Homefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James Magner

Homefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James MagnerHomefront: A Novel of the Transgenic Wars by Scott James Magner
Narrator: Allyson Johnson
Published by Audible Studios on 11/11/14
Genres: Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible

Story: B-
Narration: B

Quick Review:

Homefront is a thoughtful speculative fiction novel with a nice mix of action and emotion. Although I struggled to remain engaged with it consistently, overall the combination of physical conflict, interpersonal clashes, and internal quandaries kept the story moving forward at a nice clip. The narration allows the listener to easily distinguish between individuals in a diverse cast of characters and enhances the pacing of the story.

My Thoughts:

In a future world where humanity has been infected with a transgenic virus and individuals have mutated with an unbelievable rapidity to gain enhanced abilities—from telepathy to extra arms or eyes—there are both unmodified humans and a range of modified humans (“mods” or “gennies”) . The latter are divided into something like castes—Alphas as the ruling caste then Beta, Delta, Gamma, and Omega—in descending order of mutation away from an unmodified human form. The mods were exiled to the outer colonies and the story opens as a small contingent of mods are returning to the inner worlds with a cargo of “sleeper” mods to establish a hidden colony.

Jantine is a Beta and captain of the mission to establish a secure and hidden base for her crew and cargo. Although it’s generally expected to be a suicide mission, she succeeds in landing her crew but not before encountering local planetary defense forces engaged in an apparent civil war. The people who surround Jantine are varied and complex. In the moment, they are fully realized characters with varied motivations and feelings. Part of my inability to remain engaged with them, though, is that too much of their back story and how that made them who they are is pushed off until later. I struggled with the dynamics that arced between the mods running the operation and was annoyed with some rapid flip-flopping of emotions that seemed odd for such highly trained “super soldiers.” A lot of the cause for that became clear later but by then, it was a bit too late for me to do my usual readerly bonding with them and I was left with a strictly intellectual curiosity for the story instead.

The introduction of an unmodified human to the group provided a nice basis for some mild pondering on what it was about the mods (other than a physical appearance for some) that caused them to be considered inhuman or worth exiling (as if people need a logical reason, right?) There was also a light vein of philosophical musing to be had about how family is defined and where we choose to place our value in that construction. Lieutenant Mira Harlan is unwillingly swept along in the mods’ plan and finds herself irrevocably changed by her contact with them.

There was a fair amount of head-hopping and while the changes in points-of-view added complexity and interest to the story , they also emphasized the tell rather than show aspects engendered by the amount of internal thoughts that recapped events or motivations. That narrative tool struck me as over used and not in line with how thoughts generally manifest themselves. To an extent, this was also emphasized by my biggest point of contention with the narration style: a tendency to slow certain sentences down and phrase them in a thoughtful manner more often that the text or the flow of general human speech would indicate is appropriate.

Magner does an excellent job conveying the sense of “other” the Mods and their changed physiology (and more to the point, thought processes and perspectives) embody while balancing that against the things that still make them human. There’s a lot that comes to light in the last few chapters and while there’s a general wrap-up, I am interested in what the future holds for the mods and the world they landed on.

The Narration:

If you’re familiar with Allyson Johnson’s narration of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series and enjoyed the audiobooks (as I did) then read no farther, you’re good to go with this one. I admit, I was hoping for the more casual delivery she brought to Kim Knox’s Dark Dealings (which struck me as more organic in tone) but she brings considerable skill to this story nonetheless.

Ms. Johnson excels at differentiating characters, both between individuals and in the typical vocal characteristics that cue a listener to male or female. She’s attentive to the author’s narrative and chews over the syntax in service to it. Her dialogue delivery is reactive and flows naturally and while the frequency with which lines are given a thoughtful and slower delivery chimes against my ear as excessive and not always in line with the context, she still keeps the story moving at a nice pace. The narration on this one actually helped me track through some of the complexities in the story so I suggest you check out the sample and see how it works for you.

I received this book at no cost from Audible Studios in exchange for a review. The book’s source does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet MarillierDreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Narrator: Natalie Gold, Nick Sullivan, Scott Aiello
Series: Blackthorn and Grim #1
Published by Audible Studios on 11/4/14
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Audible

Story: B
Narration: B+

Quick Review:

An engaging fantasy novel that smoothly incorporates a bit of mystery and a dash of “whodunit,” Dreamer’s Pool broke me out of a listening slump and I found it easy to become invested in the story and characters. Three narrators deftly shift between the three points of view at play and while all bring different strengths in terms of delivery, all three added to the listening experience.

