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: Tavia Gilbert Interview and New Releases

Tavia GilbertThe 2012 Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll is up and running.  It’s your chance to tell the audio industry what you like best about romance audio.  It’s a different type of poll this year and you will find few of the same categories as our 2011 Poll.  The poll ends Monday, July 2nd at midnight.  So go cast your ballot!

We’re continuing to celebrate June Is Audiobook Month with our fourth special event – an interview with Tavia Gilbert.  Tavia was a finalist for an Audie Award this year and attended the ceremony earlier this month.  She’s giving us an inside look at the Audies and the Audio Publishers Association and sharing a little about her career.  There’s another event that has Tavia’s name on it this month and that is the release of Jeaniene Frost’s Once Burned.  Tavia is once again in the narrator’s seat with Vlad’s book – something that Night Huntress fans have been waiting for.

We also have our New Releases for July and a number of reviews.  Up for review today are Kristan Higgins’ Catch of the Day, J.R. Ward’s The Player, Shiloh Walker’s Ash trilogy, and Nora Roberts’ The Last Boyfriend.

Talking with Tavia Gilbert

Welcome to Speaking of Audiobooks Tavia and thanks for joining us today in this last of our special events celebrating June Is Audiobook Month (JIAM). It’s been exciting to watch all that is going on in the audio industry this month as well as looking from the outside in at the 2012 Audio Publishers Association (APA) Conference and the Audie Awards.  I see that you have been an Audie finalist three times including the 2012 Audies for your narration of The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  Can you tell us about the Audie Awards and what being a finalist means to a narrator?

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Audible Giveaway and Reviews (Contest Closed)

Butterfly SwordsJune Is Audiobook Month (JIAM) and we are celebrating!  We’re expressing our support for the audiobook industry today with an Audible membership giveaway.  If you are already a member, you know this means more books for you.  If you have yet to try Audible, this three-month membership requires no credit card and no commitment.  Audible even has a service to set you up with your gift membership.

Today’s Audible giveaway is sponsored by All About Romance.  Enter to win by commenting on this column by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, June 14th.  Usually our giveaways are limited to the U.S. and Canada.  However, this Audible gift membership is open to anyone who has access to Audible in his or her area.  We encourage multiple comments in our discussion but you will only be entered in the contest once.  If you review for another Web site or blog, please refrain from entering.  The winner will be notified by email on Friday morning and will have 24 hours to respond.  Another winner will be selected on Saturday morning if the winner has not responded.  The winner will be asked to provide the email address used for their current or future Audible account.

A Very Special Group of Reviews Today

We’re also celebrating JIAM today with ten reviews of the very latest in romance audio.  Up for review are Rachel Gibson’s Rescue Me, Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords, Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden, Patricia Briggs’ Fair Game, Amanda Quick’s Crystal Gardens, Carla Neggers’ Secrets of the Lost Summer, Nora Roberts’ The Witness, Nora Robert’s Carnal Innocence, Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot in the Sand, and Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This.

Our 2nd Annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll June 18th

We’ll continue to celebrate JIAM next week with Speaking of Audiobooks’ second annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.  This year it’s a new take on favorites with only a few of last year’s categories.  After all, how often can you choose All Time Favorites?  We’re taking a beyond the winners approach and admitting our runaway winners last year, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and J.D. Robb’s In Death series are just that – first place winners.  Now we’re looking beyond those highly popular series to discover what other favorites are lurking out there.  We’ve also added some new categories making our 2012 poll truly unique. Continue reading

Speaking of Audiobooks: April 2012 Releases

Be My PrinceIt’s time for Round Two of the Surprise by the Quarter track in our 2012 Listening Challenge!  Continue with this round of your 2012 Challenge or, if you want, jump in for just this quarter.  Round Two covers April – June.

The Four Categories:

Choice #1 – The FunniesListen to a romance that is also a hoot!

For recommendations, take a look at Speaking of Audiobooks: The Funny Ones, AAR’s Special Title Listing of Favorite Funnies (a list of print books but many are available in audio), or just ask our group for suggestions.

Choice #2 – Listen to a romance narrated by a man.

Choice #3 – Rounding Out the FamilyListen to a romance where a child (under 18) or pet plays a significant role.

For pet recommendations, there is an extensive list at AAR’s Special Title Listing of Amazing Animals (once again – a list of print books but many are audiobooks as well).  For children, I’ll need to ask the group for suggestions!

Choice #4 – Listen to a non-romance.

Share your Challenge update here in the column’s discussion area or at our Goodreads group where we have a thread dedicated to the Challenge.

