Speaking of Audiobooks: Top Ten 2013 Romance Listens

FFTS and MM -final coversAlthough we’re seeing the audio romance section over at Audible brimming with unknown authors and narrators these days, it’s an indication that romance audiobooks are more popular than ever and the number of quality titles is on the rise as well. 2013 offered the best selection yet of highly entertaining, exceptionally written and performed audiobooks. My Top Ten List could easily number twenty-five.

When choosing the year’s Top Ten romance titles, it goes without saying that the author’s writing and the narrator’s performance are the most influential factors. With the proliferation of home studios, production plays a bigger role each year as those who take the time to give us a seamless listen without awkward corrections, noisy intakes of breath, or poor sound quality deserve recognition as well. And although all of these elements were taken into consideration when making my selections, there’s another dynamic that sometimes comes into play and overrides all the others – it’s that sense of being swept away – a gut feel that tells me “This was a perfect listen for me.”  Here’s hoping that my Top Ten Listens will provide you with the same. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: June is Audiobook Month

JIAM
“June Is Audiobook Month” (JIAM) reads like a sentence but it’s actually the name of a month long campaign to enhance visibility, awareness and popularity for audiobooks by directly reaching out to consumers. Sites and blogs celebrating the audio publishing industry are featuring all sorts of giveaways, interviews, chats, reviews, and examples of the sheer excellence that can be found in audio listening.

Since we’re entering the last week of JIAM, I thought it a good time to share with you some of the many events we’ve already seen during JIAM 2013 and some still to be enjoyed this week. Here are a number of blogs and sites that have strongly supported JIAM: 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

Speaking of Audiobooks: It’s All Reviews – May 2013

TPOM-print It’s time for another All Reviews column here at Speaking of Audiobooks. Eight audiobooks are up for review including Laura Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight (no link yet for the audio), Rachel Gibson’s Simply Irresistible, Julie James’ Love Irresistibly, Julie Garwood’s Prince Charming, Cynthia Eden’s Die for Me, J.D. Robb’s Calculated in Death, Jeaniene Frost’s Twice Tempted, and Sophie Kinsella’s Wedding Night.

The Prince of Midnight – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Review written by Lea Hensley

It’s finally here. Romance listeners have eagerly awaited The Prince of Midnight, the first audio release from Laura Kinsale’s fascinating backlist. Earlier this year, Ms. Kinsale announced that her entire backlist (twelve titles) would be released in audio during 2013 and into 2014 and now we have a taste of Kinsale’s skillful writing combined with Nicholas Boulton’s talented performance. It’s sheer audio perfection. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Julie James Interview and Giveaway!

9780425246955_AboutThatNig_CV.indd After getting a taste of the winning combination of author Julie James and narrator Karen White with Penguin’s release of Just the Sexiest Man Alive in 2010, romance audio fans have been begging for more from this talented team. After all, Julie’s A Lot Like Love won the Best Contemporary Romance award in AAR’s 2012 Annual Reader Poll and Something About You won that same award in 2011. And since Karen’s narration of Just the Sexiest Man Alive, she has been praised throughout the romance audio community for her performances.

Tantor Audio delighted those same fans by releasing Something About You this past June followed by A Lot Like Love in August. About That Night releases today and we decided that’s reason for a celebration. Continue reading

The Dollars and Sense of Heroes and Heroines

money A report was just released that revealed that in Washington, DC, the childhood poverty rate is higher than that of Mexico. In Washington, DC, my former home and our nation’s capital, more than 30% of children are growing up in impoverished families. Thirty percent.

This is not meant to be a political blog (though how sad is it that just stating childhood poverty rates can become a political debate?). Rather, I present this information as a reality that many of us don’t want to face: some Americans are poor. But reading romance novels – particularly contemporary ones — won’t let you in on that fact.

I’m not talking just the richest of the rich that are far too common in romance novels — the Roarkes, the movie stars, the billionaire bosses — but also the extremely healthy upper-middle-class that it seems almost everyone in romance novels belongs to. No one is living paycheck to paycheck. No one is working two jobs to make ends meet. No one has eschewed vacations in favor of paying school loans.
Continue reading

What’s Your Favorite Type of Cover?

