Speaking of Audiobooks: November 2013 Audio News

DeadlineWe have general romance audio news today as well as an announcement from AAR. We also have something new for Speaking of Audiobooks – sound clips from several promising audios.

Speaking of Audiobooks Review News

You know all those audiobook reviews you have seen in the Speaking of Audiobooks columns through the years? There are hundreds and we have mourned the inability to search or even find a listing of those reviews we know are there but are seemingly just out of our reach. Oh, they are all still there, tucked away in a Speaking of Audiobooks column somewhere. Well, the good news is – things are a-changing.

Slowly but surely, we are moving those audio reviews into AAR’s review database. As with any review of a print book, you can now go into the Power Search and search by author or title. You can also choose to view our entire selection of audiobook reviews – select Audiobook under Book Type and it will bring up all audiobook reviews ordered by most recent. Right now there are 61 reviews but we will have more than 300 from the past 4 ½ years when we have transitioned all over to the reviews database.

In many of those reviews, you will find more information than that which was included in the original Speaking of Audiobooks review thanks to a number of audio reviewers, both past and present, who have volunteered to provide an overall grade, separate grades for narration and content, and sensuality ratings for a good number of their past reviews. On all audio reviews, you’ll find the length of the audio and prices for both hard copies (if available) and Audible.

Future Audio Review News

And more big review news. We are now writing new audio reviews and publishing those right along with AAR’s print reviews. Regularly, you will see audiobook reviews mixed in with print reviews six days a week in our New Reviews area.

Our audio reviewers at this time are LinnieGayl, Caz, and myself. Our first new audiobook review ran this past Saturday – Caz’s review of Laura Kinsale’s My Sweet Folly. Each column, I’ll provide links to audiobook reviews published since the last column. All reviews included in the current and future Speaking of Audiobooks column are written by me – Lea Hensley and will be shorter in length than the general audio reviews. These SOA reviews will be added to the reviews database after each column runs.

Coming Soon Audio Reviews

Although we have around 25 audio review titles in the works at this time, here are a few you will soon be seeing:

RealClare, Pamela – Striking Distance  Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

Evans, Katy – Real  Narrated by Charlotte Penfield

Heyer, Georgette – Sylvester (unabridged)  Narrated by Nicholas Rowe

Kinsale, Laura – Shadowheart  Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Milan, Courtney – The Duchess War  Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Shalvis, Jill – Always on my Mind  Narrated by Annie Greene

Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project  Narrated by Dan O’Grady

Willig, Lauren – The Passion of the Purple Plumeria     Narrated by Kate Reading

 

Sound Clips – a Welcome Addition to Audio Reviews

As romance listeners, we want to hear interaction between the hero and heroine in sound clips yet, that’s rarely the case. Since Audible’s sound clips typically feature the first few minutes of an audio, we usually hear the intro to one of the characters or the prologue. Starting with today’s Speaking of Audiobooks column, we’re offering a few sound clips you won’t find at Audible. Each will contain that hero/heroine interaction and hopefully help you decide if a particular audio is of interest to you.

We’re featuring all male narrators today (it just happened that way – not purposefully): Stephen Lang – narrator of Sandra Brown’s recent Deadline, Kaleo Griffith – narrator of Pamela Clare’s Defiant, and Nicholas Boulton – narrator of Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart and My Sweet Folly.

Deadline – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Stephen Lang

I’m a big Sandra Brown fan who eagerly anticipates each of her new releases while relistening to my Brown favorites to keep my bouts of Brown fever at bay. Not only can I rely on another entertaining romantic suspense each year, but I rest in the knowledge that her new title will be released simultaneously in print and audio formats with the audio featuring an experienced talented narrator. Stephen Lang adeptly delivers Deadline with all the suspense one could hope for while paying homage to the romance within.