My Thoughts:

I started my listen of Dreamer’s Pool expecting a pretty traditional fantasy story built on Irish mythology and folklore.  My expectations were incorrect and this is one of the rare instances in which that was a good thing. This audiobook struck me as a mix of fantasy and mystery and was far lighter on magical elements than I anticipated. The mystery wasn’t just in terms of the more-than-one “whodunit” plot lines, it was also in the way in which the characters’ backstories were woven into the overall tapestry of the story.

As the story introduces us to Blackthorn and Grim – imprisoned and facing torture or death – events begin their rush forward and it’s only with some skillful weaving of backstory into ongoing events that we begin to learn some of the history of our main characters. Making a bargain with Conmael, a fey nobleman who offers Blackthorn her freedom (for reasons known only to him) in exchange for her agreement to three conditions, the healer and her fellow prisoner—a taciturn giant of a man named Grim—find themselves free and heading to Dalriada where Blackthorn is to set up as a healer and wise-woman.

There, they cross paths with Oran, the Dalriada prince and the future king of the realm. Oran is an intelligent and unexpectedly romantic figure who has agreed to an arranged marriage and is awaiting his future bride in his holding of Winterfalls. With his intended’s arrival in advance of the hand-fasting, though, comes questions the prince needs answers to. Through her work as a healer, Blackthorn and Grim become embroiled in a sordid investigation involving abduction, murder, and arson. Their success with the investigation leads the prince to seek their help solving the greater mystery of his intended bride and Dreamer’s Pool.

Blackthorn is a hardened and bitter woman whose past has taught her to distrust those in authority. She’s sympathetic overall but that consistent core of anger may make her a frustrating protagonist for some. Her character arc isn’t one of self-discovery so much as it is one of re-discovery: how to trust again, how to be among people again, and (I’m projecting to future books here) how to let go of her anger and desire for revenge against the man who wronged her and learn to build a fulfilling life. Her experiences have made her distrustful of men and blind to the truth on some issues. Although (or perhaps because) I was particularly engaged with this book, I reached a point where frustration made me stop listening for almost a full day when Blackthorn took actions based on those bitter influences from her past in that way that we never recognize in ourselves in real life but get so frustrated with in our fictional characters.

Grim’s character arc is the most nebulous of the three—not because it was poorly written or because he was an incomplete character but because the author was able to make him integral to the story while letting Oran and Blackthorn fill out the majority of the gradual weaving of the tale. The story was neatly wrapped up with no cliff-hanger but there are more than enough threads, many of them Grim’s, for me to look forward to the next in the series.

Oran was an unexpected character for me. Part of that is due to how the narrator voiced him, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found him to be the most complex character of the three. He was an intelligent and fair-minded ruler but relatively young with a streak of romanticism and poetry in his soul that struck me as atypical (in my experience with the genre) for the character who possessed the most agency and secular power in the world-building structure.

There was one significant point of break-down for me and minor spoilers will be necessary in the explanation that follows. Two threads to the story incorporate violence (physical and sexual) against women. While that’s a theme I’m getting a bit weary of personally (at least it wasn’t used to justify character flaws or toughness,) from an historical and world-building standpoint I can understand the placement of it as well as the inclusion of an attitude reminiscent of “she was probably hooking up with a boy already anyway so she got what she deserved.” It did strike me as an odd contrast to Blackthorn’s more modern view in defense of the victim via a clear statement that it didn’t matter if the victim has slept with everyone or no one, rape is rape. That progressive (for the times) attitude then seemed at odds with her later attitude towards a false accusation of rape. Not that Blackthorn the character wouldn’t have logically fell victim to an issue that hit a personal trigger but that the transition was from historically accurate “women as chattel and not deserving control of their bodies” to the very modern “no means no regardless of the victim’s character/dress/etc.” to a muddying false rape accusation. All that likely says more about me as a modern reader that it speaks to a flaw in the writing but it was… disturbing to me.

Overall, the story is, if not fast, then certainly well-paced, both in terms of a smooth and story-appropriate shift in character perspectives as well as in terms of forward momentum in plot. I was wrapped up in the tale and the characters and the narration was an enhancement to the experience of the written word.

