VacationThe summer months are on us and like many others, I’m thinking about our summer getaway.

I imagine most have already made their vacation plans if not already enjoyed their summer vacation.  Planning that official break from our daily routine has always ranked high on my list of priorities and usually by this time of the year, our reservations are made and flights booked.  But this year my husband and I have not progressed beyond the discussion stage and egad, it’s mid June!  But one thing is certain about my yet to be determined trip – I’ve already chosen my vacation audiobooks.  Each year I find myself saving a few of my most anticipated audiobooks for vacation travel and therefore “vacation audiobooks” is more than just a phrase.  It’s become an inner ranking system for those audiobooks I want to experience in a relaxed manner with few distractions – a celebration of sorts.  Or at least that’s the plan.  This year, with my summer trip up in the air, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be patient enough to hold off listening to my 2010 vacation choices.

First on my vacation audiobook list is Linda Howard’s After the Night.  I’ve read the book a number of times and anxiously awaited the audio release in late May.  Anxious anticipation aside, I’ve definitely decided to save my first listen for our summer trip.  Narrator Natalie Ross rarely fails me and I particularly relished her performances in Howard’s Kill and Tell and Son of the Morning.

After breezing through the first two Sookie Stackhouse audiobooks, Charlaine Harris’ Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas, I now have books three and four of the series, Club Dead and Dead to the World, on my iPod ready for some sure-to-be-fascinating vacation listening.  But can I wait an undeterminable amount of time to hear about Bill’s disappearance and possible betrayal?  Or Eric’s further involvement in Sookie’s life?  If my husband and I don’t finalize our plans soon, maybe I’ll be taking along books five and six.

Another necessity of vacation audiobook planning is an adequate selection to fit my particular mood once I arrive.  So, two others making the vacation audiobook list are the yet-to-be-released One Season of Sunshine by Julia London (June 29) and Georgette Heyer’s Venetia narrated by Richard Armitage.  Yes, Venetia is another one of those abridged audiobooks I try to avoid but after my complete success with Armitage’s narration of Heyer’s Sylvester, I’ve granted Venetia the highly revered vacation audiobook status.  As for One Season of Sunshine, it’s narrated by the above praised Natalie Ross and written by an author whose contemporary voice I enjoy as much or more than her better known historical one.

Also key to choosing vacation audiobooks are those backup books in case one of the chosen few doesn’t prove to be entirely entertaining.  This usually means I’ll have a Susan Elizabeth Phillips audiobook tucked away somewhere for yet another listen or another proven winner from my past listening.  I also go armed with another new audiobook for such emergency situations (yet to be determined but Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight looks to be the likely choice).  As you can see, I take my vacation listening quite seriously and only the best of the best deserves my getaway time.  And since we usually choose destinations with a lot of peace and quiet, I have the time for three or four audiobooks.

At the top of my vacation audiobook list two years ago was Linda Howard’s Death Angel.  The fall trip to the Colorado Mountains was close to perfection and listening to Death Angel only made it all the better.  I was so completely immersed in that tale that now when I think of Death Angel, I’m now reminded of that laid back, entirely enjoyable trip with my husband.  The following year when we returned to the same vacation spot, I just had to bring Death Angel as my back up listen.  Now when I think of that particular area of Colorado, I often think of the added layer of enjoyment audiobook listening has added to my stays.

Separate BedsRecent Additions to My Audio Library

Separate Beds – LaVyrle Spencer

Narrated by Liz Dykhouse

Having recently read Spencer’s Morning Glory, I was in the mood for more.  Thinking all of her audiobooks were abridged, I decided to check again and was pleased to find two unabridged books over at Audible.  I know of no other Liz Dykhouse narrations but the sound sample sounds encouraging.

Twilight – Stephanie Meyer

Narrated by Ilyana Kadushin

No, I’ve not read the books but I have, with my daughter’s encouragement, watched the first two movies.  She keeps asking me to read the Twilight series and I’ve decided to quit thinking of them as teenage books and just jump in.

Venetia – Georgette Heyer

Narrated by Richard Armitage

I purchased Venetia after listening to Armitage’s narration of Heyer’s Sylvester and hearing Rachel’s high recommendation during our last Speaking of Audiobooks discussion, “Both are fully enjoyable, but I liked Venetia better. Damarel’s voice literally gave me shivers at some points. It was a cross between the voice he (Armitage) used as John Thornton in North and South and the one he used as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. Deep and very sexy. Um, swoon.”

