Sharing KnifeThis week marks one year for our Speaking of Audiobooks column.  Our discussions seem to get better with each passing month as we hear comments from new listeners and come to know the tastes of some of our regular sharers.  Thanks for making this first year a success.  Now for our second year!

2010 Personal Listening Challenge

In our last column I announced my very unofficial personal listening challenge for the remainder of 2010.  The challenge?  Listen to six audiobooks outside of my usual comfort zone within the romance genre (or closely tied to romance).

My original six challenge choices evolved somewhat throughout the column’s discussion as I learned from our listeners that not all of my chosen audiobooks fit within their stated category.  After supplementing and moving my selections around, I chose my first challenge category, Fantasy Romance, and took the advice of listeners yet again and decided on The Sharing Knife, Volume 1: Beguilement.  There has been a good deal of praise for this series in our past discussions and I had high hopes.  And it certainly was a success!  Narrator Bernadette Dunne weaves this tale of magic in such a manner that I became totally immersed in the world of Dag and Fawn and lakewalkers and farmers.  The narration added significantly to my overall enjoyment and I’m convinced this is one series wherein audio beats out print.  Not only did Ms Dunne’s performance touch me but the content (a large aspect of my challenge) was fascinating as well.  I’m certain this will become a comfort listen.

I do have one tiny complaint about Beguilement however, and that is my immediate need for Volume 2 and then I’m sure 3 and 4.  The ending belongs, without doubt, in the “To Be Continued” category.  But as I looked back on our past discussions I realized that Iris had indeed informed us that the four books are just one long story.  And, at this point, that’s delightful news from my perspective since I want more of Dag and Fawn but for those who think this is a one book listen, I do think you will want more.

Now onward towards my next challenge – the world of abridged audiobooks.  I’ve chosen Sylvester by Georgette Heyer just to hear Richard Armitage’s narration.

Leftovers from April

Here are just a few of those surprise audiobooks that failed to make last month’s New Releases column.  You’ll also find an updated April list of audiobook releases over at AAR.

Garwood, Julie – The Wedding (abridged)  Narrated by Alison Fraser

MacAlister, Katie – Up in Smoke Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Miller, Linda Lael – McKettricks of Texas: Tate Narrated by Jack Garrett

Sands, Lynsay – Devil of the Highlands Narrated by Marianna Palk

Showalter, Gena – Twice as Hot Narrated by Jessica Almasy

Audiobook Romances on Sale in May

Beginning this month, these lists will include the narrator.

Abridged

Delinsky, Barbara – Twilight Whispers Narrated by Kathy Garver

Garwood, Julie – Slow Burn Narrated by Laural Merlington

Howard, Linda – After the Night Narrated by Natalie Ross

Kleypas, Lisa – Married by Morning Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Lowell, Elizabeth – Elizabeth Lowell CD Collection 4: Untamed, Forbidden, Enchanted Various Narrators

Robards, Karen – The Pursuit Narrated by Michael Page

Roberts, Nora – Black Rose Narrated by Susie Breck

Woods, Sherryl – Honeysuckle Summer Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

After the NightUnabridged

Dodd, Christina – Trouble in High Heels Narrated by Amanda Ronconi

Evanovich, Janet – Hero at Large Narrated by C.J. Critt

Howard, Linda – After the Night Narrated by Natalie Ross

Jeffries, Sabrina – Only a Duke Will Do Narrated by Justine Eyre

Kleypas, Lisa – Married by Morning Narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Macomber, Debbie – Orchard Valley Grooms: Valerie, Stephanie Narrated by Tanya Eby

Macomber, Debbie – Stephanie: A Selection from the Orchard Valley Grooms Narrated by Tanya Eby

Macomber, Debbie – Valerie: A Selection from the Orchard Valley Grooms Narrated by Tanya Eby

Palmer, Diana – Dangerous Narrated by Phil Gigante

Roberts, Nora – Captivated Narrated by Therese Plummer

Roberts, Nora – Her Mother’s Keeper Narrated by Therese Plummer

Sands, Lynsay – Single White Vampire Narrated by Jeffrey Cummings

Woods, Sherryl – Honeysuckle Summer Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Recent Additions to my Audio Library

The Sharing Knife Volume 2: Legacy – Lois McMaster Bujold

Narrated by Bernadette Dunne

After finishing the first in this series, I just had to immediately purchase the second volume.