The Narration:

All three narrators are skilled and delivered a listen-worthy (vs. a “go with the text” recommendation) experience. Although I have a few specific complaints, the amount of text I dedicate to them below is not at all indicative of their impact on the audiobook as a whole. For all the narrators, character differentiation was always excellent; voicing the opposite sex never sounded forced or unnatural to me, especially when combined with the “here and now” narrative skills of all three; delivery was smooth and corrections were nicely blended with the original tone and dialogue ebbed and flowed with a pretty natural give and take.

In addition to the above high notes, Natalie Gold has a pleasant voice that meshed well with the age and experience of the character. If I had one complaint, it would be that Blackthorn is, as mentioned, a woman whose life experiences have hardened her and while she showed moments of softening, the emotion I pulled from the narration was delivered more consistently from inflection that vocally highlighted the textual emotion rather than from a wholly organic read of the subtext. This was less problematic for me here than in many of my past listens but it had the unfortunate effect of blunting the impact of what should have been some really great moments. When Blackthorn allows her past to color her perspective on everything she had learned up to a critical point, the fact that vocal inflection is a mask rather than a transformation became evident and her anger didn’t translate as betrayal or a bitter pill swallowed whole against the ways in which her new experiences had been wearing down the edges of her past, it was just a slightly amped up version of the anger she’d carried all along.

If I had been asked to describe how Oran sounded, it wouldn’t have been at all what Scott Aiello delivered… so thank goodness I’m not an audiobook director because Oran’s character was complex and that came though nicely in (or perhaps was truly best illuminated because of) the vocal delivery. I’m tempted to break out into an in-depth wine analogy about top notes and subtle undertones but I’ll spare you and boil it down to the fact that in addition to varied cadences that made each of Mr. Aiello’s characters incredibly distinct, his ability to express the wide emotional range that can be crossed not just in a single character but sometimes within the arc of a few sentences made for a very organic and natural feel to Oran as a character.

I imagine voicing Grim came with its own set of challenges for Nick Sullivan; I know it did for me as a listener. With a deep voice for Grim and as a character with very little to say and a tendency to do it in short sentences, Mr. Sullivan had two text-imposed limits that affected how his delivery struck me. Terse sentences combined with the gravelly, lowered voice invariably set up a hard-boiled noir detective vibe at the start of each section from Grim’s point of view. This set up a disconnect between the actual genre/mood and my immediate interpretation. It’s an artifact forced strictly, I would argue, by the translation from text to audio but it was nevertheless a momentary disruption to my ability to wholly immerse myself in the listening experience.

Overall, though, three strong performances. I would listen to more audiobooks by any of these narrators.

I received this book at no cost from Audible Studios in exchange for a review. The book’s source does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Summer Shorts ’14


Today marks the last day of June Is Audiobook Month (JIAM) and I’m honored to host the final post for the Summer Shorts ’14 project. Today’s short story — freely available to listen to in its entirety today only — is
“Virtue of the Month” by Kathleen Founds: a poignant exploration of grief, suicide, and choices, read by Xe Sands:

“Other boyfriends left when I emphasized a point by throwing a bowl of salad out the window, or slapped them in the face for crunching too loudly on Saltines. But my meds are better-adjusted now. And Ben is more accepting, or less observant, than any other man I’ve loved.”

The Summer Shorts ’14 project is brought to you by Spoken Freely and is a month-long celebration of the art of audiobook narration, a “Thank you!” to listeners, and an opportunity to give back to the community. You can find out more about the project at the end of this post or by stopping by the Spoken Freely page of the Going Public blog but as a reminder, the purchase of the Summer Shorts ’14 compilation from Tantor Media not only gives you 20 bonus tracks but all proceeds will benefit ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation and a group that advocates on behalf of adult learners and the programs that serve them, provides training and professional development, and publishes materials used in adult literacy and basic education instruction.

Before we get to the recording of “Virtue of the Month,” I had the chance to talk with Xe Sands and Troy Palmer (author and creator of online publisher Little Fiction) about their work, the appeal of short fiction and online fiction, and hearing or reading fiction aloud.


Troy, you’re the brains behind the online publisher Little Fiction. Why did you create it and what does it bring to the literary community?

