Since I started listening to fictional audiobooks more than twelve years ago (I’ve lost track), I have continued to read print titles while listening to others. Even when I was only reading in print, as a rule, I read three books at a time since variety has always been important in my reading/listening. That meant those three books represented three different genres/sub-genres as well to avoid mixing up the storylines.
Over the past six years, I listened to two books while I read a couple of print titles as well. Occasionally, one book (print or audio) swept me away and demanded all my attention but there was a definite structure there – two audiobooks and two print books were required at all times. Sub-genre variety was no longer much of a concern since narrators provided plenty of diversification on the audio side. And then I realized it was a lot easier to be entirely swept away by an audiobook since I could listen all day.
Now I’m finding that listening to a book is far preferable to reading the print version. Maybe it’s that I’m so accustomed to listening that I am as comfortable with the spoken word as the written. And, of course, significantly influencing my choice to listen is the fact that a talented narrator’s performance usually increases the enjoyment factor.
But you know, for a person like me who apparently loves over-commitment (I must – I live that way), audiobook listening is just so completely efficient. I imagine you have heard me refer to it as my otherwise-occupied activity as I accomplish a great deal while listening – cleaning the kitchen, exercising, driving, folding laundry, or creating in my art room. And being a person who rarely does only one thing at a time, it’s the perfect vehicle for me. As the quality and selection of audiobooks has risen, my time daily with the written page has decreased, so much so that I only read around two complete print books a month whereas I listen to around eight audiobooks in that same time period.
Not just any audiobook by a favorite author will provide the highly entertaining experience I’m referring to. Since Speaking of Audiobooks is read by non-listeners as well as listeners, I want to continually emphasize that which I wrote in the first SOA column six years ago, It’s All About the Narrator. Not just any narrator will do (more about that later).
Who are the authors I still devote time to in print? Primarily, they are favorite authors who have either not yet been released in audio or authors whose work is, in fact, available in audio yet the narrator is not to my liking for one reason or another.
Ellen O’Connell is the author who comes to mind first for required print reading. Her Westerns are simply the best around and I’m holding out hope that she’ll make it to audio someday. But for now, I read each of her books upon release.
I’m a long-time Rachel Gibson fan and I even glom her books occasionally – all in print even though a portion of her backlist has been released in audio. Eleven of her titles are available as audiobooks and are performed by seven different narrators. None have tempted me to try more than an hour or two before I flee to print format where I enjoy the voice in my head far more than that which I just heard playing on my iPod.
Of course, there are the old favorites – those authors whose titles, for the most part, aren’t available in eBook or audio format – Penelope Williamson, Judy Cuevas, Judith McNaught, Patricia Gaffney, Laura Lee Guhrke (early titles), or LaVyrle Spencer. Oh, for even one of these authors to have the ability and desire to implement a Laura Kinsale-like audio plan! I’d love to hear these old favorites performed by a highly talented narrator. But in the meantime, they represent some of the few old paperbacks I still own and read in print.
I also turn to print occasionally to scope out new audio authors as I’m unwilling to commit to an official listen until I know I will appreciate the content. I especially rely on this sort of print research to keep up with New Adult, a category that appears to sell big in audio format and one I enjoy from time to time. I usually read until I’m convinced to buy the audio, declare it a do-not-finish, or sometimes actually read the entire book.
Listening allows me so many more hours of book entertainment than sitting down to read so I imagine that listening will continue to be my “go to” reading preference. However, reading the printed page (eBook) at bedtime remains a beloved ritual. My entire adult life, I have reserved time for quiet reading before drifting off to sleep and I don’t see that changing. It forces this double-tasker to slow down and just relax. Yes, audiobooks have taken over my reading life but print books still hold a small but cherished place in my life.
Burned – Karen Marie Moning Narrated by Phil Gigante & Natalie Ross
I have listened to every single KMM title out there and I’m a complete fan. I enjoyed Iced (Moning’s last release), which was billed as the first in the Dani O’Malley series but Burned is Book 7 in the Fever series (and Iced has been changed to Book 6 in the Fever series). KMM listened to fans’ disgruntlement with Dani in Iced and Mac returns to take center stage with Dani. I even hear Barrons will be featured. These books are such a treat for audio enthusiasts with this dream narrator team. We’re not talking alternating point of views here for the narration – this is one of those rare instances where the male narrator performs the male roles and the female narrator performs the female roles.