The Unsung Hero – Suzanne Brockmann

Narrated by William Dufris

I didn’t read the first six in the Troubleshooter series in order and I’m following suit with the audio versions.  This is Book 1 and I remember it fondly.  Narrator William Dufris is new to me and appears to differentiate the male voices adequately in the sample but there was no female voice in that short bite.

Club Dead – Charlaine Harris

Narrated by Johanna Parker

The third in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I’m anxious to keep listening (I’ve not read the books) but, as mentioned earlier, I’m trying to hold off for vacation.  Also, I tend to space out series listening to better savor each book individually.

Recent Reads

Phantom Waltz – Catherine Anderson

Narrated by Julia Gibson

The touching story of a paraplegic finding a man who worships her and is determined to make her life better, Phantom Waltz reads like a fairy tale at times.  A DIK (A grade) when I read it some years ago, the listening experience didn’t rate as high for me.  It may be the fact that narrator Julia Gibson is not a favorite of mine.  Although the hero and heroine’s voice are usually clearly distinguishable one from the other, it is Gibson’s failure at timing and interpretation of events (that greatly differed from mine) that made the audio version less of a success than the original print book.  The sensual scenes earn their hot rating but often sound a little too purple with terms such as “throbbing peak” or “tour of paradise”.  Sound is the descriptive word here – I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to overhear these scenes as they sound a bit ridiculous at times.

Breaking PointBreaking Point – Suzanne Brockmann

Narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank

Although not one of my favorites in the Troubleshooters series, this is still an entertaining audiobook.  But my level of enjoyment was due mostly to the author’s talent rather than the dual narration.  Leads Max and Gina are well known to followers of the series but it was the continued love story between Jones and Molly that spelled absolute magic for me.  The dual narration seemed strange in that the two narrators alternate reading chapters rather than perform scenes together.  It took a good deal of time to accustom myself to Lawlor’s narration which has an immature “golly, gee” tone that seems totally out of sync with the story and especially the strong male characters.  Melanie Ewbank performs adequately but why in the world do I need to recall two narrators’ interpretation of any one character?  If I want to return to Breaking Point at some time in the future, it will be in print.

Slow Heat in Heaven – Sandra Brown

Narrated by Dick Hill

I really enjoyed this one but that statement carries this disclaimer – it’s best to read Slow Heat in Heaven (originally published in 1988) as general fiction rather than romance.  In today’s romance community, the lead male character is unlikely to make the grade as a romance hero and the heroine’s actions may disqualify her as a romance lead as well.  Although there is a sensuous love story within, I viewed Slow Heat in Heaven more as a sultry contemporary Southern tale of a wealthy family on the verge of losing it all.  Numerous conflicts both within the family and among other secondary characters abound as well as just plain misery.  But regardless of what one thinks of the content, this is a superb audio presentation.  Dick Hill’s performance is one I’ll long remember, especially his portrayal of Cash – complete with a strong, convincing Cajun accent.  I actually accepted Cash in audio much more readily than in print.  The numerous Louisiana accents of the multiple characters are easily distinguishable providing the ability to recognize a character by voice alone.  As the storyline shifts and gains traction, appropriate emotion and purpose ring true in each character’s voice.  Dick Hill gains new respect from me with this narration.

News Bits

Linda Howard’s classic favorite, Mackenzie’s Mountain, is being released in unabridged format on August 30th.  Previously it has only been available as a very abridged audiobook (less than 3 hours).

This week Julie James tweeted that Just the Sexiest Man Alive is being released as an audiobook in November.  Romance audiobook selection keeps getting better and better.

Richard Armitage is narrating yet another Georgette Heyer book, The Convenient Marriage and it’s scheduled for release on August 3rd.  Let’s hope for more Armitage narrated Heyer books!

Time for Your Thoughts

Do you save audiobooks for vacationing?

How do you choose your audiobooks when preparing for a trip?

What are a few of your backup books in case your planned audiobook starts to fail just when you want some real entertainment?

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook success of failure to share with us?

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.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, please check out our audio archives.

I’ll be back again later this month when we discuss July’s audiobook new releases.

– Lea Hensley