contemporary – a favorite of mine in print and now in audio.  Narrator Natalie Ross excels in her characterizations and clearly distinguishes one voice from another.  Ms. Ross understands romance and knows how to pace her narration, place emphasis as required, and provide characters with appropriate emotion.  Gray Rouillard as the rich boy (now man) and town leader is tough – no doubt about it.  But Faith Devlin brings out Gray’s vulnerable side and his inner struggle of either being with Faith or protecting his family is the basis of the story.  Faith is on my favorite heroines list – she’s soft but strong as steel.  Guy – well, he’s downright sexy.  This one definitely sits in my re-listen category.

A Civil Contract – Georgette Heyer

Narrated by Phyllida Nash

My third venture into the world of Heyer audiobooks, my first impression was the quality of the narration.  Ms. Nash’s voice is quite lovely and her well-timed delivery convinced me that she understood that which she read.  I was quite entranced with A Civil Contract and its understated take on a marriage of convenience.  Although I hear it carries a more serious tone than many of Heyer’s other books, I greatly appreciated the matter-of-fact handling of an unwanted marriage by two mature adults.  At times, Ms. Nash fails to adequately differentiate the characters’ voices thereby forcing one to listen very carefully.  But it is well worth the effort.

Time for Your Thoughts

What categories do you want to see on our Listening Challenge?

Have you been involved with a reading challenge before?

Will you volunteer to help us plan our 2011 Listening Challenge?

Do you have experience with a group bookshelf?  What are your thoughts?

Do you want to join us in building an audio library on Goodreads?

Have you read or listened to Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract?  Do you think it differs greatly from other Heyer books?

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook successes or failures to share with us?

Ending Notes

I’m announcing romance audiobook news and new releases on Twitter.  To follow me on Twitter, look for LeaAAR.

I’ll be back again later this month when we discuss November audiobook new releases.

- Lea Hensley (afriendatheart AT cox dot net)

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10 Responses to Speaking of Audiobooks: Challenges, Bookshelves, and the Like

  1. MaryK says:

    Listening Challenge: I’ve never done one before so I don’t think I’d be much help in planning one. For picky listeners – like me ;) – maybe there could be options? Say, the ability to pick 5 categories out of a choice of 7.

    I’ll definitely join the Goodreads group as soon as I get a chance. This will give me an excuse to join. I already have a good book organization system, but I’ve been wanting to keep track of some of the reviewers there. If I use it mostly for audiobooks, I won’t be duplicating effort.

    I’m on disc 3 of One Summer thanks to my local library and am really liking it so far! I’d remembered it as being a great book but was vague on the details. Now I’m rediscovering how good it is. Rachel is my kind of kick-ass heroine. She’s not tough or combative. She just faces down a whole town because she believes it’s the right thing to do. I’d love to get recs for books with similar heroines. As for the audio aspect, I could do with a tad less Elvis in Johnny’s voice, and I remember it having a pretty intense sex scene which I’m quite nervous about; but so far so good. :)

  2. Lea AAR says:

    MaryK – your thoughts on options for the listening challenge are just the type of thing we need to hear. Hope you join us on Goodreads. It is amazing how quickly it is going for me.

  3. Lea AAR says:

    We’re slowly but surely gathering over at Goodreads.

    I realized as I was building my shelf that you can see the Speaking of Audiobooks reviews on my Goodreads shelf. I only have 50 or so up at this point but I’m working my way through. Hopefully we’ll have a base of reviews here at AAR soon but in the meantime you can visit http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4403718.

  4. MaryK says:

    Heh. How about a challenge to listen to one that’s been languishing on the TBL pile? I have a lot of candidates for that one!

  5. melinda says:

    yay! excited about new features!

    I lived for challenges in 2008, not just audio books but all books. When I got a new job in 2009, it cut into my reading time and I backed off of doing challenges, which before that were a good way to get into new genres, new authors and whittle down the TBR(L) list.

    One particular group I was in used a suggestion about the book for some of the titles, like “a book with a color in the title” or “one that reminds you of winter”. I also did the A-Z authors and titles challenges, where you read something for each letter (this is a good TBR whittler). We could do “read one from a particular AAR column”, “read one of another member’s favorites” , read one released this year” or even “read one you borrowed from a friend”. One that I found very hard to fill was “read one you acquired for the cover”!

    I don’t really need to be challenged to read audio books but it’s fun anyway!

    I think I joined Goodreads when we first started discussing this – I’ll have to remember my login and go join the group there!

