In Aural Pleasures 101, we looked at the “Why” and “Where” to buy audio books. In Aural Pleasures 102, we shared advice on “How” to select audio books. So now, for the “What” to buy. Here are a few of my recommendations (audio sample links provided when available, click the cover pics to go to each book’s Amazon page):
Within the Romance genre, most narrators will be female, so I highly recommend that Aural Pleasure novices who are also historical romance fans start with The Indiscretion by Judith Ivory (click to sample Audible.com audio), narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (pictured at right). This Victorian era “lady and the cowboy” story would be a light, enjoyable read on its own, but Rosenblat elevates it by breathing life into Liddy and Sam. She narrates the book in a nondescript American accent, then gives Liddy an upper class British accent that is somehow filled with humor, vulnerability, and playfulness. And the fact that a woman is doing Sam’s voice was lost to me in seconds because his mumbly Texas drawl IS Sam. I think I smiled through most of this audio book. What a JOY this was to listen to! But to illustrate the points I made in Aural Pleasures 102, Rosenblat is also the narrator for Katie MacAlister’s Light My Fire (Aisling Grey series). Even though I ADORED her in The Indiscretion, I listened to the sample and I just don’t think her voice “fits” the MacAlister series as well (could I request that all you rabid Rosenblat fans PLEASE throw only soft objects at me?)
For multiple eargasms, pick up The Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning, narrated by Phil Gigante. So far, the first three have been released – Beyond the Highland Mist (click for sample), To Tame a Highland Warrior (click for sample), and The Highlander’s Touch (Nov 20, 2007)- with the rest apparently to be released in sequence at two month intervals. Phil Gigante does such a good job with the female voices that I was quickly no longer aware that the narrator was a man. And what he does for the male voices… *shiver*… his different Scottish brogues gave me aural eargasm after eargasm! What an amazing talent Gigante is! My only caveat is that I seem to hit the back track button A LOT when listening to Gigante’s narration. Oh, it’s not HIS fault. Well, not really. It’s just that sometimes I get so swept away by HOW his swoonworthy character voices sound, that I forget to pay attention to WHAT they’re saying! (FYI: Phil Gigante is also the narrator for the first book in Nora Roberts’ new Sign of Seven Trilogy, Blood Brothers)
The last three books in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series (Sookie Stackhouse) are narrated by Johanna Parker: Book 5, Dead as a Doornail (click for sample), Book 6, Definitely Dead (click for sample), and Book 7, All Together Dead (click for sample). This is a series that I initially didn’t care for because it moved too slow for me in print form. But now I can’t wait for each new release because Johanna Parker brings Sookie Stackhouse to Southern Fried life! I find myself stopping and just floating along with her smooth, small town Louisiana drawl filled with Sookie’s vulnerability and strength. Then she changes not only the pitch and tone, but also the cadence of her narration to bring all the characters in Sookie’s world to life. I notice that Book 1, Dead Until Dark (click for sample), has recently been released in audio, so I hope that bodes well for the release of all the earlier books in audio format, too.
As with the Harris’ series, I never quite heard the voice of Queen Betsy right in my head. The heroine of MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series came across as a shallow bit of fluff to me. But thanks to narrator Nancy Wu I realized that Betsy’s irreverent snark is not to be missed (and wait till you hear Tina). All six books are available through Audible.com (click to sample).
I mentioned in Aural Pleasures 102 that “since an audio book forces the listener to slow down and read at the narrator’s pace, you will almost always discover things you never noticed before or see scenes in a different light when listening to a favorite book in audio format.” I have found that, even after multiple readings of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series and Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, I ALWAYS have new insights after listening to the audio books.
Brilliance Audio produces Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series, and the narrator, Laural Merlington, does a heroic job of creating distinctive voices for all the characters. I particularly love the hint of Irish brogue she injects into Doyle’s voice. I’ve read the books multiple times, but I NEVER fail to catch something new every time I listen to the audio books. (click to sample Brilliance Audio)
Brilliance also produces Moning’s Fever series audio, narrated by Joyce Bean who, to my ears, has a voice a bit too mature for our heroine. And DOH! Why was I so discombobulated with her Southern accent? Mac IS Southern, yet I never heard it in my head when I read the book. When Darkfever was first released in print, I read it, turned it over, and immediately read it a second time. Then I splurged and downloaded this one from AudioBookStandDL (see Aural Pleasures 101). In this case, the story was so engrossing that it overcame my initial awkward reactions to the narrator. And it is amazing how much more I STILL got out of the audio even though I had just read the print book twice! (click to sample Brilliance Audio)
Virgin Books Limited produces the Black Lace (yes THAT Black Lace– erotica for women) audio books (click to sample Audible.com audio). One of my all-time favorite books is A Gentlemen’s Wager by Madelynne Ellis (to be re-released in print with this luscious new cover early next year followed by the long awaited sequel, Phantasmagoria), but the audio book didn’t quite live up to my expectations. To my Midwest American ear, the narrator, Betsy Garden, sounded too contemporary (the book is set in Georgian England) and did not create the distinctive character voices I’ve come to expect. So I couldn’t settle into the audio until I just accepted her narration as a Joan Collins or a Victoria Beckham reading the book out loud. [hee] Nevertheless, I STILL managed to view a couple of scenes in a new light. It wasn’t truly disappointing, I just think it was a missed opportunity to bring even more dimension to a story that contains one of the most deliciously complex characters (Vaughan) I’ve ever read (click to sample AGW).
And the Dud Duck Award goes to…
The Raintree Trilogy (Inferno, Haunted, Sanctuary), Silhouette Nocturnes published by Harlequin Enterprises LTD. The trilogy is an enjoyable, multi-author (Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones, Beverly Barton), three-book story that was ruined by a bad narrator/story “fit.” Narrator Stefan Rudnicki pairs up with a different female co-narrator in each book (Hillary Huber, Theo McKell, Gabrielle de Cuir). I thought it was just a matter of acclimating myself to his style and, when Audible.com had a sale, I bought the last two books before I was finished with the first one. BIG mistake. First of all, Stefan Rudnicki should never, EVER, attempt a female voice again– he just sounds like he’s mocking women. And second, by the time I hit book three, I was gnashing my teeth and tempted to just go buy the print books so I would never have to listen to his.slow.style.of.speaking.ever.again. GAK! Buy these books in print or ebook only! (click to sample Audible.com audio… if you dare)
I’ve also downloaded some non-romance audio from Audible, too– including several episodes of Evening at the Improv and several episodes of Biography on A&E. These hold-up surprisingly well in audio format!
So help the current and future audio addicts out– have you listened to any audio books that elevated the original print story (they don’t necessarily have to be Romance)? Listened to any duds we should stay away from? If there’s enough interest maybe Syb will take pity on us poor desperate addicts and let us periodically have audio book rec sessions, which should make the selection process easier for all of us. C’mon and share– you KNOW you want to!
Aural Pleasures 101 – “Why” and “Where” to buy Audio Books – Tell us why you listen to audio books.
Aural Pleasures 102 – “How” to Select an Audio Book – Come share your tips for selection.
Read more from Bev at Cubie’s Confections.