Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

Man with an Accent & Romance Triggers

January 26, 2009
I’ve done a post before about audiobooks and how I mentioned that I prefer male narrators to female because of the way a man can (usually) cant his voice in a way that his female voice doesn’t sound ridiculous. It’s usually done with less emphasis on the narrator’s strong deep voice using a realistic falsetto. On the other hand, a woman narrator lowers her voice to achieve the male voice and it usually sounds too fake to my ears. In other words, a male narrator can swing both ways while a female can’t. Plus, I think a man’s voice is typically more soothing to listen to than a woman’s. 
In addition to what I wrote previously about audiobooks, I was elated to have received a comment from author Lori Foster because I had mentioned that I liked listening to her audiobook, Caught In the Act. She commented that while it was totally not what she had in mind for Mick’s voice, hearing a reader/listener’s POV was interesting.

In any case, I’ve been steadily collecting audiobook files from my local libraries and from online sources such as Audible.com. Which, by the way, is pretty much the go-to site for audiobooks. It’s pretty user friendly and compatible with pretty much all the most popular MP3s including iPod and I’ve happily tried out their free trial to get a sense of the site. If you like or are thinking about audiobooks, I suggest you google “Audible free trial” and see for yourself. 
I’ve listened to Lori Foster’s Caught In the Act, some Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Megan Hart, etc. Recently, I’ve just finished two books that I was very happy with. After I read and loved Christine Feehan’s new GhostWalker book, Murder Game, I was delighted to find out that it was also out in audiobook format.
I like the narrator Tom Stechschulte. He does a nice deep voice with a hint of a Southern accent. His female voice sounds a wee bit too high to be just right but it’s not bad. Prior to Murder Game, I listened to Stechschulte on another Feehan GhostWalker book, Mind Game. Same results. The “narrator voice” is nice and consistent pretty much all of the time. He gives the “hero voice” a nice alpha male deep quality though like I mentioned before, the “heroine voice” seems a little too high for my tastes. 

However, the recent audiobook I really enjoyed was Phil Gigante narrating Karen Marie Moning’s The Dark Highlander. I’m new to the series and The Dark Highlander was the first I read in the series about a month ago. I’m almost all caught up with only Kiss of the Highlander left in my to be read pile. 
I was very excited to see The Dark Highlander out in audiobook, though I was a bit weary. There are a lot of accents needed to pull it off and a good reading of all the faery/fey terms and languages. I read that many people enjoyed Gigante’s reading of the books and I wholeheartedly agree. 
He does a fantastic “alpha male” voice with accents that aren’t too over done but just enough to really put the listener into the mindset. His “heroine voice” was very pleasant to listen to as well. High enough to be decidedly female, but not too much where I think drag queen or a man who’s just been racked and lost all the testerone from his body. In the end, I was able to doubly enjoy the book. I loved it when I read it the first time around, but listening to it bought in another level of enjoyment. I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series. 
Audiobooks are just as personal as picking out a romance book. Not all romance works for everybody. And even those readers with similar tastes will differ in what triggers a good read. And fans (even the diehard ones) will disagree on what makes a particular book in a series good. So, I think that the first step in exploring the genre of Romance is to find out what triggers work for you as a reader.
I’ve had friends and people I’ve met at the local Borders ask for recommendations before. I always start off with, “Well, what do you like to read? A sweet contemporary romance, paranormal, action/adventure, etc?” And even if they answer “Paranormal” I will then go on to ask, “what kind of paranormal? Vampires, were-animals, time travel, fey, or combinations of many paranormal elements.”
Personally, I’ve come to recognize my triggers in what makes a good read and keeper copy versus a so-so romance. And it’s funny now that I’ve found out what works for me because I would never have thought that about myself. It really draws a line between a fantasy world in a book and the real world.
For instance, one of my Good Read triggers is the endearment. I’ve found that most (but not all) romances that I’ve come to really enjoy usually has the pet name element. I prefer the hero giving it to the heroine. Some Highlander/Historical romances include generics such as “sweet” or “love.” I’m also a fan of the “baby” though I think that sometimes an author can overdo that one. A hero really has to be written as a total alpha to pull off “baby” in my opinion. Like Ward’s fourth Black Dagger Brotherhood book and how Butch calls Marissa “baby.” Lora Leigh is also quite fond of that endearment. And given that all her males are alphas to the extreme, I think it works. This is a weird trigger (I readily agree), but for some reason, it works for me.
Another trigger for me is the Ball Buster heroine. It’s a Bad Read trigger for me. I won’t say that 100% of all the super strong heroines that can be categorized as a ball buster automatically became bad reads for me, but I’ve come to find out that authors usually have a hard time showing a vulnerable or softer side to that kind of heroine. Some are successful though, but not all and for that, I’m not a fan of reading a heroine that doesn’t show a softer edge. I can’t really connect with those characters. 
This came as a surprise to me because as a relatively young romance reader, (as opposed to the middle aged/married/moms that people think of as the Romance genre audience) I thought I would appreciate the strong female lead. But I learned quickly that there was a fine line to walk between strong and ball buster. And while I really appreciate a heroine that goes after what she wants, I don’t like one that doesn’t have a softness to them. 
Another Bad Read sign is a lack of conversation during the intimate scenes. Now, I’m not saying that I need the hero and heroine to have a full out conversation during sex. What I find visually boring, and therefore usually has my eyes skipping over parts, is reading a sex scene in which there are paragraph after paragraph (and sometimes page after page) of straight up description of the actions. I like/need words exchanged between the hero and heroine here and there. Little phrases, not conversations. Stuff like a hero asking a heroine if she likes what he’s doing or him verbally encouraging her reactions or praising her during sex. Without some conversation to break up the monotony of plain ol’ description. 
Finally, I wrote earlier in a review that the ultimate Good Read Indicator was the “how will this end happily?” feeling. It’s a tightening in my chest as I’m reading and even though I know that as a Romance book, it logically must end happily, a good author will write twists within the plot that make me wonder how that happy ending will occur. It is happening less often more me now that I’m reading so many romances these days, but I will admit that the feeling happens when I least expect it to. Like my post on Nalini Singh’s Slave to Sensation. I really didn’t expect to get that Feeling when I was reading a first time author’s introductory book into a new series. But I did. And I’m get the Feeling from authors that I least expect it from and sometimes, sadly, less from authors who used to give me the Feeling.
Like I’ve said before many a times, Romance is a vast genre to explore but a very personal one at that. And now, as I’m enjoying Romance on a new platform via audiobooks, I’m finding that listening to Romance is just as personal as reading it.
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He Said, She Said

