Speaking of Audiobooks: The 2012 Listening Challenge

woman making a shopping listReading Challenges abound, but Listening Challenges? Devoted to romance? We think we have something rather unique for you here at Speaking of Audiobooks when it comes to challenging yourself to listen to more romance audio while discovering a more diverse selection and higher quality as well. 2011 marked our first Listening Challenge and the final reports of that challenge are still rolling in (more later). As a participant, I learned, enjoyed, shed tears, laughed out loud, and was delighted with my discoveries as I expanded my listening preferences. And I always looked forward to sharing my experiences with other listeners. I can’t wait to start our 2012 challenge!

Our 2012 Listen Challenge Objective – Listen to 12 romance books in 2012

We’re simplifying our Challenge this year by giving you more choices and simplifying the requirements of each. We have four tracks to follow for a 12 book challenge and one track for an 8 book challenge. Just choose one and let the fun begin!

Track One – Listening to the Top Hits

Listen or relisten to 12 audios from AAR’s 2010 Top 100 Romances Poll and AAR’s 2011 Annual Reader Poll. While these are lists of print books, there are 73 audio versions to choose from! You will find a list of these titles at the end of today’s column.

Track Two – Mix ‘Em Up Firsts

Listen to 12 books of firsts – first time listening to a narrator, your first book by a specific author, the first book in a series, the first of a new-to-you romance sub-genre. You can also define your own firsts such as your first listen of a 2012 audio or the first audio your borrowed from a friend, etc.

Track Three – Listen by the Number

Three romance audios produced in 2012, three from 2011, three from 2010, and three from 2009.

Track Four – Spread Your Listening

Listen to four contemporary/romantic suspense, four historical/western, and four paranormal/fantasy/time travel.

We also have an 8 book Challenge if you are a little shy about committing.

Surprise by the Quarter – 4 categories to choose from each quarter.

You only need to listen to two books a quarter but you won’t be advised of your choices for the next quarter until the end of the previous quarter! Example – the choices for the second quarter (April – June) will be announced the last week of March.

First quarter choices (January – March):

Choice #1 – Listen to a romance narrated by one of the winning narrators in the Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.

This includes not only the winners of the Narrator Favorites categories but a narrator of any winning book – first, second, third, and honorable mention in any category. There are 23 narrators to choose from and you can find a list of those narrators at the end of today’s column.

Choice #2 – Listen to a romance produced in the first three months of 2012

Choice #3 – Listen to a romance with a tortured hero.

What is a tortured hero? One who is dark, moody, and fights any kind of love or softer emotions. Examples of audios with tortured heroes – To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt, Prince of Dreams by Lisa Kleypas, Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Black Ice by Anne Stuart, and Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward.

Choice #4 – Listen to a Cabin Romance

In a Cabin Romance, the hero and heroine are isolated for large section(s) of the book. They come to grips with one another and their attraction in a relatively small space. Examples of Cabin Romance audios – The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory, Nobody’s Baby But Mine and This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Wild Rain by Christine Feehan, and Calypso Magic by Catherine Coulter.

It should be noted that although we focus on the romance genre with its many sub genres, we also include Chick Lit, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, and Sci Fi genres if the book includes a romance thread.

Reporting In

Reporting for the Challenge will take place in two areas. Our primary spot for reporting your progress will be the discussion area of any Speaking of Audiobooks column during 2012 as our Challenge will be an ongoing discussion throughout the year. For those times you want to update our group and a recent column is not around, we have set up a challenge update thread at our sister Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group. Our Goodreads group is quite active and you will find a ready audience just about any time. Since I plan to keep our larger Speaking of Audiobooks audience updated on the overall progress of the Challenge, I may share comments from our Goodreads Challenge thread from time to time here at the column.

If you have any questions about reporting in at Goodreads and are unfamiliar with the site, please ask questions in the discussion area below. We’ll take care of you!

2011 Listening Challenge – Final Update

My 2011 Listening Challenge lasted until the very last day of the year. I eagerly joined in the first four months and then found myself caught up in months of in-depth interviews and the Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll and suddenly it was October! I’ll provide a complete update in the discussion area following the column but here are a few highlights of my Challenge.

Tempt yourself to find a series that grabs hold and won’t let go by listening to the first in a series.

The Kate Daniels series – Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews   Narrated by Renee Raudman

I truly had to challenge myself to listen to this series since I generally avoid Urban Fantasy if I know there is a gore factor. Still, it was a great experience.

Listen to another listener’s romance favorite.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig   Narrated by Kate Reading

Charming and totally entertaining. Looking forward to more in the series. I found myself avoiding this book for some strange reason and the Challenge took care of my doubts.

Give a less-than-favorite narrator a second chance.

Anne Flosnik

An outstanding success. I’m so glad I gave Ms. Flosnik another try especially given the fact that she often narrates historical romances I loved in print.

Share in your listening – listen to a book someone else chose for you.

Morning Glory – LaVyrle Spencer   Narrated by Kate Forbes

Brenda chose for me – she knows my tastes well! I had a feeling going in that I would love this hard-to-find unabridged version since I knew Kate Forbes was a talented narrator and I had read the book in print. Total success.

Listen to a book recommended in a previous Speaking of Audiobooks column (and following discussion).

Tough Customer by Sandra Brown   Narrated by Victor Slezak

Great, great narration and story. I was hesitant to try since the hero hadn’t seemed hero material in Smash Cut (but I wasn’t looking either). It was another complete success.

Now, please share your final update with us!

