Speaking of Audiobooks: Notable August Releases, MOBY, and STARZ Outlander

Heroes Are My WeaknessAugust is always a strong month for romance audiobook releases and this year is especially strong evidence of such. Here are just a few titles worthy of your attention in August.

Heroes Are My Weakness – Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Narrated by Erin Bennett

A lover of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books for at least a dozen years now, I always eagerly anticipate each of her new releases. I’m unfamiliar with Erin Bennett but she’s not new to narrating. At Audible, I found close to Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Blythe’s Picks

boundbyyourtouch I put off writing my top ten until the last possible moment for a variety of reasons. I wanted some time to think about it, but I knew even though I had lots of time I’d still be making choices at the last minute; it’s not unusual for me to make my Reviewer’s Choice top pick while I’m writing the column. I also decided my top seven fairly easily, and then got stuck on the final three. I agonized over which three deserved the final honors, and then ended up with some also rans. I’ve been reading romance for a long time, and that presented its own problems. Should I choose early, sentimental favorites, or more of the quality Johnny come lately offerings? Well, in reverse order, here’s my top ten (ish).

Also rans: Just for fun, my books that didn’t quite make the short list but almost did: Paradise by Judith McNaught (overwrought in all the best early 90s ways, and my favorite of all her books). Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – the popular favorite of her Bridgerton books, and my favorite as well. In the obscure category, Dana Ransom’s Wild Texas Bride or any of the books from her Bass series. You want a good western? These are the real deal. Ditto for Maggie Osbourne’s I Do, I Do, I Do, which has the added bonus of being a wagon train story, a particular weakness of mine. Susan Elizabeth Phillips Nobody’s Baby But Mine (and yes, I know the heroine was manipulative and dishonest. No, I don’t care). And old Signet regencies by Diane Farr and Elisabeth Fairchild – just in general. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jane’s Picks

outlander I started reviewing for AAR when I was pretty young – 18 years old, and still fairly new to the genre. My tastes have changed and evolved quite a bit in that time. Looking at my reviewer profile, which hasn’t been updated since I started, I am rather skeptical of my “favorites,” some of which I don’t even remember anymore. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown, except that 6 years ago it was apparently one of my favorites.

My philosophy in choosing favorites is two-fold. One, my Top Ten should be more than a fleeting “books I’m enjoying now,” and therefore aren’t recent reads, or ones that I’ve read only once. Two, they should have something in them that would appeal beyond the romance. I think there is a subtle distinction between “books that a romance reader would enjoy” and “books non-romance readers would enjoy.” There are definitely some stories that I would recommend to fellow romance readers, but not anyone else. The best books are the ones that I think, “I could give this to a friend, and they would understand why I love romance novels.”

So, here we go: my top ten. Continue reading

Reading after 9/11

flagIt won’t come as a surprise to anyone in the U.S. that Sunday marks a very important anniversary; it’s been 10 years since September 11, 2001.

Our world changed in so many ways that day.  Never again would we casually run to the airport to catch a flight.  We eyed strangers or those who looked different warily.  We accepted curbs to our civil rights that would have been unthinkable just days earlier.  To get an idea of how drastic it all was, I remember that the summer prior to 9/11, the big news was the disappearance of Chandra Levy (a big story here in D.C.) and multiple shark attacks.

In those first weeks after 9/11, I don’t think I did much reading since I was too caught up in the 24-hour news cycle.   Then, thankfully, I got my hands on a review copy of The Fiery Cross and I was lost in the adventures of Jamie and Claire in the new world.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll Results

OutlanderOur first annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll results are in and it’s time to share!  While many of the standard favorites shine through as expected, I was delighted with all the other books, narrators, and series that received a good amount of notice as well.  The Poll is divided into five categories:

  • Absolute Favorites
  • Sub-Genre Favorites
  • Narrator Favorites
  • Other Favorites to Ponder
  • Let’s Let the Audiobook Industry Know…

And with that…drum roll please!

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Casting My Favorites

cliveWe’re talking casting here again at the AAR blog.

Lynn wrote earlier this week about how she never, ever visualizes actors as characters in a novel she’s reading.  Truth is I rarely do either.

But sometimes something just clicks and the pairing of an actor with a character feels totally right.

The list of favorite characters that I haven’t cast is far (far, far, far) longer than the characters I have.

In fact, I’ve really only cast three.

Clive Owen as Derek Craven:

I’ve loved Derek Craven since he first crossed my path w-a-a-a-a-y back in 1994 when Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas was first published.  Back then, as is typical with me, I never pictured him as having a particular face.

Then I saw Clive Owen.  I forget what film – maybe Croupier – first introduced me to his wonders, but by the time Gosford Park was released in 2001, I knew he was Derek.  Just knew it.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: The Outlander Series

Outlander choiceThe audiobook standard of excellence in my opinion is undoubtedly the unabridged version of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series as told by narrator Davina Porter.  Specifically, I am talking about the first four in the series:  Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn.  Rarely have I been entertained to this degree for such a sustained period of time and that’s quite a statement given that these four books represent 159 hours of listening enjoyment with barely a boring moment.

Although I own all of these books in print, I have never actually read any one of the four.  My immense satisfaction with this series comes solely from listening to the unabridged audiobooks.  Now, I can’t imagine just settling for the printed word when I choose to revisit Frasers and company.  It’s as though there is another whole dimension beyond the mere reading that totally captures my mind’s eye.

It goes without saying that Diana Gabaldon’s writing is the basis of the love herein.  Without her exceptional storytelling, where would we be?  However, when it comes to audiobooks, there is a second star in the wings who vividly brings these books to life and that is narrator Davina Porter.  Much of today’s column is high praise of one sort or another for Ms. Porter’s ability to so completely engage my emotions while providing easily distinguished characterizations.  Seldom did I need a “he said” or a “she said” once a character was introduced.  Told in first person, the warmth or occasional smile in Porter’s voice further defined Claire’s character and her objective view of the world.

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The Great Gabaldon Giveaway!

gabaldon2 In addition to attending the booksigning with Diana Gabaldon, Blythe has brought back a signed copy of Echo in the Bone for one lucky reader. To enter, simply answer the following, “What medical condition prompts Briana and Roger to journey back to the 20th century with their children?” NOTE: If you haven’t read all the books, be warned that reading the comments will probably spoil at least part of one book for you.

The contest will be open from 8:30 a.m. EST until 7:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, October 1, 2009.

– Blythe Barnhill and Lynn Spencer

The Diana Gabaldon Booksigning

gabaldon “There’s a reason I write long books: I like digressions.”

That’s how Diana Gabaldon started off her booksigning for An Echo in the Bone (9/23 at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, CO). Since I’m a bit of a fan girl, this was not my first Gabaldon signing; in fact, it was my fourth. So I knew some of her wandering stories. Knew that Jamie was inspired by a fetching kilted Scotsman from a Dr. Who episode, knew that she wrote everything in chunks and then wrote the bits that tied the chunks together, knew that she had gotten her start on the compuserve bulletin boards. But Gabaldon is an engaging speaker, so enjoyable to listen to that it was worth ditching choir just to hear it all again.

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