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:

Series

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.

Fantasy Romance

Thoughts:  A Total Success

The Sharing Knife, Volume 1: Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold.  A solid A for Volume 1 as well as Volume 2, Legacy, and Volume 3, Passage.  I’m saving Volume 4, Horizon, for a special occasion.

Abridged

Thoughts: I’m now willing to try more

Sylvester – Georgette Heyer

A typical audio listening day for me doesn’t contain a single abridged book.  Challenging myself to listen to Sylvester was cheating a bit since Richard Armitage narrates.  I praised this one in the last column profusely.  There are now two more abridged romances in my audio library but I must admit that I’m pretty darn picky when choosing them.

Challenges Remaining for 2010

Romantic Suspense – Envy by Sandra Brown

Urban FantasyDarkfever by Karen Marie Moning

In the Name of Mature Audio ListeningA Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

By far the most enjoyable aspect of my reading challenge to date is the increase in the number of highly anticipated books in my audio library.  The first three audiobooks in my challenge spurred me to purchase seven more!  No lack of choices here.

Leftovers from June

(All are unabridged format unless stated otherwise.)

Here are just a few of those surprise audiobooks that failed to make last month’s New Releases column.

Beverley, Jo – The Dragon’s Bride Narrated by Simon Prebble

Beverley, Jo – Hazard Narrated by Anne Flosnik

Carriger, Gail – Soulless Narrated by Emily Gray

Feehan, Christine – Safe Harbor Narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan

Graham, Heather – Captive Narrated by George Guidall

Griggs, Vanessa Davis – Practicing What You Preach Narrated by Shari Peele

Marshall, Catherine – Christy Narrated by Kellie Martin

Sala, Sharon – Blown Away Narrated by Gayle Hendrix

Sands, Lynsay – Taming the Highland Bride Narrated by Marianna Palk

Slade, Jessa – Forged of Shadows Narrated by Renee Raudman

Small Beatrice – Until You Narrated by Virginia Leishman

Thomas, Jodi – Texas Princess Narrated by Linda Stephens

Audiobook Romances on Sale in July

Abridged

Graham, Heather – Ghost Night Narrated by Angela Dawe

Howard, Linda – Burn Narrated by Joyce Bean

Michaels, Fern – Celebration Narrated by Laural Merlington

Rice, Luann – Cloud Nine Narrated by Sandra Burr

Roberts, Nora – Homeport Narrated by Erika Leigh

Roberts, Nora – Honest Illusions Narrated by Sandra Burr

Roberts, Nora – Nora Roberts CD Collection 6: High Noon, Tribute Various Narrators

Roberts, Nora – The Search Narrated by Tanya Eby

Honest IllusionsUnabridged

Brockmann, Suzanne – Infamous Narrated by Angela Dawe & Patrick Lawlor

Graham, Heather – Ghost Night Narrated by Angela Dawe

Hannah, Kristin – Home Again Narrated by Tanya Eby

Jeffries, Sabrina – Beware a Scot’s Revenge Narrated by Justine Eyre

Macomber, Debbie – Lone Star Lovin’: A Selection from Orchard Valley Brides Narrated by Tanya Eby

Macomber, Debbie – Norah: A Selection from Orchard Valley Brides Narrated by Tanya Eby

Monroe, Mary Alice – The Beach House Narrated by Mary Alice Monroe

Phillips, Carly – Kiss Me if You Can Narrated by Sherri Slater

Rice, Luann – Cloud Nine Narrated by Sandra Burr

Roberts, Nora – Honest Illusions Narrated by Sandra Burr

Roberts, Nora – Loving Jack Narrated by Angela Dawe

Roberts, Nora – The Search Narrated by Tanya Eby

Roberts, Nora – Summer Desserts Narrated by Nellie Chalfant

Woods, Sherryl – Feels Like Family Narrated by Janet Metzger

Woods, Sherryl – A Slice of Heaven Narrated by Janet Metzger

Recent Additions to my Audio Library

Soulless – Gail Carriger

Narrated by Emily Gray

Sometimes Audible totally takes you by surprise as you discover the release of a favorite book you had absolutely no idea was coming.  Such was the case with Soulless.  I read the book this year and found it quite delightful.  I just had to have in audio.

Every Breath You Take – Judith McNaught

Narrated by Laura Dean

As a McNaught fan, I long for a few audio versions of her work.  They’re out there but often very abridged and less than three hours in length.  Every Breath You Take comes in right under six hours and, in an attempt to increase my exposure to abridged audiobooks, this seemed to fit the bill.  However, as I explored Amazon, I located a few used copies of an unabridged version (can that be true?) and may go for the unabridged version as well before all is said and done.

Notorious – Katherine Sutcliffe

Narrated by Josephine Bailey

A fan of Sutcliffe’s historicals, I hadn’t thought to look for Notorious in audio format until Libby Emond highly recommended it a few months ago in one of our Speaking of Audiobooks discussions.  Discovering further that the absolutely fantastic Josephine Bailey narrates made this one a must-buy.  I remember Ms. Bailey fondly from her narration of Josie Litton’s Dream of Me (one of my all time favorite audiobooks).

Lessons of Desire – Madeline Hunter

Narrated by Jill Tanner

I’ve read the book and graded it a B+.  With Jill Tanner’s narration, it may come in at an A in the audiobook version.  My regard for Tanner is that high.

Separate Beds2Recent Listens

Separate Beds – LaVyrle Spencer

Narrated by Liz Dykhouse

Upfront, there is one thing you must know about Separate Beds and that is the fact that as a contemporary romance it is dated – very dated.  I’m not just talking cassette players or the color of the walls or the style of the clothes (all described in detail).  Rather it is society’s view of a pregnancy outside of marriage and the choices therein.  Comfortable with Spencer’s ability to tell a good story, I decided to go with it and immerse myself in the early 1980s (reads more like the 70s).  The audio presentation was more than adequate although voice characterization didn’t differ greatly in modulation.  However, Liz Dykhouse effectively distinguishes characters through attitude and method of delivery.  This isn’t likely to be on my re-listen list but I found it absorbing – especially as I contemplated the changes in viewpoints over the past 30-40 years.

Manhunting – Jennifer Crusie

Narrated by Renee Raudman

Another purely fun audiobook, I find Crusie a reliable source for entertaining light-hearted romance.  Renee Raudman does a grand job of differentiating the leads’ voices by rightfully (and successfully) giving the hero a very southern accent.

Time for Your Thoughts

Do you have a challenge success or failure to share?

What new releases are you looking forward to?

Do you know of any July releases that failed to make this list?

What are the latest additions to your audio library?

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

Ending Notes

I’m announcing new audiobook releases as they occur each weekday on Twitter.  I don’t cover every new release but attempt to include the more significant titles.  To follow me on Twitter, look for LeaAAR.

Currently there is no monthly list of upcoming audiobook releases on AAR’s main site.  We’ll continue to publish those lists here at Speaking of Audiobooks and will notify you once the main site is carrying the lists again.

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

See you again mid-July.

– Lea Hensley