June 8, 2008
Here and there, on and off, I’ve picked up Jennifer Crusie through BookMooch. I started out with one of her novels with great disappointment. Hailed in her reviews as somewhat of the premiere of romantic comedies, I had originally been really excited to read her. I love a fun comedic-romantic romp especially lying under the lazy sun on weekends with nothing to do but breeze through a book with a bottle of sunscreen on the side and something cold to drink close at hand. But my first Crusie was such a disappointment. The chemistry was lacking, the characters were too many, and I found myself utterly confused and I gave up trying to work out who was related to whom, which couple was interested in each other, what their backgrounds were, etc. 

But times went by and as usual, I ran out of things to read so Crusie was once again making my reading list. And it got better. Marginally. I found Anyone But You mildly entertaining even though I’m not always a fan of the older woman-younger man plot simply because I feel that many authors simply concentrate on the age and it feels like they’re beating a dead horse. But the characters were fun and the dog in the story provided some interesting moments and I closed the book with a shrug and a decision to give Crusie another try. Next was Getting Rid of Bradley. It sounded fun and uncomplicated and though I thought a lot of the Bradley mixups were a bit eye-rolling-worthy, I went with it and enjoyed it on the most part.
When I found a copy of Manhunting on BookMooch as well as a downloadable version of it as an audiobook via the online library catalog, I thought Crusie would provide another brief respite between my bouts of reading heavier books. As this was now my fourth Crusie, I was able to pinpoint what I enjoyed and what I found disappointing with her books. 
While her books do provide some fun characters and the tension is adequate, I find that she would serve as a ‘lite’ sort of romance read. The kind where the tension slowly builds, but not a frenzy fever-pitch kind of tension, just a slow pressure cooker that boils up to a quick simmer. The sexual chemistry is enough but doesn’t melt the reader and the sex scenes are more vanilla and tame in terms of not being graphic. There’s usually one single sex scene, the first, and the others are not as explicit and evoke more of a ‘lead the reader up to the moment where they hit the bed and the scene closes.’ While it’s not the lack of sex that doesn’t hit the spot with me as a reader, it’s the simmer-type of tension that leaves me feeling that something is lacking. The tension and connection between the hero and heroine seem to be just enough but not quite enough to make me truly care for them and be totally involved in the story. The tension, or lack thereof, makes me just want to read to the end for the sake of finishing the book because I know they’ll end up together. 

Back to Manhunting. Specifically, what I just mentioned above about the tension applies to Jake and Kate. Yes, the reader can see the underlying attraction between the two even though they each respectively think that the other doesn’t fit the bill for their idea of a perfect mate. Obviously, as the reader, we can see the currents when they’re out together every morning ‘fishing.’ But when they got that jolt touching while playing pool, I wasn’t surprised. And when they had that moment where Kate was giving Jake his beer and he flirted, I was only thinking, “Geez, finally.” The tension between the two of them just simmered.

But the purpose of this post and its connection to Manhunting is the audiobook version. First off, I have to concede to the point that I did enjoy the narrator voicing Jake. There was a slight southern drawl that was just enough and not over the top. Plus, her ‘man voice’ was low enough to convey a male character without seeming outrageous as I’ve complained before. However, I do have some complaints about this one. The narrator does not allow enough time between sentences and characters to give the listener a true distinction between narration, dialogue, and switching of characters. It seems that the sentences flow together too quickly, as if I was just reading the book out loud instead of hearing it acted out on audiobook. And while the first complaint is dependent solely on the narrator, the second one isn’t. I just noticed it more because I was listening to it.