April’s Romance Audiobook Releases

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Speaking of Audiobooks: June Releases and Slave to Sensation Discussion

Book ClubSpeaking of Audiobooks has now been around for two years!  This represents our 52nd column and if you are wondering about anything concerning romance audiobooks, you’ll probably find it in our audio archives.  They remain an invaluable resource.

It’s Time!  Our Group Discussion of Slave to Sensation

On April 6th, we announced our Group Listen of Slave to Sensation.  We decided to celebrate Tantor’s decision to release all ten of Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling Series (over a period of 4-5 months) by listening to the first in the series, Slave to Sensation as a group.  Our announcement was followed by a giveaway of ten audiobook copies (courtesy of Tantor) of Slave to Sensation and the excitement has been growing since.  I requested that we save our comments for this column to facilitate the group discussion.  Our Goodreads Speaking of Audiobooks group has kindly followed suit although I know many are bursting at the seams to talk about it!

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Those Older Hard-to-Find Romances

One SummerListening to a variety of romance audiobooks these days is a fairly simple process. With a large selection that is easily accessible either through competitive pricing or your local library, there’s little to complain about.  But as I look at the variety of audiobooks offered today, I know, as a long time audio enthusiast, that there’s more – a missing segment I guess you could say – from years gone by.

Many of these rarely seen audiobooks are the very ones I cut my romance audiobook teeth on.  They’re still out there but most are in cassette tape format and, if you are able to locate a copy, the price is usually steep.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t understand the process of choosing older romances for today’s audio offerings (it’s a well kept secret as far as I can tell) and the effect the entire licensing issue has on the selection process is beyond my comprehension.  Still, I’m always hoping another one of these lost treasures will be rereleased in an affordable MP3 or CD format.  After all, we’ve seen it happen many times over the past few years.  Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, Stephanie Laurens’ Devil’s Bride, and Katherine Sutcliffe’s Notorious are just a few excellent examples of those cassette tape offerings that, after a number of years, finally appeared and became available to many of us rather than just a few with deep pockets and the willingness to listen on a cassette tape player.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: July 2010 Releases

SoullessChallenging myself earlier this year to listen to a number of those romance audiobooks I tend to avoid due to their category, I’m scoring very well with my Unofficial Personal Listening Challenge for 2010.  Results to date:


Thoughts: Can’t get enough

Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

Although I’ve heard the Sookie Stackhouse series praised for years, I was reluctant to dive in.  I didn’t think I’d be interested in an open ended series with the possibility of more than one romantic hero.  I want to read romance with just a side dish of adventure and I relish those solidly wrapped up endings.  Finally heeding the words of many, I chose it as my Series challenge and boy, has it paid off!

The audio version is so entertaining that I can’t envision preferring the printed word.  Johanna Parker excels in her narration, the pace is tight, the story delightful, and I didn’t find a single boring moment.  I immediately purchased the second in the series, Living Dead in Dallas and experienced all the above once again.  I will continue with this series.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Our Favorite Narrators

Anna FieldsOur first Speaking of Audiobooks column carried the subtitle, It’s All About the Narrator and was a general discussion of romance audiobooks.  It also provided us an opportunity to start sharing with each other, from one column to the next, those narrators that do (and don’t) work for us since we, as audiobook enthusiasts, know with great certainty that the narrator holds the power to make or break an audiobook.

This is our twentieth Speaking of Audiobooks column which means we now have nineteen discussions to look back on and survey trends in narrator recommendations.  Who are the most recommended romance audiobook narrators?  Well, I decided to not guess or rely on my memory for such a topic and started combing through our previous discussions and recorded each Favorable Mention of a narrator.  And what, you may rightly ask, qualifies as a Favorable Mention?  It can’t be along the lines of  “The narrator did a good job.”  No “goods” are included in this tally.  A Favorable Mention means that a narrator is someone’s favorite or, as is often the case, is signified with comments such as “I love this narrator.”  If I saw a narrator’s performance described with words such as excellent, outstanding, and wonderful, those also made the Favorable Mention list.  These are the narrators who, in the eyes of our listeners, did more than just a good job.

Tallying up Favorable Mentions and delivering them for your perusal is an unscientific process.  There are no ballots tallied here – no favorites list for you to mark your choice.  This is merely a listing of the number of times a narrator has received that Favorable Mention but even that is open for interpretation and not an exact process.  Please keep in mind that this is a list of Favorable Mentions from one column to the next with no record of who made the statement.  Therefore if one of our listeners has stated three times in separate columns over the last ten months that she “loved Johanna Parker”, then it’s been tallied three times.

Here’s our list of favorite narrators based on your Favorable Mentions here at Speaking of Audiobooks as well as a few book recommendations for each:

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