Listening to books

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.


Upcoming Listens

BurnedBurned – 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 HomecomingThe 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:

Nicholas Boulton

Renee Raudman

Kate Reading

Tavia Gilbert

Karen White

Sebastian York (New Adult titles)

Julia Whelan

Anna Fields/Kate Fleming

Victor Slezak

Johanna Parker (Sookie Stackhouse series)

Phil Gigante (forgive his female depictions – it’s worth the ride)

Tom Stechschulte

Patrick Lawlor

Sophie Eastlake

Kaleo Griffith (Pamela Clare)

Grace Grant (New Adult titles)

Emma Taylor (Kristen Ashley)

Susan Ericksen

Corrie James

Kirsten Potter

Xe Sands

Carolyn Morris

Sean Crisden

Holter Graham

Eric G. Dove

Moira Quirk

Anne Flosnik

Joyce Bean

Rosalyn Landor

Susan Duerden

Davina Porter

Amanda Ronconi

Natalie Ross

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 and search first by narrator name and then sort by romance. You’ll find the majority of their romance backlist there.


Ending Notes

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

+ posts