Dawson, a well-known journalist who has just returned from Afghanistan, overwhelmed and still suffering from his experiences there, follows a close FBI contact’s suggestion that he cover the presumed murder case of a soldier who looks to be the biological son of infamous terrorists. Amelia is the dead soldier’s wife and mother of his two children. Their romance builds slowly and believably as each discovers Amelia is being targeted – someone wants her dead. Deadline is more romantic that Brown’s other more recent releases and provides complete satisfaction in more ways than one. Aside from some noticeable production issues, Lang’s narration combined with Sandra Brown’s storytelling is a complete winner. My grades – an A- for narration and an A for content. Sensuality: Warm

The following sound sample features one of Dawson and Amelia’s first encounters.

 

 

Defiant – Pamela Clare

Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

The third in the Mackinnon’s Rangers series, Defiant delivers an above average American Historical tale set during the French and Indian War. To better visualize this time frame, think Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans. Although I see Lewis as Iain (the hero of Surrender), the action and politics seen in that movie are present as well as cruel treatment from a Native American tribe – this time the Shawnee.

At times, it’s tough to listen to Connor and Sarah’s experiences with the tribe (and it reminds me of Clare’s Ride the Fire) but the bigger story lies beyond those trials. Pamela Clare doesn’t write wallpaper historicals and Defiant is rich with historical facts blended with tender romance. Kaleo Griffith, narrator of Ms. Clare’s audiobooks to date, continues to bring to life these engaging tales with easily distinguished characters while imbuing each scene with the appropriate tension, humor, and attention to tenderness – an absolute requirement for this at-times heart wrenching tale. Grade: Narration – B+ and Content: A.  Sensuality: Hot

Our sound clip features one of those tender scenes between Connor and Sarah.

For My Lady’s Heart – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

I was hesitant to listen to For My Lady’s Heart as I read that it contained (horrors) Middle English. I want my listening to be easy but the lure was strong with all the highly favorable comments I was reading and … it’s a Medieval, a sub-genre I thoroughly enjoy. And that Middle English? I barely noticed it after hearing the first bit of dialogue as the author seamlessly blends the more archaic language into the overall text.

Nick Boulton, a stage actor more than a little familiar with Shakespeare, delivers it all with such great skill that I only thought about the beauty of the story, it’s complex characters, and the sheer intrigue Kinsale’s words convey. Facing a difficult heroine once again (Prince of Midnight featured such a heroine as well – an A listen for me), I didn’t run away as is my tendency. I have learned that in the hands of this author, it will work for me. I’m sure I’ll accept her character well before the story’s end and appreciate its inclusion. My grades – A+ for narration and A for content. Sensuality: Warm

Here’s a taste of what is waiting for you in For My Lady’s Heart:

My Sweet Folly – Laura Kinsale

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

Folie (Folly) is quite simply an endearing heroine. A widow and responsible yet loving stepmother, she’s faced the difficulties in her life with great aplomb. She’s paired with what can best be described as a challenging hero who, while at times seems the ultimate in kindness and consideration, can also appear a bit unhinged and downright difficult.

Nick Boulton, once again, gives an outstanding performance and helps the listener understand Robert’s trials and uncertainties. I have learned that Laura Kinsale’s books usually contain an arduous character or plot element that I must accept fully while trusting her to turn it around and deliver an excellent tale in the process. My Sweet Folly is no exception and I reveled in the mystery surrounding Robert and his relationship with Folly that starts so innocently and beautifully only to veer way off the beaten path. In her audio review, Caz gave My Sweet Folly an overall B+ grade. My grade is higher – an overall A with an A+ for narration and an A- for content. Sensuality: Warm

This sound clip features one of their more challenging conversations – Nick Boulton gets every nuance and performs each character even better than my mind can envision:

 

Romance Audiobook News

Linda Howard

Dare we hope to see her unpublished (after 1986) audio titles soon? In particular, we are talking about Duncan’s Bride and her Kell Sabin series, which includes Midnight RainbowDiamond BayHeartbreaker, and White Lies.