Crusie uses a lot of ‘he said,’ ‘she saids.’ Take a look. At first I really didn’t notice. But then it became really apparent. Especially when the narrator rushed through the ‘Kate said’ and ‘Jake said.’ The lack of adequate pause exasperated the problem because right after the dialogue, I would be hearing, “Kate said.” It got to a point where I could just speak along with the narrator while I’m driving even though I’m just guessing when the next ‘Kate/Jake said’ will appear. Come on, Crusie, vary it please. And perhaps other descriptions would work just as well without having to use the words, ‘he/she said.’

Funny how a book can take on a whole new face when listened to in an audio format. Some authors are just not meant to be converted into audiobooks. My favorite author in audiobook format? Though it’s not in the romance genre, the honor would hands down have to go to Orson Scott Card. Quoted as saying that the ideal way to enjoy his books is through an audio platform, the cast of characters are properly voiced with amazing talents, the characters are acted out for the listener without being overdone, and overall, it adds a new dimension to enjoy Card’s books. That’s the ultimate audiobook achievement: being able to give the reader a new and higher level of appreciation of the book. If the audiobook gives the reader new insight on top of what the print version provided, then the audiobook is a success. 

Understandably, it’s much harder to make an audiobook a success even if the book is a raving hit.

It’s a Conversation, Not an Alien Invasion

May 3, 2008

I’ve recently discovered the enjoyment of, and dispelled some of my doubts for, audiobooks. 

I always held the belief that I would loose some fundamental enjoyment out of physically holding the book, feeling the crinkle of pages beneath my fingertips, and toting around the comforting weight of the written word in my bag. However, when I was finding myself sneaking in paragraphs here and there between red lights, I realized that audiobooks could rescue some of the reading time that I wasted while toiling in traffic.


I’ve realized that audiobooks work best when I’ve already read the book. Why? Well, because then I’m not waiting on baited breath for the next paragraph to be read. It also helped that I could pay more attention to the cars in front of me instead of the voice filling the interior of my vehicle. I’ve also found out the joy of rediscovering some things I might have missed when I’m reading myself. When I’m listening to the audiobook, unless I fast forward, I can’t skip words as sometimes my eyes are prone to do while reading a particularly uninteresting part. 

Biggest complaint? The narrator!

Case in point: I’ve recently ventured into the In Death series and since Eve Dallas has solved so many crimes, I thought that listening to some of her adventures would cut down on my reading time. I found a copy of Glory In Death in which I loved the narrator. Since Eve is not a typically feminine character, the narrator did a beautiful job of softening Eve with her voice. So while the book told me that Eve wasn’t one to give into her appearance, weddings, and general “female stuff,” the narrator’s soft voice for Eve buffed out the sharp edges. I also liked how Roarke’s Irish accent was just the barest hint and not an overwhelming feel like I was watching the Travel Channel. 

Delighted with my first In Death audiobook, I was equally excited to find out that I could get them online through my local library for free. However, I was outraged to find out that the narrator changed and what I listened to was the older cassette tape version that someone changed into a MP3 file in which I downloaded. Saddened, I still gave this new narrator a try. Big mistake. First off, Eve was all rough and tumble in her voice. It was like listening to a pre-teen boy before his voice deepened. I mean, J.D. Robb’s words were already telling me that Eve wasn’t a girly girl, but now the narrator’s voice was reaffirming that point as well. It was like beating me over the head again and again. Another thing I found annoying? Roarke was now really Irish. I got lost in the accent instead of the book. And that voice for Peabody! Geez Louise! Peabody now sounded like a bad cartoon character. 

I’ve come to find out that male narrators are by far, superior to that of females. Why? Because when males do female voices, they just soften their voices. They don’t make their voices higher. But for female narrators, their male voices lowered. I recently listened to a recording of Jayne Castle’s Silver Master in which the hero’s voice was done in such a cheesy woman-trying-to-imitate-man-voice that I stopped listening and ran out to buy the book instead. 

But the problem with this genre is that men just don’t narrate books plunked into the romance shelf. I did, however, find one I really liked. Ironically, I think if I read the book instead, I wouldn’t have appreciated it. Lori Foster’s Caught in the Act was recorded into an audiobook and the male narrator was a wonderful choice. (Though he’s the only one I’ve listened to in the romance genre in which the narrator was a man). Good choice to pick a male narrator because the books is mostly told from Mick’s point of view. But like I mentioned, the male narrator didn’t raise his voice for when he narrated the female part. He simply softened his voice. That made all the difference.

For this point of audiobooks, I must concede to the point that perhaps, men are more enjoyable to the ears instead of women. In my (fairly limited) experience thus far, the women narrators who do male voices make the men sound like some sort of alien creature with that extremely fake deep voice. But for male narrators doing female voices, it’s much better because they soften their voice and it just sounds more natural to this reader.

So while I’m not entirely convinced that audiobooks can give me the same experience as reading the actual book can, I’m liking the diversion for when I would normally yell at the gridlock traffic. Instead, I’m reading with my ears.