Dark Possession – Christine Feehan

Narrated by Phil Gigante & Jane Brown

I read the first four in Feehan’s Dark series years ago and didn’t care to continue due to the level of violence and similarity of storylines.  But having a sense of the series, I’ve been contemplating buying another.  When I heard from one of our listeners that Phil Gigante shares the narration of Dark Possession, I knew it was time to dip my toe back into the Dark series pool.

Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

Narrated by Johanna Parker

As my Series challenge, I expect this one to be a hit.  Too many people talk about the greatness of this series.  I so hope I agree!

Darkfever2Darkfever – Karen Marie Moning

Narrated by Joyce Bean

Purchased to fill my Fantasy Romance challenge category, I learned from our listeners that this one fits better into Urban Fantasy.  So, there’s a new purpose (and challenge category) for Darkfever and I hope to catch other’s excitement over this series.

Recent Reads

Lover Awakened – JR Ward

Narrated by Jim Frangione

Although I’m generally not a fan of vampire romance, I’ve now read (or listened to) Lover Awakened five times (a personal record).  Declaring that it is a romance favorite seems to be such an understatement.  I was certainly entranced by the romance between the impossibly tough Zsadist and kind hearted Bella and I was more than immersed in Zsadist’s past and personal growth.  But I was bowled over by the relationship between Zsadist and his twin Phury.  In saying all of that, it should come as no surprise that I was willing to accept a less than stellar audiobook narration just to experience it all over again.  However, I was quite hesitant to tackle the audio version after unsuccessfully attempting an earlier Black Dagger Brotherhood entry with the same narrator.  The problem?  Jim Frangione reads rather than performs and I thought I needed more than a mere reading.  I must emphatically state that I was wrong.  After all, how do you perform seven male voices distinctly in one scene?  In the end, this was an audio hit for me and one I am sure I’ll return to even if I have to hit the fast forward button during those lesser torture scenes.  One word of caution however – I remain convinced that listening to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series should be reserved for those who have already read the books.  The print version’s glossary of terms is invaluable to understanding this series.

Lawman – Diana Palmer

Narrated by Todd McLaren

My first Diana Palmer book, I could write a full length review detailing the plethora of overused romance plotlines packaged in just one book.  I guess I could then detail all of those eye rolling moments as well, especially those brought on by the heroine’s actions.  Narrator Todd McLaren is perfect for a hero’s voice but his attempt to perform the heroine’s voice at a falsified higher range grates on the ear.  Production quality was questionable with some snapping and popping in the background.  But here’s the amazing thing: Despite all of my criticism, I still enjoyed large portions of the narrative and, at times, looked forward to resuming my listening session.  But, if I imagine myself tackling the print version?  “Did not finish” stack for sure.

Devil’s Bride – Stephanie Laurens

Narrated by Simon Prebble

Devil’s Bride was one my first romance listening experiences seven years ago when the selection of romance audiobooks was still somewhat limited.  I recall relishing this popular 1998 European historical and it was a bit nostalgic listening to it again just last month.  It reminded me of those heady days following my discovery of romance.  Simon Prebble depicts Devil Cynster with a deep rumbling voice that, while seeming older than his thirtyish age, still held an undeniable sexiness.  Both the hero and heroine do an immense amount of brow-raising (it must be in the dozens) and at one point I did want to start counting.  Overall I thought the narration was quite fine until I was made to endure yet another very long sensual scene.  I generally have no problem listening to such descriptions but the narrator over-performs as he shouts one sensual phrase after another and I found myself concentrating on the delivery rather than the content.  Overall it’s an enjoyable ride with a definite 1990s romance feel but one I doubt I’ll visit again.

Time for Your Thoughts

What new releases are you looking forward to?

Do you know of any May 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

Please check AAR’s main site for monthly lists of upcoming audiobook releases.

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 later this month.

– Lea Hensley