TP: I created Little Fiction mainly because I wanted to work with other writers and I wanted to do so in a way that allowed me to stay creative when I wasn’t writing. As for what Little Fiction brings to the literary community, I think part of it is that creativity — there’s quite a bit of attention paid to the visual aesthetic with our story covers and wallpapers. But I think we’re also just part of a growing online community that has shaken up the staid tradition of printed literary journals. For writers, there will always be something wonderful about seeing your name and your work in print, but there’s an immediacy with the online / digital format — thanks to social media — that lets writers know that they’re work is actually being read. And that’s pretty wonderful, too.

XS: I love the immediacy and access of it. As a reader, yes, there is something compelling about getting a literary journal in the mail and taking a quiet moment (yes, I really do have them…er, very occasionally) to sift through it, absorb it, etc. But there is something equally compelling about Little Fiction – it offers the same experience, but in a medium that I can stumble upon when I’m *not* able to take a quiet moment…when I’m doing what I’m almost always doing when not recording: working and reading online…and coming across a new Little Fiction or WhiskeyPaper or other online source of new work is like the most blessed of forced breaks – I can’t *not* read what I find, which forces me to slow down for a moment, step outside whatever the hell is happening in my world right at that moment, and into the world the author has created. So thank you, Troy :)

TP: Always glad to be a part of that experience for people. And that’s the beauty of online — it’s as instantly gratifying for the reader, as well.

XS: It also often allows a reader to directly interact or share their appreciation with an author…that just doesn’t exist with print publications, not in the same way.

What makes Little Fiction a sustainable publishing model or is it more of a labor of love and what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in creating it?

TP: It’s definitely a labour of love, there’s no question about that. But I think the model has elements to it that make it sustainable. I have a low overhead which allows me to give the stories away for free — and I think free will always have a certain amount of sustainability to it. Free also equates freedom. I’m not beholden to investors who are focused on their ROI or a grant system that doesn’t have my audience’s best interest in mind. The content comes first and as long as that’s there, again, there’s a certain amount of sustainability with killer content.

But I don’t see LF staying the way it is forever. There will always be an emphasis on creating great content and giving some of it away for free, but adaptability is an absolute must for anyone trying to carve their own path these days.

XS:  I find myself really REALLY hoping you find a way to sustain it…I could pretend this is for your welfare, but really it’s a selfish desire to continue to have access to amazing stories that just aren’t told elsewhere, to authors that I can’t find elsewhere – at least not when they are starting out. Well, OK, and I don’t want Troy to starve either…

All that’s to say that I’d be willing to pay for the service…but just how to monetize that? I can see that that would be  tricky thing. We (online content consumers) tend to get weird about paying for online content – something that, while I’m guilty of it, I can’t really understand. I mean, do we think it just appears there by magic? It’s work…sure love and creative passion and all that too, but it’s also work. And, well, authors and Troy deserve to eat :)

TP: How to monetize is the million dollar question. I’m not at all convinced that the subscription model works (see Byliner’s recent woes). But you know, if I got into this for money that would be the wrong reason for so many reasons. And however LF evolves, there will always be free content.

What do you look for when reviewing submissions for Little Fiction and what are the steps to publication once you’ve accepted a piece?

XS: Oooo…I’m very much looking forward to Troy’s answer to that one…

TP: Ha! Thanks, Xe. The two biggest things I look for are character and conflict — without those I don’t think you have much of a story. On a more subjective level, I look for stories that move me. And I like writing that takes chances, that isn’t afraid to devastate a reader or break someone’s heart. I typically find, with most art forms, the stuff that initially challenges us is the stuff that is most likely to stick with us for longer.

XS: Can I just steal Troy’s answer for one of mine? Pretty please? Because that’s basically why I like the LF pieces and how I choose what I choose to record on my own time, just because I want to. And why I chose the piece I did for Summer Shorts.

TP: No surprise we’re definitely on the same page there ;)

Once a piece has been accepted it’s a pretty simple process. I give some editing comments in the month leading up to publication, and start designing some cover options. Typically, it’s a pretty quick editing process, with most of the stories we accept being fairly well-crafted when they come to us. With the covers, I reach out to the authors at the start of the process and usually just send over the one I like best.

XS: I love that you create the covers to go along with the stories…it adds a nifty dimension while also acting as excellent branding for LF…and hopefully, provides a creative outlet for you in the bargain.