Well, Midnight Rainbow is scheduled for release on December 1st by Dreamscape Media! I’m smiling but concerned about the choice of unknown narrator Brenda Sweeney. I was hoping for one of the audio industry’s best narrators with this Linda Howard jewel. Let’s hope Brenda Sweeney fits that bill.

All Through the Night BockwayConnie Brockway

Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night will be released in audio format on November 19th. We are hoping this is an indication that her entire backlist will soon be released in audio format as her debut novel, Promise Me Heaven, is also being released on the 19th. Both are narrated by Alison Larkin, she’s well-known and trusted. Fingers crossed for more audio releases.

The Lost Suzanne Enoch Audios

For a couple of years, we have talked about Suzanne Enoch’s five lost audiobooks originally released by Harper Audio, specifically:

The Rake

London’s Perfect Scoundrel

England’s Perfect Hero

Always a Scoundrel

The Care and Taming of a Rogue

This is (and was) especially significant news since the highly talented Tavia Gilbert narrates these lost titles. Released in 2011, these audios were available at Audible for a matter of only months. We discovered in February 2012, that the audios had disappeared. The search was officially on at our Romance Audiobooks Goodreads group and Tavia jokingly referred to it as The Goodreads Disappearing Audiobooks Smackdown Possee.  Well, we have news! Tavia reported on October 21st that Harper had confirmed their rerelease of these titles sometime this fall. In fact, two are already available at Audible – The Rake and London’s Perfect Scoundrel. You’ll also see Ms. Enoch’s newest series, Scandalous Brides, (released in 2012-2013 by Tantor) with Anne Flosnik narrating.

Laura Kinsale

For those of you who have been waiting for For My Lady’s Heart or wondered what happened to it, it is now available at Audible once again. Audible inadvertently left Chapter 14 out of the audio and had to remove the book. Replacement took weeks causing listeners to ask in frustration “Where did it go?!” Surely there is a better way than to just remove an audio in such a situation (the same happened with Pamela Clare’s Surrender earlier this year although it was Tantor making the changes).

Nora Roberts’ Whiskey Beach

Brilliance released Whiskey Beach earlier this year with Peter Berkrot narrating. The reviews were mixed but apparently caused concern for Brilliance as they rereleased Whiskey Beach in October with a new narrator – Luke Daniels. Apparently, there were complaints about Berkrot’s narration and action was taken. Reviews are also mixed on Daniels’ performance. I noticed that the unabridged MP3 CD at Amazon still includes Peter Berkrot as narrator while the abridged version names Luke Daniels as the narrator as does the Audible unabridged version. Confusing as that is, we must applaud Brilliance for their move – they responded to listeners’ complaints.

ALS AuctionThe Fight Against ALS

The audio community is rallying around one of their own, Bob Deyan, who is battling ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease). His company, Deyan Audio, has probably produced at least one if not dozens of the audiobooks you have listened to. In support of his battle and to help him raise money to research ALS, two fundraisers are planned – one a live 24-hour read-a-thon in Los Angeles and the second, an online auction of unique audiobook related items. The online auction is currently underway. The flyer to the right will direct you to the online auction. If you want to know more about the read-a-thon or Bob’s story, visit here.

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

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

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks keeps growing and now has 629 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

-       Lea Hensley

 

AAR Staff Top Ten Lists – Who Was Our Favorite Author?

borninfire On Monday, Dabney Grinnan took a look at the 23 different Top 10 lists the AAR staff had submitted over the summer, determining which books were consistent favorites. With 201 unique titles, it’s clear that tastes varied widely amongst our staffers, with only twenty-two books appearing on more than one staffer’s list.

But which authors do AAR staffers tend to prefer? Is there a consensus on who the favorites are? When the list is compiled, 121 authors penned the 201 unique titles that were listed as staff favorites, and while there were a handful of surprises, for the most part, AAR staff favorite authors seem to reflect that of the romance reading population as a whole.