Image of Fate’s Edge

Romance Audio Reviews

s EdgeFate’s Edge – Ilona Andrews

Review written by Diana

Narrated by Renee Raudman

I’ve been inhaling the Edge series since a fellow audiophile recommended it. (Hey, thanks Brenda!) Fate’s Edge is the third and, although I don’t recommend starting here, it’s no hardship to listen to the perfectly cast Renee Raudman narrate On The Edge and Bayou Moon to get you up to speed. Understanding the worlds – The Weird where magic and bluebloods rule, The Broken where tech and Walmart rule, and The Edge where Edgers precariously straddle their more powerful neighbors – is necessary to enjoy the ride. I absolutely love the outcast Edgers who are endlessly struggling to rise above generations of bloody family feuds, bad luck, and poverty through cunning and hard work, fair means or foul.

Our hero Kaldar Mar, a “former” smuggler and con man and official agent for the Mirror (a sort of FBI/CIA for the Weird), is assigned to recover a stolen magical artifact. His mission takes him out of the swamp (sadly, but I’ll come back to that) out west to nab culprit Audrey Callahan. When Kaldar stops to pick up his cousin Gaston to pilot the wyvern, the Edger boys, Jack (a changeling lynx) and George (a budding necromancer who reanimates birds and small animals), stow away unbeknownst to Kaldar.

Audrey made a deal with her deadbeat dad to pull off one last job in exchange for a promise that he and her junkie brother will never contact her again. She wants to go straight and keep her legitimate PI job, which is threatened when Kaldar shows up with questions about the heist. Kaldar nabs Audrey with the help of Gaston and the boys and convinces her it’s in her best interest to help them recover the artifact. Smooth operator Kaldar and fatal charmer Audrey have each met their match and the fun begins.

The Edge series works so perfectly in audio and it’s all due to Renee Raudman’s skill and talent. She sets a mood for every scene and gives unique voice to each character. In this book alone, Ms. Raudman gives voice to two adolescent boys, a nineteen year old tough guy, a prosperity preacher, an evil hound of the golden throne, and of course, our hero and heroine amongst a boatload of supporting characters. It’s a full blown performance and I think audiobook narrators of Raudman’s skill are under appreciated. It’s a fun series and Raudman never misses a beat.

Of the three Edge books, Bayou Moon remains my favorite. The Mire, its swamp rats, and the Dukedom of Louisiana are far more colorful and interesting than the bland Democracy of California setting in Fate’s Edge. I really missed those crazy southern Gothic Edgers. Kaldar Mar had an exquisite moment in Bayou Moon where he explains to the family why his cousin Cerise is so valiant. If Kaldar doesn’t quite fulfill his heroic promise in Fate’s Edge, he comes pretty close.

The Other Guy’s Bride – Connie Brockway

Review written by Melinda

Narrated by Justine Eyre

As a highly awaited release, The Other Guy’s Bride is not just a sequel to Brockway’s beloved As You Desire (AAR review here), but also the first of the new Montlake Romance line published by Amazon – first for Kindle followed by paperback and audio (Brilliance Audio) releases.

Ginesse Braxton is the daughter of As You Desire’s Dizzy and Harry, British Egyptologists, and the setting is Egypt at the turn of the 20th century. Ginesse is returning to Egypt from London on board a ship with a Miss Whimpelhall who is journeying to meet her fiancé, Colonel Pomfrey. Seasickness forces the bride-to-be to disembark at an Italian port to finish the journey by land and Ginesse assumes the other woman’s identity to gain passage to the fort where the unsuspecting Pomfrey waits.

Jim Owens is also traveling under an assumed identity since he gave up his own as the future duke of Avondale. As an intrepid black market antiquities trader, he was once rescued by Colonel Pomfrey. To repay the debt, he is now being forced to accompany Pomfrey’s fiancée across Egypt. Alas, he has no way of knowing the enchanting young woman he is rapidly falling in love with isn’t really The Other Guy’s Bride.

Narrator Justine Eyre authentically performs a number of accents – American for Jim who was raised in the American west; a haughty British for a variety of upper-class Brits including Ginesse; an Egyptian-tinged British for the locals; and a touch of French for the villain LeBoeuf. Her delivery is good with one niggling annoyance – a nasally affectation of ennui that carries over from the haughty British speakers to the general narrative. It’s an irritation that knocked a couple of stars off a potential five star listen.

In The Air Tonight - Stephanie Tyler

Review written by Kaetrin

Narrated by Johanna Parker

Coming off the back of such successful listens as Ilona Andrew’s Edge series (Renee Raudman) and Thea Harrison’s Serpent’s Kiss (Sophie Eastlake), In the Air Tonight had a lot to live up to. Sadly, I can’t say that it was a great success for me. Apart from my commitment to review the book, the only thing that kept me going was Johanna Parker’s very good narration. I will happily listen to her narrations in the future, but I will hesitate before trying this author again.

Paige Grayson, a nurse who can read a person’s memories through the touch of her hands, is the sister of Gray, a recently deceased member of the Delta Force team. She is attacked in a domestic dispute at the hospital and the resultant media attention revives her family history and the fact that her other brother, Jeffrey, has been imprisoned for a Columbine-type school shooting. Paige resolves to go to the other Delta Force team members for answers about Gray’s death and escape the media frenzy. Mace Stevens, Gray’s best friend and fellow team member, is running a bar in upstate New York where various other team members are also hanging out after the mission that resulted in Gray’s death.

I haven’t read/listened to the first two books in the Shadow Force series. Possibly In the Air Tonight would have worked for me better if I had, but, frankly, I don’t think so. The action and dialogue is overwrought, the villain is not only obvious but one-dimensional and eeeevil, and the characters are somewhat confusing. I think the confusion is worse in audio format. There are many characters to keep track of with very similar names – Kell, Keegan, and Caleb (who, inexplicably was also sometimes called Cale – for a while I thought he was a separate character). There is also a secondary romance between Vivi and Caleb/Cale (who has lost his memory) which takes up almost as much time as the one between Mace and Paige. I suppose Vivi and Caleb/Cale’s story is ongoing from a previous book but I didn’t find it difficult to follow. I didn’t buy the near insta-love between Mace and Paige either.