Ride the Fire – Pamela Clare Narrated by Kaleo Griffith
It’s the last book on Pamela Clare’s backlist to be released in audio format and it is one of her best. A welcome change from European historical romances, Ms. Clare’s historicals are all set in America during the 18th century. Kaleo Griffith continues with his narration and I have no doubt it will be superb. Ride the Fire was first slated for release in January 2015 but we’ll have to wait until February 19th.
Bound by Flames – Jeaniene Frost Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
The third in the Night Prince series, I’ve been a Vlad devotee since his introduction in the Night Huntress series and I’ve graded both of the previous audio entries to this series (which features Vlad) an A. What we originally thought was a trilogy looks as though it will have at least one more entry. And wow, Tavia Gilbert! Tavia is one of the reasons I started listening to paranormal romance and I’m sure she will continue to excel in her performance of Frost’s world.
Breaking Point – Suzanne Brockmann Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank
Breaking Point with the Lawlor/Ewbank team just re-released at Audible on January 15th but it is not a new recording as were Books 1-6 in 2014. Regardless – I’ll be listening soon as it not only is Max and Gina’s story but, just as important, it marks the return of my favorite Brockmann couple, Jones and Molly, from Out of Control.
Bound to Danger – Katie Reus Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
The first in this series, Targeted, made my Top Ten Listens of 2014 here at Speaking of Audiobooks last month. I’m hoping for more of the same with Bound to Danger. Sophie Eastlake never disappoints in her performance and I’m eager to listen.
The Perfect Homecoming – Julia London Narrated by Tanya Eby
The third in the Pine River series, I enjoyed the first two books in print format and I’ll be listening to this one when it releases on February 24th. It ties up another London series I’ve often wondered about with Thrillseekers Anonymous founder Cooper Jessup (from the Over the Edge series) playing the hero. I love Julia London’s contemporary voice and I expect to be completely entertained.
For the New Listener – Choosing Your Audiobooks
Recently, I spent time reviewing our first Speaking of Audiobooks columns from 2009. I realized how much we talked about the basics of audiobook listening then and how little we talk of it now. So, with today’s column, I’m starting a new section targeting the new listener. A portion of each column will be dedicated to the sometimes complicated business of beginners successfully finding those great listens.
Start your listening experience with the best and choose narrators who others highly recommend. Reading through the use of your ears will be a bit of a challenge in the beginning so you don’t want to have to deal with narrators who don’t differentiate characters or who clearly don’t understand romance.
I’m very picky about the books I listen to. I choose not only authors who deliver a good story but I require a narrator with the talent to take that good story and turn it into pure entertainment, lifting it to a higher level than the mere reading of the print book allows. I’ve always appreciated that voice in my head (I know – I now realize that not everyone hears that voice playing in their head when reading) and I considered it infallible for years. But now that I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks, I’m familiar with dozens of narrators who I trust to understand the romance genre and who can take a really good book and make it even better – so much more than that voice in my head ever could have perceived.
Who are those narrators you ask? I can’t begin to list them all but here are a few (in no particular order) capable of transforming the written word into that all out entertainment while staying completely true to the author’s words:
Sebastian York (New Adult titles)
Anna Fields/Kate Fleming
Johanna Parker (Sookie Stackhouse series)
Phil Gigante (forgive his female depictions – it’s worth the ride)
Kaleo Griffith (Pamela Clare)
Grace Grant (New Adult titles)
Emma Taylor (Kristen Ashley)
Eric G. Dove
Angela Dawe (Jennifer Ashley & Nalini Singh)
And a few you don’t see often these days on new romance releases but absolutely shine with their older romance titles: Barbara Rosenblat, Virginia Leishman, Josephine Bailey, Jill Tanner, and Simon Prebble.
Go to Audible.com and search first by narrator name and then sort by romance. You’ll find the majority of their romance backlist there.
Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles on 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 939 members. We started this group four years ago for discussions in between Speaking of Audiobooks columns. Come on by to share your latest listen or contribute to a number of our ongoing romance audiobook discussions.
Enjoy your listening.