TP: Thanks (again). The covers are definitely a thing that helps set us apart and gave us some personality out of the gate. And of course there’s the branding (my background is in advertising — glad to see I didn’t waste all those years).

Xe, looking at the pieces you’ve recorded for the Going Public project (many of them from Little Fiction authors), I’d say you’re a fan of small press lit fic and flash or micro-fiction. What’s the appeal?

XS: Honestly? I think it’s because there’s a freedom and freshness that comes through. First, there’s no huge arc to build, so there’s usually no fluffy bits, no world-building aside from what the author can accomplish organically within the meat of the story. And while I enjoy all those “fluffy bits” when reading a full-length novel…I’ll confess to also like zeroing on the parts that matter to me. Hey, I’m a selfish reader! I’ll admit it.

Also, the writers just go for it…I mean, there’s not gentleness or couching or worry over content – they just WRITE IT. At least that’s how it feels. it also doesn’t tend to read like a piece that’s been edited and worked over and polished (all of which i absolutely NEED in a novel)…it has a rawness to it…OMG! It’s like a dress created by a fashion designer: that first one, that raw one with string hanging off and seams showing that might not actually stand up to a washing? THAT’S the one that’s oozing with passion and promise – and that’s how well-executed micro-fiction hits me – it’s that gorgeous first run that came straight out. That said, I acknowledge that I have absolutely no idea how writers do what they do, and maybe the pieces I’ve most loved have been agonized over and rewritten and were actually months in the making…I mean only praise when I say that they have a freshness and immediacy that makes them read as if they were thrown out there whole.

Troy, you’re an author as well. In fact, one of my favorite recordings from Xe’s Going Public project is your “I Thought About the Ways You Might Have Died” from Listerature Vol. 2. Is there unique value in hearing your work read aloud?

TP: Oh, wow. Thanks. There’s definitely a unique value in hearing your work read — not just aloud — but by someone who knows the craft and who is dedicated to the craft. It’s amazing and humbling. I often find, with the stories of ours that Xe has read, that I use the same phrase to promote them — that she’s breathed life into the story and its characters — but it’s because that’s what it is.

XS: Thank you, Troy. That’s…beautiful and humbling. And I concur with Kelli – “I thought About the Ways You Might Have Died” remains one of my favorite pieces as well. It’s stuck with me all this time…that ending, man. Dear lord. And it works, not because you’ve intentionally tried to make me feel something, but because it’s just such an honest outpouring of how that moment might feel – as if we’ve been allowed to see the author’s thoughts in that moment, without them knowing, without them prettying them up for us. It’s haunting.

TP: I’ve been to a number of readings and far too often it just feels like someone reading from a sheet of paper. I believe that once you get behind a mic, you’re no longer just a writer — you’re a performer. And that to me is where the unique value comes from — hearing your story performed.

XS: That is actually why I tend to shy away from listening to poets read their work aloud. Often, they seem to be fixated on the rhythm of the piece as written  – which is totally appropriate – they worked hard to create it, and the rhythm on the page is part of what makes/breaks a poem. But when that fixation carries into the reading, I find the intent and impact is lost when they read it aloud. Then again, I can be a lone horse out there on the prairie on that one.

But I have to assume it’s weird to hear your work interpreted by someone else – is it? As a performer, I have to say that the most nerve-wracking moment is often waiting to hear what an author thinks of what I’ve done with their words.

TP: For sure, it’s always a little strange hearing someone else put a voice to your work, but it’s exciting, too, to see how someone else views a piece, or a character, or a line of dialogue. I’ve also learned by this time in my life / career that you have to let go and let other people bring their take and their expertise to the table, so I’m pretty comfortable handing my work over to another person.

Xe, the recording you chose for Summer Shorts ’14 is “Virtue of the Month” by Kathleen Founds. What drew you to this piece?

XS: Dude, did you read/hear that opening paragraph? She basically had me at “This is my mother, Olivia Freedman. She hung herself from a rafter when I was eight years old.” Messy, poignant, bound to be conflicted…in other words, perfect for me :)

And I stand by my earlier request to copy what Troy said… “I look for stories that move me. And I like writing that takes chances, that isn’t afraid to devastate a reader or break someone’s heart. I typically find, with most art forms, the stuff that initially challenges us is the stuff that is most likely to stick with us for longer.” —yes, THAT. That.