Johanna Parker does a great job with what I thought was ordinary material. Some of the lines she had to deliver were just so cheesy that I wondered how she did it. But, she delivers the lines as written and it wasn’t her narration that had me rolling my eyes so often. Ms. Parker’s voice is very easy on the ear and she effectively differentiates the male and female characters. The male characters sound similar at times (especially with the similar names) making it hard to work out who is actually talking. However, I suspect I would have had that problem with the print version as well.

Wedding of the SeasonWedding of the Season – Laura Lee Guhrke

Review written by Brenda

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

Laura Lee Guhrke’s early 1900s setting for Wedding of the Season opens up some interesting differences in what ultimately remains an historical romance. You still have the aristocracy with stiff protocol and class distinctions, but they are mixed with the changes advancement is making upon society. Women are now given some job opportunities without it being too disgraceful and cars are driven and stabled along with the horses.

Beatrix Danbury and William Mallory had been in love since childhood. They were planning their wedding, as was expected, when Will was given the chance to follow his dream of excavating a dig in Egypt. He fully expected Trix to be as excited as he was and ready to come with him. When she wasn’t, he left her behind. Six years have passed and Beatrix is about to wed another when Will returns to England.

Anne Flosnik’s interpretation of Will kept me interested in Wedding of the Season, despite my first impression of him as selfish and irresponsible. The voice and demeanor given to his character belied those traits which made me curious to continue and I was glad I did. I enjoyed Will’s humor and his extended groveling, which was needed. By the end I realized Anne Flosnik’s voicing of Will reflected his ultimate redemption from the very beginning, making him a much better character for me and one I liked. I know that would not have been the case if I had read the print version so it was a true bonus.

Although I sympathized with Beatrix at first, I ultimately found her childish in the length of time it took for her to look outside the box but she sounded perfect, as did the rest of her family and friends. Ms. Flosnik’s pacing of scenes and the general narration was spot on as usual making an enjoyable listen out of a lackluster story.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve moved away from historical romance in the last few years as I prefer action to angst. I’ll take recognition of a “mate” in Paranormal romance over a last page declaration of true love and commitment in an historical. I want to live part of the HEA with the couple, not be left at the doorstep or in the case of Wedding of the Season, at the train depot, when they finally figure out what’s most important to them. That’s something to consider when reading my reviews.

Going Cowboy Crazy – Katie Lane

Review written by Melinda

Narrated by Nicole Poole

Going Cowboy Crazy is a first – the first published book by Katie Lane as well as the first in a trio of stories about Texas cowboys. It’s also a funny romp of small-town Texas ways, exaggerated through the eyes of a mild-mannered Midwestern heroine looking for answers. Think Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ version of small town Texas, with Bobbie Tom and Gracie in Heaven, Texas and turn the twang up. If the plot line of eccentric characters ganging up on the new stranger in town worked for you, you might find yourself in love with another group of well meaning, meddling town folks like I was!

Narrator Nicole Poole took a big chance when she turned the twang up a notch – or three – for these characters, and for me, it was a winner. Being a card-carrying Texan myself, I can vouch for the fact that, yes, there are actually people who talk like this. OK, in reality, maybe there aren’t small towns teeming with eccentric characters scheming to marry off complete strangers with a high school colors themed wedding (purple and gold, if you’re curious). But the combination of Lane’s hilarious story and Poole’s over-the-top twang had me believing that if I went a few miles outside of Houston, I might stumble across a Bramble-type town where they just want their small town hero to be happy.

Going Cowboy Crazy was a great find (recommended by a fellow Speaking of Audiobooks listener) of a new author writing my favorite genre – romantic comedy. There were some moments when I was aware it was Lane’s first book such as the aimless rambling near the end. But if you prefer your romance set in Regency England, or at least in reality, you might want to steer clear. But for a fairly short dose of funny and a little dab of hot, this is definitely “worth a credit.”

We plan on featuring an occasional audio that doesn’t fall into the romance genre but we feel may be of interest to our listeners. LinnieGayl graciously volunteered to write our first.

The Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory

Review written by LinnieGayl

Narrated by Bianca Amato

The Lady of the Rivers is the third in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousin’s War series. I’m not convinced that reading order matters. The first book, The White Queen, actually features the daughter of this book’s main character, and picks up right where The Lady of the Rivers ends.

Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction has been a bit hit or miss for me and I hadn’t read one in years. I’d never listened to one in audio and was curious to see how it would work. At just over 19 hours, it is much longer than most audio books I listen to and it’s a true testament to the skills of both the narrator and the author that it held my attention throughout.

The book is told from the point-of-view of Jacquetta who sees and participates in a series of remarkable events, including the death of Joan of Arc. At a young age she marries a much older Duke and becomes the first lady of England while Henry VI is a young boy. Jacquetta eventually becomes part of the court of Margaret of Anjou and the mother to twelve children by her second husband.

Although Jacquetta is from Luxembourg and early in the book speaks little English, narrator Bianca Amato gives her and everyone else an English accent. This confused me a bit in the early moments as I assumed Jacquetta was English. Upon reflection, I realize this makes the book much more accessible and understandable for English-speaking readers.

There’s only limited dialog in the book with much of it being Jacquetta’s thoughts and reflections on events of the day. However, Ms. Amato performs the scenes with multiple characters well, providing each character with a slightly different voice so that I had no problem understanding who was speaking.