– Lea Hensley
Re: “”It’s all about the narrator.”” So very true! As an author, I’m gobsmacked by Tavia Gilbert’s narration of my YA novel, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon. I’m sure I’m not the first author to say this, but Tavia Gilbert performs my story better than I ever dreamed it could be told. Release date 3/31/15 on Blackstone Audio. Thanks for a great post!
Excellent list of recommended narrators. I find my listening/reading to be pretty evenly split these days with a bit of a tilt toward listening. That surprises me. I also find myself listening to a lot of books that I have already read. I keep going back to J.D. Robb even though I have read and listened to all of her books, many of them more than one time. When I try a new book on audio it is usually based on recommendations from this column or the Goodreads postings. I haven’t been disappointed yet.
Some of my favorite listens are those I read in print format first before the audio was released. But I also find myself pickier with the narration since I already have that voice in my head.
I like all of your recommendations for narrators except for Anne Flosnik. I can not believe she still gets hired to read books. Her voice is annoying and pitchy, she sounds like she hates every story she reads, her interpretations are awful, ruined a ton of good authors I like to listen to in audio. I simply can not stand her voice and if you read reviews on books read by her you’ll see a lot of complaints to that effect. Phil Gigante may not read female voices well but he is stellar at everything else and you want to drool when he speaks with male Scottish accent. Anne Flosnik can’t do either voice well. If you are new to audiobooks stay away from books narrated by her
Some popular narrators don’t work for me either and I find myself reading the print version of every book they narrate (if it is one that interests me). Oh, and then there’s the disappointment when finding a book I have been waiting for in audio format hits the “”Coming Soon”” list with one of those narrators I refuse to give another chance. Evidently, they work for some listeners or they wouldn’t continue to work in the industry.
Obviously, Anne Flosnik works for me most of the time (except in her older titles and some of her Coulter titles). My two favorites – Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast and Mary Balogh’s First Comes Marriage.
Lea: THANK YOU so much for your insights for the new audiobooks listener. I am a prolific reader and have never used audiobooks because I worry about missing out on all of the nuances (and enjoyment) while reading. Your comments and insights for the new listener have provided the catalyst and motivation for me to give-it-a-try…. with much less risk of disappointment due to your suggestions and recommendations. I am truly grateful and appreciate your support of those of us who are not as experienced as the rest of you.
Susan – I’ll be back with more! I’d love to know what you think about your first listens.
I too, always go for the audiobook if it is available … my first choice every time. I got my first Audible subscription in 1999 – they gave you a MP3 player when you joined, folks … those were the days! Anyway, my ears feel naked and cold when I don’t have my headphones on. I’m lucky too – my husband is an audiobook listener and understands when I give him the high sign (hands across throat) that means I can’t STOP listening right now … give me a minute … well, what can I say but – you gotta love a guy like that!
And I always look here first for audio reviews – keep up the good work gals!
When I think of the many hours of enjoyment I have had “”listening”” – I think “”this is a good time to be alive”” but then – I thought that about my very first Kindle (and still love it way too much)!
Geez, rereading this I sound like a technology nut – but actually, I can barely operate my own microwave.
You beat me to the Audible game. I imagine I started buying from Audible around 2002.
I have to tell my husband about that “”can’t stop listening now”” sign – we could use it. With my encouragement, he started listening to audiobooks and it’s not unusual for us both to be listening to a book (a different book – I’m not good at joint listens) in the car on a long trip or around the house.
I would also suggest adding Justine Eyre and Jennifer Ikeda to your TBL list. Justine narrates Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series (wish she did the psy/changling series) she is a terrific narrator. Jennifer I first heard reading Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. Amazing narrator!
I agree about Jennifer Ikeda and A Discovery of Witches. She really brought the characters to life.
I knew I would forget a number of great narrators and Justine Eyre is certainly one with her narration of the Guild Hunter series!
I haven’t listened to A Discovery of Witches and I keep meaning to move it to the top of my list. I haven’t listened to Jennifer Ikeda either – must, must do.
Oh my God! Go listen to A Discovery of Witches immediately! One of my favorite books of the decade. And Ikeda is also fabulous in the Nadia Stafford books.
Wow – I just headed over to Audible to purchase A Discovery of Witches and there seems to be a big difference of opinion between fantasy fans and romance fans (although it seems as though the fantasy fans are the ones who are truly upset – they were fooled into listening to the dratted inferior romance genre). Wonder why this reaction – did ADOW get too mainstream (it currently has 10,605 ratings at Audible which is a LOT)? It is being referred to as the adult Twilight. Still an average of 4.2. Now I have to listen!!