As long as I have read romance novels, I’ve been interested in their covers. They are bright and often lurid and embarrassing. Who wants to sit on a bus, or at a coffee shop, reading a book with the characters practically having sex on the cover? The marketing strategy is something I find fascinating and counter-intuitive, but it obviously works. A lot of casual readers do not know much about many authors or sub-genres or trends within the industry. They just pick up what looks interesting in the grocery store aisle.

In looking at many, many covers, I’ve found that many of them have similar characteristics, and similar styles. While there are, of course, exceptions, most cover styles fall into one of five categories: The Cute Animal, The Cute Couple, The Faceless Couple, The Solo Star, and the Sexy/”Clinch” Cover.
Continue reading

Pandora’s Box: About That Night

9780425246955_AboutThatNig_CV.indd We’re back with another Pandora’s Box, this time featuring About That Night by Julie James. We have lots of Julie James fans here, so we thought it would be fun to get two reactions to her latest release. This time, we’re featuring Maggie Boyd and Heather Stanton in the box.

So, what’s happening in the latest installment in James’ FBI/US Attorney series? Due to events beyond his control, Kyle Rhodes skipped out on his first date with Rylann Pierce. He discovers the chemistry between them still in full force, though, when he finds himself face-to-face with her nine years later in a Chicago courtroom.

Rylann hadn’t expected to have to face the infamous Twitter Terrorist in court. It was, after all, someone else’s case. But when fate throws her once more into the path of the force of nature known as Kyle Rhodes, aka the Twitter Terrorist, , she is pleased with how she handles things. Cool. Professional. Totally over being stood up. She’s glad they had this moment of closure so he could see just how thoroughly she’d moved on.

Then she finds herself having to work with Kyle on another issue and starts to feel her detached manner being slowly eroded away by his charm. Does life really hand you a second-chance at love at first sight?
Continue reading

The Quest for the Perfect Book

holygrail As many of you know, I compose a list of all the books that I am looking forward to reading. It is like a security blanket or comfort item knowing that there are some books out there that I want to read. For the next three months I only have six books on my list, which is not good. There is not much security in that unless I plan on doing a lot of re-reads.

Years ago, I read The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold and loved it. That book is definitely an A book for me. After reading it I couldn’t stop talking about it, and recommended it to just about everyone I knew. But I lost the book, and forgot about the story, until someone on Speaking of Audiobooks posted that the audio book was on sale. Off I went and rediscovered the love. After I finished, I wondered why can’t I find books like this anymore: books not so much with tortured heroes or heroines, but imperfect human being facing tasks that require heroic efforts with an underlying theme of good against evil, with an underscoring premise that human lives have purpose. Then I thought of my upcoming list, Blythe’s blog and then Maggie’s blog.
Continue reading

Before They Were Authors

career The recent Labor Day weekend had friends and I discussing the changing job market. Many of us had launched into second (and even third) career paths, something that certainly wasn’t expected when we initially graduated from college. This got me to thinking of others who have a secondary career path (or sometimes even just a second job!); the writers who keep me supplied in romances.

Contrary to what many in the media may think, an author does not, as Eileen Dreyer so succinctly put it, choose this path because she is “a sexually frustrated loser dressed in a robe and bunny slippers who lives in a dreary apartment with my cat and lives vicariously through my devastatingly beautiful heroines.” Most seem to choose it because it is a girlhood dream. And many, many, many of them come to writing only after having pursued another career first. I am fascinated by the diversity of what those careers are and thought others might be to. So here it is, a cataloging of what several of the greats did before they were romance writers.

Linda Howard worked at a trucking company, which explains to me at least why she can create such realistic men. I would imagine working in a male dominated field like that would show one a great deal about how the opposite sex thinks. Susanna Kearsley was a museum curator, and I think that is reflected in the wonderful historical settings of some of her novels. Justine Davis was in law enforcement before being a writer. She writes authentic romantic suspense with an authentic flavor now.  And Inez Kelly was a 911 dispatcher and Linnea Sinclair worked as a private detective and also a news reporter before taking on romantic science fiction. Sandra Brown also worked as a reporter, and Pamela Clare “went to work for a newspaper and held almost every position in the newsroom before becoming the paper’s first woman editor.” Karina Bliss, who has received a DIK here at AAR for Here Comes the Groom, worked as a travel journalist. And Carla Kelly? Well, among her many and varied careers, she has worked as a park ranger and was a Valley City Time Record feature writer.

Continue reading