If you look at the data, it appears that Nora Roberts is by far and away the staff favorite. She has eight unique titles out of 201 (4%). However, a single AAR staffer listed three of those 8 titles on her list. In other words, Nora is a big favorite of a couple of our staff reviewers, but since only seven of us listed any of her books at all, that’s still 60% of the top ten lists that didn’t include one of her books, so what she wins is more of a plurality. 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 – Alexandra’s Picks

ravishingtheheiress Although I know other reviewers and staff have had a lot of trouble deciding upon their top ten romance novels, I have to confess it was mostly easy for me. This likely has something to do with the fact that I’ll be stranded on what is essentially a desert island for the next few months—that’s right, I’m off to college. There’s not much space in a dorm, so only the crème de la crème of my romance novel collection travels with me, and since many of those books have already been mentioned, it’s actually been fairly simple to whittle my list down to just ten.

Even so, I still have some books (like Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton or Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm) which I ache to write about and recommend. The books on my list have all been read and reread dozens of times. I take scrupulous care of all my books, and if you ran your hand down the spines of everything sitting on my bookshelf, you’d find perhaps 80% are in fairly pristine condition. These ones, however, look much more worn. They’re carted around (on vacation, off to college, etc.), they’re lent out to family and friends, and they’re the books most likely to be found sitting on a coffee table waiting to be spilled on.

So, without further ado, here are, in no particular order, some of my top bunch of romance novels—the true DIKs which I’ll be carting off to college this week. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Haley’s Picks

texasdestiny When I sat down to put this list together, I thought this would really be a piece of cake. Well, I was wrong. It turns out, I had more like a top twentysomething list and narrowing it down was not all that easy. Another thing I noticed is that so many of the books represented were some of the very first I ever read. My love of the romance genre began when I was a pre-teen and started pilfering books off my mother’s bookshelf. I knew she wouldn’t be happy with me reading them because I was so young, so I hid them under my bed or in the window seat. I got caught once while reading a book I loved, but now I can’t remember the title, and was told I was forbidden to read the romances. That didn’t stop me. I only grew more and more sneaky. I made sure to only take one book at a time and to shift the other books around to hide the missing one. I wonder now if the forbidden fruit aspect fueled my love of those books. I’ve made an effort as an adult to track down the books I read then and make sure they still appeal to me. Some have help up, and others not so much.

Had I not trimmed this list down significantly, there would be many, many more Westerns represented. That is because all my mother reads are Western romances, with the occasional other historical if it is by an author who also writes Westerns,and I’ve ended up loving those Westerns, too. I also noticed that I enjoy more unusual heroes, not just the alpha male you typically see. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – LinnieGayl’s Picks

seaswept As one of AAR’s three pollsters – along with LeeB and Cindy – I truly adore the Top 100 poll. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also fun to look at the ballots as they come in. I was excited when everyone at AAR decided to post their top ten romances as a lead-up to the Top 100 polling in October. But I was also a bit nervous. Since I’ve seen the ballots AAR readers submitted in 2007 and 2010, I know that my top ten romances are a bit idiosyncratic.

Like most of my colleagues at AAR, I decided to set up some rules for my Top 10. I’ve made no attempt to balance the list by subgenre. Nor did I limit my list to just one romance per author (as you’ll quickly see). But I did decide to list just one entry from each series or trilogy and went with the first in a series. In some cases the first entry isn’t my favorite, but these are series that I believe should be read from the beginning, they’re just that good. All but one of the romances on my list (#9) are frequent rereads and/or re-listens.

Unlike many of my AAR colleagues, while I adore Pride and Prejudice, it isn’t actually in the top ten on my ballot, so I didn’t have to make any rules about it. But I did struggle long and hard about placing a mystery – with seriously strong romantic elements – on my list. The first in the Amelia Peabody mysteries, Crocodile on the Sandbank, can almost be taken as a cozy romantic suspense, and was actually my “A review” when I applied to be an AAR reviewer. While the series definitely reads as mystery, at its heart is the endearing romance between Amelia and Emerson. While I stuck with romances for my list, one historical romance set in Egypt made it onto my list and another (Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase) just missed. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Anne’s Picks

defynottheheart My first thought when I heard about this was “Eek! Only ten?” These picks are in no particular order, and some make no sense when I look at them. But these were the books I often think of when I try to pick favorites — often because they influenced me so much. Sadly, some of the romances I loved the most have titles like “That old Silhouette where the hero helped the heroine recover from an abusive childhood. Or something. I think it was blue.”