There are times later in the book that sound more like Ms. Gregory stating her opinions about war and the role of women in England during this period than Jacquetta giving her own opinions. It’s due to the narrator’s skills that I wasn’t bored with these sections.

This is the first Bianca Amato narrated book I’ve listened to and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. I found her voice almost soothing at times and frequently listened late in the evenings when I was tired. Despite the often violent nature of the events, she helped me relax from the day and get ready for sleep.

It’s a sign of how much I liked The Lady of the Rivers that with two hours left, I downloaded the first book in the series (albeit with a different narrator). It’s a sign of how much I liked Ms. Amato’s narration that I downloaded another book she has narrated at the same time.

Time for Your Thoughts

Please share your final update for the 2011 Listening Challenge.

What was your favorite book from your 2011 Listening Challenge or what do you think was your greatest discovery?

What Challenge track will you follow in 2012?

Do you know what your first audio will be when starting your challenge?

And, as always, what are your latest audio successes or failures?

Ending Notes

I’m announcing news for the Speaking of Audiobooks column and other audio tidbits on Twitter – look for SpeakingofAudio (formerly LeaAAR).

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group keeps growing and we now have 177 members. It’s easy to join and it’s a great place for discussion in between our columns.

To find a full listing of all of our audiobook reviews since the beginning of our Speaking of Audiobooks column, go to our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads Mini-Review bookshelf. We have over 200 romance audiobook reviews.

Enjoy your listening!

- Lea Hensley

Audiobooks from AAR’s Top 100 and 2010 Readers Poll – for the Listening to the Top Hits Challenge track

Jane Austen

Persuasion

Pride and Prejudice

Mary Balogh

More Than a Mistress

Joanna Bourne

The Spymaster’s Lady

Suzanne Brockmann

Over the Edge

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

Meljean Brook

Here There Be Monsters

The Iron Duke

Kresley Cole

A Hunger Like No Other

Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me

Welcome to Temptation

Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Voyager

Julie Garwood

The Bride

Honor’s Splendour

Ransom (abridged)

Saving Grace

The Secret

Georgette Heyer

Devil’s Cub

Linda Howard

After the Night

Cry No More

Dream Man

Mackenzie’s Mountain

Mr. Perfect

Open Season unabridged – abridged version

To Die For

Elizabeth Hoyt

To Beguile a Beast

Judith Ivory

The Proposition

Lisa Kleypas:

Blue-Eyed Devil

Devil in Winter

Dreaming of You

It Happened One Autumn

Lady Sophia’s Lover

Love in the Afternoon

Married by Morning

Scandal in Spring

Seduce Me at Sunrise

Smooth Talking Stranger

Suddenly You

Sugar Daddy

Then Came You

Where Dreams Begin

Worth Any Price

Stephanie Laurens

Devil’s Bride

Judith McNaught (all abridged)

Paradise

Perfect

Something Wonderful

Pamela Morsi

The Bikini Car Wash

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Ain’t She Sweet

Dream a Little Dream

Heaven, Texas

It Had to Be You

Kiss an Angel

Match Me if You Can

Natural Born Charmer

Nobody’s Baby But Mine

This Heart of Mine

Amanda Quick

Ravished

Julia Quinn

Ten Things I Love About You

What Happens in London

When He Was Wicked

J. D. Robb

Naked in Death

Nora Roberts

Sea Swept

Nalini Singh

Angel’s Blood

Archangel’s Kiss

Slave to Sensation

LaVyrle Spencer

Morning Glory (Abridged – Unabridged is ISBN 1-4025-2253-3)

Sherry Thomas

Private Arrangements

Wicked Intentions

J.R. Ward

Dark Lover

Lover Awakened

Lover Eternal

Lover Mine

Winning Narrators in Speaking of Audiobooks 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll – for the Surprise by the Quarter track

Anna Fields

Phil Gigante

Natalie Ross

Davina Porter

Renee Raudman

Susan Ericksen

Victor Slezak

Jim Frangione

Tavia Gilbert

Xe Sands

Kirsten Potter

Tom Stechschulte

Anne Flosnik

Patrick Lawlor

Angela Dawe

Karen White

Tanya Eby

Kate Forbes

Deanna Hurst

Franette Liebow

Bernadette Dunne

Amanda Ronconi

Aasne Vigesaa

26 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: The 2012 Listening Challenge”

  1. Lea Hensley says:

    My 2011 Listening Challenge Update:

    Listen to a new-to-you narrator.

    Shannon Cochran narrating Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
    Complete success. I hope to hear much more of Cochran’s work in the future.

    Pick an audiobook that received a DIK grade at AAR in print format.

    Ravished by Amanda Quick
    The actual storyline rated no higher than a C for me which made the entire audiobook experience a letdown.

    Listen to a book recommended in a previous Speaking of Audiobooks column (and following discussion).

    Tough Customer by Sandra Brown
    Great, great narration and story. Complete success.

    Listen to a new-to-you author.
    Texas Princess by Jodi Thomas
    The story kept my interest high but it had to be to keep me listening to the narrator. Narrator brought it down to a C.

    Listen to an abridged audiobook.

    Heart of the West by Penelope Williamson
    Not a success – too chopped up and actress Amy Brenneman’s narration didn’t help either. I’ve had two abridged successes this year but this definitely wasn’t one.

    Listen to an audiobook that has been languishing in your to-be-listened (TBL) pile.

    Open Season by Linda Howard (unabridged)
    Enjoyed. After all, it is a Howard but it’s not a favorite. This is a hard-to-find –I can’t even find a reference on Amazon.

    Borrow a book from a friend or your library.

    All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard
    Good experience but it always ends too suddenly for me. Another hard-to-find.