  6. kathy says:

    I just listened to “Still Missing” and I was extremely impressed with the author and narrator. I was really surprised to see it reviewed on AAR. It’s not a romance by anymeans.I don’t know about the book but the audio was definitly an A+.

  7. Kaetrin says:

    Hi everyone. I’d be happy to participate in a challenge – the only thing is that with geo restrictions, there may be some books I can’t get. Also, I’m happy to join a group on Goodreads – I’m a member but pretty slack about actually putting anything on there – maybe this will motivate me!

    I listened to Now You See Her by Linda Howard which was good (but I think I enjoyed the book better and it may even be that I wouldn’t enjoy the book so much now – I really liked it at the time but I’m not sure it stood up on a re-listen in the same way). Now I’m listening to Carnal Innocence so that I can understand the Tucker Longstreet love everyone here seems to have!

  8. Lea AAR says:

    We now have 11 members at our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group. Please think about joining us!


  9. Maryfranc says:

    I have listened to A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer and liked it, but it is not one of my favorites. Cotillion, Fredericka and Regency Buck are a few of my favs by the Grand Dame.

    Just finished A Hellion in Her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries and liked it a lot more than the B- grade it received at likesbooks.com. I also listened to The Truth About Lord Stoneville and am looking forward to the rest of the Halstead Hall Hellion series.

    Now I am listening to Irresistible by Karen Robards (#2 in the Banning Sisters trilogy). I read Scandalous and Irresistible in print several years ago, long enough to remember part but not all of the story.

    Am considering listening to Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt. I purchased it in paperback format, not realizing it was to be offered on Audible.com. Loved the story and now want to listen to it.

    Have you listened to Charlaine Harris’ Harper Connolly series? There are four in the series, beginning with Grave Sight. I listened to them in CD format, don’t know if Audible.com has them.

    Mary Balogh’s newsletter reports a reissue of A Christmas Promise (originally a 1992 Signet release). It would be nice if her early books were in audio format, sigh…

    November audio releases I am looking forward to are: Indulgence in Death by JD Robb; Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lahane (Yay for the return of Patrick and Angie) and Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell.

    Not an audiobook, but also in November on the Lifetime Channel is a made-for-T.V. movie Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown.

  10. Nina says:

    I’ve listened to all of the Compass Club series and I thought West and East’s books were the best of the series. Didn’t much care for Jennie Sterlin’s narration but I got used to it and I think Beyond a Wicked Kiss was terrific – definitely more of a hard edge.

    Listened to Carnal Innocence a couple of weeks ago (due to this column) and really liked the story and loved the narration – Tucker, yum! Also listened last week to After the Night and totally agree that Natalie Ross does a terrific job with both male and female voices/characterizations. I love most Linda Howard, especially her older books – like the MacKenzie series and To Die For and Drop Dead Gorgeous although the narration by Franette Liebow was very hard to get through on TDF. Joyce Bean does a much better job on DDG. I thought this two-book series was sexy, funny and suspenseful.

    I absolutely LOVE the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (I hope you will, too!) and can’t wait for the final book this January 18th. The first books were narrated by Joyce Bean and I think she had a younger sounding and quirky take on the character. The last book (#4) switched to Phil Gigante (of the sexy voice) and Natalie Ross. I would have loved to have Phil and Joyce read since I was used to Joyce Bean’s characterization but Natalie does a good job and as always I like dual narrators.

    I re-listened last weekend to Out of Control by Brockmann which made me want to re-listen to Breaking Point for the conclusion of Molly and Grady but I agree with you Lea about Patrick Lawlor. Why would you hire a male and female narrator and have them take turns reading both the male and female roles? It was a turn-off for me, especially Lawlor – his renditions don’t make me think sexy alpha male. Unfortunately, Brockmann (whom I love) uses this same style on all the rest of her Troubleshooter books – don’t really get it but I do continue to listen to them.

    I also listened to Covet by J.R. Ward on a long drive last week and liked it even though there wasn’t enough romance for me. I guess she needed to set up the rest of the series. I have Crave (Ward)on my TBR list as well as Envy- because of this column’s enthusiasm (Brown), A Hellion in Her Bed (Jeffries), Unleash the Night(Kenyon – just released in audio this month) . However, next I’ve decide to try the first in a series I’ve never read before by Lara Adrian (Kiss of Midnight -Midnight Breeds – anyone read them?)

    The audio books I’m most excited about in November are JD Robb’s Indulgence in Death and Lora Leigh’s Megan’s Mark and Harmony’s Way. I really enjoy this romantica series but with the last two releases in this series I think I’m about to give it up.

    I’d be interested in the reading challenge when it’s set up. Sorry this is so long…signing off!

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