If I left your book off the list, don’t feel bad. It might be one of dozens of runner-ups. Or maybe it was one of those books I’ve been trying to remember for years. Was your book blue?

1) Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

This book broke rules and yet still managed to be classic Lindsey, without being classic Lindsey that involved Viking slave collars and the like. Even the sex was mediocre at first, until the hero found out how to make it better for the heroine. That was a great touch. But I’ll always remember this book for the gay lady’s maid Theo. An unexpected find in a Medieval. Sure, the hero and heroine fought a lot. This is a Lindsey, right? Was it PC? Come on! This is a Lindsey! Continue reading

AAR Staff Top 10 Favorites – Heather’s Picks

paradise When you’re a voracious reader, picking a top 10 is a daunting task. There are so many books that I’ve loved and in many different ways or for different reasons. Some may be because they’ve brought me to a particular sub-genre. Some I’ve loved perhaps because they struck the right note for me for where I was emotionally at the time I read them. And some are on my favorites list just because they have that certain je ne se quois that causes me to connect with the story and characters. Whatever the reason may be, AAR has brought me fantastic recommendations for many years thanks to the wonderful community of reviewers, pollsters, commenters, and visitors to our message boards.

My highly scientific method of decision-making consisted of going through my reading log and if a book made me squee with delight, I short listed it. Then I began the arduous task of narrowing down my choices to ten. My choices represent a variety of genres and styles, but all have become favorites of mine in some way. There are some glaring omissions, notably due to the fact that there are no medievals on my list, and a few favorite authors, while I consistently enjoy the books they produce, did not make the cut.

And so now it is time for me to pick my favorite children, er, books. Gosh, this is harder than it sounded at first. Continue reading

AAR Staff Top Ten Favorites – Jean’s Picks

See, I knew that signing up for this blog would cause me a headache. How are you supposed to choose the top ten romances that rock your world? How? How? (At the back of my mind I have the Baha Men singing along, except it’s “How do you choose now? How, how, how, how?” Great. Hence the headache.)

Anyway, I figured the only way I can keep sane is a) recognize that I won’t hit them all, and b) acknowledge that if I am actually stuck on a desert island with only ten romance novels, I’d go crazy anyway, no matter what I chose. (Unless I chose, like, the Koran, Paradise Lost, and Journey to the West. Then maybe I’d not go all loopy.)

I decided that what I’d probably crave the most is variety, a little bit of every genre to suit every mood. It actually turned out to be relatively easy once I’d decided on this, looked at my Top 100 list, scanned my shelves, and sliced through the different categories. I’m happy with my choices – they’re all different in setting, subgenre, writing style, and character. I’ve also read each of them at least twice – I’m a serial re-reader, so I know when something works for me, when it doesn’t, and (most of important of all) when it stands up to the test of time. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: Historical Romance Audio News

It looks like 2013 will be one of the best years yet for historical romance listening with many popular print books finally scheduled for audio release.

Julie Garwood
It starts this month with the release of Julie Garwood’s The Secret, a book that has made every AAR Top 100 Romances Poll since it started in 1998. It’s classic Julie Garwood and one many recall from their early days of romance reading with its original 1992 publication date. And it is being narrated by one of my favorites for historical romance – Susan Duerden.

Brilliance has scheduled the majority of Garwood’s backlist (that is not already in audio format) for release in 2013. A month ago, we saw the release of Prince Charming (Rosalyn Landor) with projected release dates for: Continue reading