    Tempt yourself to find a series that grabs hold and won’t let go by listening to the first in a series.
    Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
    Such a success despite the fact that I have a hard time listening to all the gore. I understand why Kate and Curran received so many votes in our Favorite Romance Audiobook Poll!

    Listen to another listener’s romance favorite.
    Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
    Charming and totally entertaining. Looking forward to more in the series.

    Listen to a romance sub-genre you usually avoid.
    I finished out Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series with this pick. Raudman’s narration is superb but I was dragging after Book 4 with its small romance thread and very high number of action scenes. Since this is a sub-genre I usually avoid, I listened to Book 5, Magic Slays, and did find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Kate and Curran take a big step forward and my romance loving heart needed that. A success by I doubt I’ll return to the series.


    Give a less-than-favorite narrator a second chance.

    Anne Flosnik
    A real success. So glad I gave Ms. Flosnik another try especially given the fact that she often narrates historical romances I loved in print.

    Share in your listening – listen to a book someone else chooses for you.

    Morning Glory LaVyrle Spencer   Narrated by Kate Forbes
    Brenda chose for me – she knows my tastes well! I had a feeling going in that I would love this hard-to-find unabridged version since I knew Kate Forbes was a talented narrator and I had read the book in print. Total success.

  2. Lea Hensley says:

    My 2012 Listening Challenge track of choice:

    Okay, I’ll admit it. I really wanted to go with the Surprise by the Quarter since I know what I have in store for it! But that seems to take away from the mystery and challenge of it all so I resisted the impulse.

    I’m going with Listening to the Top Hits.

    I listen to so many new books in preparation for this column that I thought it would be nice to have an excuse to relisten to some of my favorites. And since I have listened to 50 of the 73 hits, it will be a good deal of relistening. But I’m going to try at least 4 new-to-me Top Hits.

  3. Lea Hensley says:

    And I forgot to add…

    I’m relistening to my first book for my 2012 Challenge – Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Narrated by Anna Fields.

    Not only does this one have a strong romance but its secondary romance is just as much fun – and I’m not one that favors secondary romances. And, Edward, the little boy! Who can listen to Fields’ performance of him without shedding a tear?!

  4. Jo-Ann W. says:

    Lea, I LOVE Dream a Little Dream. I did a relisten myself last year. Edward, “Chip”, gets me every time.

    I’ll be picking Surprise by the Quarter this year, though I think it will be tough. I had a hard time getting in my 6 listens from last year since I listen to so many non-romance audios as well.

    Report to follow.

  5. Jo-Ann W. says:

    My 6 2011 challenges were:

    1. Tempt yourself to find a series that grabs hold and won’t let go by listening to the first in a series.

    I listened to Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning read by Joyce Bean, and then the next four all in a row.

    I count them as a huge success, so thanks everyone for talking these up at the beginning of this year in anticipation of Shadowfever. I was very happy with Joyce Bean narrating the first three books – I thought she did a very good job. Boy, was I shocked and dismayed when I heard a different reader start to read the fourth book (because it never occurred to me they would change readers in the middle of a series and never checked beforehand)! Unhappily, then less unhappily, I listened because by then I was hooked on the story and lo and behold, I soon heard a male voice and I realized I was listening to my dream narration. Those last two books were such a joy to me because it’s how I always wanted to hear an audio – an appropriate narrator, with a talented woman and a talented man speaking the dialog parts of the story. Dreamfever (because it was first) set the bar for all time for me. (disclaimer – other than anything Anna Fields reads…)

    2.Listen to another listener’s romance favorite.

    I listened to Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts read by Tom Stechshulte (I think was on GamaTST’s list among others?).

    This was not such a success. The story was good, the narration and male dialog was terrific, but the female voices were not read well IMO. (disclaimer #2 – I have this THING about males reading female parts…). It pretty much made me very impatient for the book to be over.

    3. Listen to a romance book released in 2011.

    I listened to Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann read by Patrick Lawler and Renee Raudmann.

    This book was okay. I’ve listened to this pair read Ms. Brockmann’s books before and knew what to expect. The readers do a good job, but I’ve had enough of the Seals/Troubleshooters books for a while. So again, I was a little impatient for the book to end.

    4. Listen to an audiobook that has been languishing in your to-be-listened (TBL) pile.

    I listened to Mary Balogh’s Seducing an Angel read by Anne Flosnik.

    Another non-success. Didn’t like the story, didn’t like the characters, and didn’t like the reading. I have listened to Ms. Flosnik read other authors’ books and I’ve enjoyed them, but for some reason I don’t care for the Balogh/Flosnik combination.

    5. Relisten to a favorite book.

    I listened to Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips read by Anna Fields.

    Huge Success as usual – third time around! Love the story, love the narrator, love the characters, love the location. It’s almost a perfect book even if it’s not one usually cited as an SEP favorite.

    6. Listen to a new-to-you narrator.

    I listened to Mackenzie’s Pleasure by Linda Howard read by Dennis Boutsikaris.

    This is my favorite Mackenzie story and Dennis B. did a nice job. Going back to the male reading female parts again, I prefer it when the reader “reads” the part with a slight inflection rather than trying to “perform” the part. Confusing, I know, but it makes sense to me.

    It was fun, thanks.

  6. Brenda says:

    I’m still weighing my choices for a 2012 Challenge, the interesting variety is making it hard.

    For any readers here at the column that are not familiar with Goodreads but would like to check in or report in there as the Challenge proceeds it is easy to register – your first name and an e-mail address is all that is required.

    You don’t have to fill in any book shelves or answer the three questions asked as your given the option to skip the pages. Type Audiobooks into the Search area – choose Groups from the tabs that come up and “Speaking of Audio – Romance Books” is one of the top choices offered.