Many people complained that Diana was TSTL. She does have her “”less than”” moments, and Harkness is a little pedantic through-out the series but, Ikeda’s narration is ABSOLUTELY FLAWLESS in all three books. ADOW can’t be shoved into any genre….it’s too original!
I started listening to Davina Porter and the Outlander series many years ago, and have re-listened multiple times. She has almost all the characters beautifully done, and very distinct from each other. Based on a review here of a Joanna Bourne release, I picked up an audio of the first (chronological) in the series, and was blown away by Kirsten Potter’s rendition. I think it’s the accents that bring me in; I have no ear for languages and wouldn’t be able to tell a good French accent from a poor one, but I love love love Potter’s take on the Bourne heroines.
On the other hand, I’m struggling through Raybourn’s collection because I have difficulties with the reader for that one. I’m not in the majority, however, as many people praise Ellen Archer for the series.
Absolutely the worst audio I tried to listen to was an old Jane Austen, read by an older narrator (at least her voice sounded older). Austen’s heroines were not meant to be voiced by an aging smoker. Destroyed the story, and I never picked up another Austen audio.
I always have one book in print and one on audio going at the same time. I do try to be reading/listening to different genres at once, to avoid any confusion in my easily distracted mind….
Yes – Kirsten Potter’s French accents in Joanna Bourne’s audios! I definitely can pick up on those. I recall that the first time I truly appreciated an accent in an audiobook was The Spymaster’s Lady back in 2010. Potter was simply marvelous in her performance of Annique.
These are some great recommendations! Ride the Fire is one of my top romances ever and I’m sure it would only be enhanced by Kaleo’s narration.
I’m currently working my way through Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. The books are narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, who does an outstanding job.
I tend to listen most in the car, mainly when I’m transporting dogs to rescue. It can be a bit dangerous as I’ve been known to get wrapped up in a story and miss my exit. ;)
So, do certain books you are listening to when transporting dogs later remind you of those dogs? They would me!
When I interviewed Pamela Clare in 2013, she talked of her fondness for Ride the Fire. I am so eager to hear it performed by Kaleo. Clare just so completely impresses me with her writing – particularly her historical titles.
I so much agree that it’s the narrator who can make or break an audiobook experience. My biggest pet peeve are the ones who do very bad accents, but sometimes it’s just the sound of a particular voice that doesn’t work. I recently started the audio version of “”Throne of Glass”” narrated by Elizabeth Evans, and for some reason her voice just isn’t working for me. It doesn’t match what I imagined the story’s heroine sounds like. I’m going to switch over to print because it’s making the book so much less enjoyable.
My all time favorite audiobook narrator is actor Will Patton. He does the Raven Boy books by Maggie Stiefvater and he’s just amazing. Highly recommend him.
Yes, the accents can be brutal! I recently listened to a book set in Mississippi and the narrator was so over the top with the Deep South accent it was comical. Really, narrators, sometimes less is more.
Yes! The Deep South accents are comically overdone!! Gah.
You know my all time favorite Deep South accent in an audiobook? Anna Fields performance of Dan Calebow in It Had to Be You. Did Alabama ever sound so good?! AF knew how to make southern sound sexy in a male.
Another great one – Tom Stechschulte from Nora Roberts’ Carnal Innocence!
Will Patton does a great job with the James Lee Burke/Dave Robicheaux series too. Perfect accents, excellent with female voices.
Patton is absolutely unsurpassed when it comes to this series. I think the author made the comment that Will Patton is Dave Robicheaux. And like Melinda said, Patton handles all the voices and all the dialects. He’s great.
I now HAVE to try Will Patton!
I’m fortunate in that an accent has to be really, really bad for me to pick up on it. I think accents work more for me as a method of differentiation. I can pick up on a poorly performed French accent, a bad southern accent, an overdone Texas accent (that one drives me crazy as I’m Texan born) but I’m a little lost after that.
Most audio reviewers I work with though are really bothered by those bad accents.
I absolutely loved Davina Porter’s narration of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon! So very talented. I would also like to add to your list, Erin Mallon, who I found through Audible. She did a wonderful job on my contemporary YA romance, Heaven is for Heroes.