    You can start looking around and reading immediately or click on Join to be part of the group and comment on topics or report your progress. We’d love to have you join us there.

    If you have any questions feel free to ask, if we don’t know we’ll always figure it out. :)

  7. Brenda says:

    Jo-Ann W I’m so glad to see your Challenge report with all the details! It’s what my curious self wants to know, WHY the books did or did not work for you. It’s the perfect report in for someone trying to find more books to add to their To Be Listened pile if they agree with your summations.

    So glad you fell for KMM’s Fever series and I agree 100% with this – narrations don’t come better IMO Those last two books were such a joy to me because it’s how I always wanted to hear an audio – an appropriate narrator, with a talented woman and a talented man speaking the dialog parts of the story.Dreamfever (because it was first) set the bar for all time for me. (disclaimer – other than anything Anna Fields reads…)

    I still love Tom Stechschulte with Carnal Innocence though :) I’m not nearly as picky about womens voices as I am mens for some strange reason. But I have to give you huge kudos on finishing that one because at nearly 19 hours long it had to take all the patients you had to finish it, I don’t possess that kind of endurance. LOL

    And I know exactly what you mean with I prefer it when the reader “reads” the part with a slight inflection rather than trying to “perform” the part. Confusing, I know, but it makes sense to me. as I expand by male narrator list I find the ones that do that end up being so good to listen to. Three I can think of off the top of my head after hearing them each one time are Victor Slezak – Robert Petkoff – Don Harvey.

    Time to find my own report and spiff it up a bit, thanks again for your details Jo-Ann.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Brenda: …I still love Tom Stechschulte with Carnal Innocence though I’m not nearly as picky about womens voices as I am mens for some strange reason. But I have to give you huge kudos on finishing that one because at nearly 19 hours long it had to take all the patients you had to finish it, I don’t possess that kind of endurance. LOLAnd I know exactly what you mean with I prefer it when the reader “reads” the part with a slight inflection rather than trying to “perform” the part. Confusing, I know, but it makes sense to me. as I expand by male narrator list I find the ones that do that end up being so good to listen to. Three I can think of off the top of my head after hearing them each one time are Victor Slezak – Robert Petkoff – Don Harvey.Time to find my own report and spiff it up a bit, thanks again for your details Jo-Ann.

      I too don’t have a problem with male narrators performing female roles in a higher pitch for the most part. I wish it could be more authentic – yes. But I almost see it as a necessary evil for male narrators, particularly in romance. One of my favorite male narrators, Victor Slezak, doesn’t perform the women’s voices in an artificially high manner and I really appreciate that. But there are also times when I confuse the male/female voices in his narrations since he doesn’t reach high for the female roles. And not being able to clearly differentiate male and female roles in one of my biggest gripes when listening. And I actually dislike hearing a feminine sounding hero (by a female narrator) more than an artificially high woman voice (by a male).

      Too bad we don’t see more dual narrations which would do away with most of this problem!

  8. Brenda says:

    Loved this columns reviews, probably because they started with Fate’s Edge which was such an awesome listen for me, I loved every minute of it which surprised me given the time it took for Kaldar and Audrey to meet up face to face. I think Jack and George were as much of the reason for my sheer enjoyment of this one as Kaldar and Audrey were. It was a fabulous ride and I’m so impressed with how the author can maintain the level of quality, enjoyment and newness in each of their books.

    All that considered Bayou Moon is still my favorite in the series too Diana. :)

  9. Lea Hensley says:

    Jo-Ann – so glad to hear the Fever series was such a success for you! I think if anyone has read the column, they know I’m not a big fan of urban fantasy but the Fever series totally won me over for a few reasons. First, I thoroughly enjoyed most of Moning’s Highlander series in audio so I guess you could say I was predisposed to like them. Second, it was great writing with characters that held my interest from book to book. And third, I had a listening partner. We listened to the entire series, one after another, in preparation for Shadowfever. I think that put it over the top for me.

    Hopefully we can facilitate some listening partnerships or a couple of group reads in 2012.

  10. Carrie says:

    While I’m tempted to do the “Favorites” Challenge so I can get “credit” for mu relistens, I haven’t be at this long enough to allow myself that indulgence. Since I haven’t (in the grand scheme of things) listened to all that many audiobooks, I want to push myself to listen to things outside my usual sphere. To that end I’m going to pick the “Spread Your Listening.” For my own personal benefit I’m going to try to have one book in each category a new author or a new narrator, and I won’t count relistens although I might count listening to a book on audio that I’ve already read in print. We’ll see. ;-) .

    My first book will probably be an historical: An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. I’ve promised my daughter I’ll listen to this one since it’s one of her favorite Heyer books.

  11. Brenda says:

    My choice for 2012 is going to be the Mix ‘Em Up Firsts. I think it will push me the furthest in trying to find and define 12 “Firsts” in audio.

    Here’s my 2011 results, in detail! :0

    1. Pick an audiobook that received a DIK grade at AAR in print format …. Treachery In Death – JD Robb narrated by Susan Erickson = Success The narration, as always, was a great success and the story itself was one of the best she’s written. Authors endeavoring to write a continuing series need to take a note from JD Robb …. please
    Minimum references to past books, brief character histories and descriptions. It’s a series, if a person wants to “get” all the nuances they need to listen to the other books because regular readers of a series do not want to be beat over the head with all the previous background in every installment.

    2. Tempt yourself to find a series that grabs hold and won’t let go by listening to the first in a series … Molly Harper – Dead Girls Don’t narrated by Amanda Ronconi = Success, light and witty fun. I’ve listened to all three in the series and I’m looking forward to the next one, out later this year. Narrator Amanda Ronconi contributes very highly to this success.

    3. Listen to another listener’s romance favorite… Envy by Sandra Brown – narrated by Victor Slezak Envy – A favorite of Lea and Diana. Not so much of a success, the narration was very, very good but the overall feel of the story was too heavy for me and after a couple of hours I skipped to the last chapter to see if I’d get at least a little HEA time in with the couple but it was the suspense that ran the show.

    4. Listen to a book recommended in a previous Speaking of Audiobooks column (and following discussion)… Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas = Success Kaetrin knew I couldn’t resist the narrator and there was high praise from Diana and Lea to spur me on. I found Blue Eyed Devil heart wrenching but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it. Renee Raudman’s voicing of Hardy Cates and characterization of Haven were perfection in my ears and there was also plenty of couple time along with a form of revenge which helped too.

    5. Listen to a new-to-you author… Jacquelyn Frank – Jacob narrated by Xe Sands = Success I had my quibbles and annoyances with the story in spots but it was another success because of the amazing narration. Xe Sands is pure pleasure to listen to with the variety of accents, personalities and the overall feel she brings to this book and the entire series.

    6. Listen to a romance sub-genre you usually avoid… Regency – Georgette Heyer – Sylvester narrated by Richard Armitage it was just so so. The narration is excellent but the abridgement hurt this book for me as it seemed to be a run of one misunderstanding after another.

    7. Listen to an abridged audiobook… Open Season by Linda Howard narrated by Kate Forbes = Success After the excellent narration a big reason this succeeded for me was because much of the villains POV was omitted along with troubling aspects of a marriage that is written about while the abridgement kept the best parts of Jack and Daisy’s encounters. Another point in its favor was that I preferred the narrator over the unabridged version’s narrator so a win/win.

    8. Listen to an audiobook that has been languishing in your to-be-listened (TBL) pile … Nora Roberts – Blood Brothers / Phil Gigante = Success When this book was released I didn’t read PNR and skipped it. The audio was a fun way to come back to it; I thoroughly enjoyed the story and all the laughs. I winced at one female voice but it wasn’t the heroine so I was good. The men and the general narration were wonderful. The narration caught the feel and the reactions to all that happened perfectly, adding to both the humor and the creepy.

    9. Give a less-than-favorite narrator a second chance… Rosalyn Landor w/ Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You. This one was not a success in the Hero department, which is most important to me, especially in a set up like this. But I have to give props to the fact that I like everything else about Rosalyn Landor’s delivery and style of narration. She is extremely talented and if she ever brings the age/gruffness down in her hero’s voices she’ll have a dedicated fan in me.

    10. Share in your listening – listen to a book someone else chooses for you. I cheated a little here in that I choose a book recommended by D.G. over at Goodreads… Perfect Chemistry by Simone Ekeles narrated by Blas Kisic and Roxanne Hernandez. = Success This one was a good success for me, the narration is POV and the narrators were both excellent though Blas Kisic stole the show as Alex. It was my first young adult novel and I had my eyes opened at the genre, or at least this author’s, ability to build some heat while keeping the door closed. I rolled my eyes at parts of the teenage angst but overall I really liked listening to this book. My enjoyment of it was the biggest surprise of my 2011 challenge.

    11. Borrow a book from a friend or your library ….Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer narrated by Kate Forbes – borrowed from Lea = Success This one comes across more as historical fiction with a love story woven through it. It had been 15 years since I read this book; I remembered it being my favorite Spencer but not the reasons why. Kate Forbes brought all those reasons back and improved on them 100%. The voicing and personality she gave to Will was so perfect I’m still amazed at what she made me feel for him. Then there were Ellie and the boys and the librarian Ms. Beasley and the rest of the town personalities. The narration surpassed perfect in all aspects.

    12. Listen to a new-to-you narrator, I listened to a lot of new narrators this past year that I could sing praises to but I’m going to stick with the first one of the year …. Amy Kaechel = Success, she has the ability to do some really good work – unfortunately the story she was given was too dated for me to add more praise but I’ll watch for her name.

  12. Jo-Ann W. says:

    Brenda, my report could have been more detailed (I can get talky..), but I deliberately tried to keep it short for the blog. I’m glad you got some of what I tried to convey. Your report was great, I could comment on most of your reads, but I’ll stick to one – Heyer’s Sylvester. I was glad to see another “nay” on the adridgement. Listening to R. Armitage’s reading is an enticement to me, but I keep holding off because it’s abridged. I’ll keep holding off now.

    And thanks for the suggestions on the male readers – I am familiar with V. Slezak and like his narrations (I’m currently listening to Lethal by Sandra Brown), but not the others. I’ll check them out.

    Lea, I liked the Darkfever series enough that I plan to try the Highlander series this year. I also enjoyed reading your challenge update. I recently finished reading Call Me Irrisitible and so I’ll be ready to listen to it later in the year – I’ve been so curious to hear Shannon Cochran. Hopefully, it will tie in with one of the 2012 Quarterly challenges! You can make that happen, can’t you??? lol

    Lea and Brenda, narration is paramount to me. I haven’t said alot about readers here because it seems to have become a blog where narrators come and comment often (which is good), and so it prohibits me from honest and sometimes negative opinions (which is bad). My experience has shown me that a woman can do a male voice well (not all, but a lot), but I have yet to find a man who can sound like a woman. Obviously, I haven’t listened to every male reader out there, so there may be exceptions, but I haven’t heard one yet. I find this an interesting topic I’d like to see discussed more. Perhaps a future column topic or if the audio board ever comes to be?

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Jo-Ann W.:
      Lea, I liked the Darkfever series enough that I plan to try the Highlander series this year.I also enjoyed reading your challenge update.I recently finished reading Call Me Irrisitible and so I’ll be ready to listen to it later in the year – I’ve been so curious to hear Shannon Cochran.Hopefully, it will tie in with one of the 2012 Quarterly challenges!You can make that happen, can’t you??? lol

      Lea and Brenda, narration is paramount to me.I haven’t said alot about readers here because it seems to have become a blog where narrators come and comment often (which is good), and so it prohibits me from honest and sometimes negative opinions (which is bad).My experience has shown me that a woman can do a male voice well (not all, but a lot), but I have yet to find a man who can sound like a woman.Obviously, I haven’t listened to every male reader out there, so there may be exceptions, but I haven’t heard one yet.I find this an interesting topic I’d like to see discussed more. Perhaps a future column topic or if the audio board ever comes to be?

      Ha! I’m sure I can tie it in – I certainly need suggestions to fill 12 more choices this year in the Quarterly Surprise. Now the trick is for me to figure out a choice that you will have to stop and think – is THIS the one that applies to Call Me Irresistible?!

      I’ll definitely look into a male versus female narrator column this year. It’s one I have had in the back of my mind but hadn’t thought it completely through. It should make for some interesting discussion.

  13. Lea Hensley says:

    If you are thinking about the Quarterly Surprise track for the Listening Challenge, there is a discussion over at our Goodreads group about Cabin Romances and some audio suggestions for such. If you want to take a look, here’s a link. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/767670-cabin-romances-let-s-identify-some-together Since our Goodreads group is public, you don’t have to register to read. Only if you want to comment.

    And, I’ll share some of the suggestions here in a day or two when we have a good number to share.

  14. Brenda says:

    Finally, my browser didn’t time out before the page could open, AAR must be being over run with participants clogging the way. :)

    But there are also times when I confuse the male/female voices in his narrations since he doesn’t reach high for the female roles. And not being able to clearly differentiate male and female roles in one of my biggest gripes when listening.

    @Lea Since I agree with this reasoning completely I realized I had contradicted myself …. Although I do like the way that V.S. and D. H. deliver a womans voice, with just a shift in tone, my biggest problem with Spirit Bound was that I couldn’t define who was talking in scenes with several people and occasionaly even with just the couple in a scene. I can’t have it both ways … and I’d much rather know “who” is talking by whatever means neccessary in the narration.

    So JoAnn I’m thinking that your going to be stuck with … My experience has shown me that a woman can do a male voice well (not all, but a lot), but I have yet to find a man who can sound like a woman. ….. but if you find a male narrator who makes you feel differently be sure and let us know. ;)

  15. Jo-Ann W. says:

    Lea and Brenda, I agree about V. Slezak and it sometimes being difficult to distinguish who is speaking, but I find once I get into his rythym, I can follow pretty well.

  16. Lea Hensley says:

    Another Challenge idea – over at our Goodreads group, two of our listeners who like a real challenge, are chosing the Quarterly Surprise and plan to complete all four categories instead of just the two required. That will mean 16 audios in 2012 and a surprise element in the requirements as well.

    I think that is a pretty cool variation!

  17. Kaetrin says:

    I have to go back and check my challenge from last year but I think I did all but listen to an abridged audio. I have a couple on my TBR, but with all the review books I’ve committed to listening to, I didn’t have time. That’s my excuse anyway!

    The surprise one looks good for this year. Why not I say? It’s not like if I don’t meet the challenge I’ll have to turn in my SOA card! :)

    I’m listening to Animal Magnetism at the moment and I’m really enjoying it. Only problem is I’ve had a busy start to the year (On the other hand I got my certificate IV in training and assessment last week!) and conflicting priorities for recreation so far this year. I’m only on my second print book – horrors! Normally I’d read 4-5 a week! So, who knows how I’ll go in the challenge but I’ll play along anyway. :)

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Kaetrin: I have to go back and check my challenge from last year but I think I did all but listen to an abridged audio. I have a couple on my TBR, but with all the review books I’ve committed to listening to, I didn’t have time. That’s my excuse anyway!The surprise one looks good for this year. Why not I say? It’s not like if I don’t meet the challenge I’ll have to turn in my SOA card!
      I’m listening to Animal Magnetism at the moment and I’m really enjoying it. Only problem is I’ve had a busy start to the year (On the other hand I got my certificate IV in training and assessment last week!) and conflicting priorities for recreation so far this year. I’m only on my second print book – horrors! Normally I’d read 4-5 a week! So, who knows how I’ll go in the challenge but I’ll play along anyway.

      Good way to look at it when you are unsure of a time commitment – playing along! It’s all fun and a means to expand your listening preferences. I happen to know that the Surprise by the Quarter will have some fun offerings…

  18. Kaetrin says:

    Here are my 2011 results. I only missed one category, like I thought.

    • DIK @ AAR Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison, narrated by Sophie Eastlake
    • Listen to 2011 release – Shadowfever
    • Listen to a new to you narrator – Tavia Gilbert in Night Huntress series
    • Give a less than favourite narrator a second chance (this will be my hardest challenge I think!) Then Came You
    • Start a new series – Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
    • Listen to another SOA listener’s favourite – Kiss of the Highlander
    • Listen to a book someone else chooses for you (actually, this could be hard to, depending on who does the choosing!!) Darkfever – Brenda and Lea made me do it. Thank you!
    • Listen to an abridged audiobook DID NOT GET TO THIS ONE
    • Listen to a new

  19. Megan says:

    Me, too! Me, too! I’m gonna do Track 4: mix em ups.
    Here’s my first: The Welcoming by Nora Roberts (narrated by Christian Rummel)
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/266117104

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