I’ll add that Founds builds an amazing arc in a very short space…this has to be one of the most complete bits of extremely short fiction that I’ve read. From that launch point, there is an exploration of depression, relationships, parental responsibility, perception vs. reality, marriage, denial, conflict, resolution, etc. Hell, it’s even got math! Using a relatively mundane setting and experience – clearing out your parent’s house after they have passed, Founds then branches into the surreal with psychological visitations, explorations of the “equation of suicide,” and this woman’s desperate need to not be like her mother.

TP: That story that had me hooked from the first line. You made a great choice.

Xe, many of the flash/micro fiction pieces you pick to record pack a pretty hefty emotional punch. Does that pose any issues while recording and what do you do to make sure you’re delivering the emotional content of the story?

Wow. That’s a great question. I feel those are the easiest to tap into, and sometimes the hardest to deliver without “over” delivering. When I first started narrating, without realizing it, I think I felt this need to lead the listener – like that god-awful upswell of music that makes you cry at the end of a film, almost against your will. But when the content is there, when the author has adeptly constructed an emotional hook, something that tugs at you, or pierces you…something that slips under your skin when you’re paying attention to something else, all I need do is be present with the author’s words and just tell the story. TELL THE STORY. That’s all I’m there to do. The story carries itself. Over the past few years, I’ve been working with a pretty amazing mentor who has called me out on using voice to lead, to force a reaction…which has helped me to let go of the need to control the reaction and just let it come out all by its lonesome…because it will, if I get out of the way and stop trying to matter to the listener…because I don’t.


And now…

“Virtue of the Month” by Kathleen Founds
Originally published in The Sun Magazine, and included in the forthcoming When Mystical Creatures Attack! from University of Iowa Press. Copyright 2014, Kathleen Founds. Recorded with permission.


Xe Sands

Xe Sands is an award-winning narrator known for her authentic characterizations and intimate delivery. She has more than a decade of experience bringing stories to life through narration, performance, and visual art, including recordings of Wonderland, by Stacey D’Erasmo, The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, and Survival Lessons, by Alice Hoffman. Sands has also been recognized for her engaging romance narrations, and was named Most Impressive Narrator Discovery for titles such as Catch of the Day, by Kristan Higgins, and On Thin Ice, by Anne Stuart.

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s Summer Shorts ’14 entry over at Every Day I Write the Book, which includes an interview with author Susanna Daniel and narrator Karen White.


About the project

The audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14,an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public,as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support ofProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download. Full release schedule can be found on the Spoken Freely page of the Going Public blog.

About ProLiteracy

ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, advocates on behalf of adult learners and the programs that serve them, provides training and professional development, and publishes materials used in adult literacy and basic education instruction. ProLiteracy has 1,000 member programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and works with 52 nongovernmental organizations in 34 developing countries. Its publishing division, New Readers Press(NRP), has for more than 40 years provided educators with the instructional tools they need to teach adult students and older teens literacy skills for functioning in the world today. Materials are available in a variety of media, including the flagship publication, the weekly news source News for You, which delivers articles online with audio. Proceeds from sales of NRP materials support literacy programs in the U.S. and worldwide.

Summer Shorts ’14 is made possible by the efforts of the Spoken Freely narrators and many others who donated their time and energy to bring it to fruition. Post-production, marketing support, and publication provided by Tantor Media. Graphic design provided by f power design. Project coordination and executive production provided by Xe Sands. Non-profit partnership coordination provided by Karen White.


A June Is Audiobook Month Celebration

Genres: Humor

As you probably already know, June is Audiobook Month and special events will be taking place all month-long in celebration. Today, I’m delighted to host the 12th giveaway in the Audio Publishers Association (APA) celebration of #AudioMonth and the Audie award winners.Audie-Logo

Since the prize is the Audie award winner in the Humor category, how about if we start things off with a joke? Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

So a narrator, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar… oh, you’ve heard that one? OK. OK. How about…

How many audiobook producers does it take to replace a… huh, you’ve heard that one too?

Well, if you haven’t heard Still Foolin’ ‘Em by Billy Crystal, an audiobook that not only won in the Humor category but also in the Narration by the Author category as well as Audiobook of the Year, here’s your chance to win a copy. (And I promise, his jokes are waaaay better than mine.)

Macmillan Audio has generously agreed to send a copy of Still Foolin’ ‘Em to one lucky (US only, sorry) winner.

Still Foolin' 'Em

Billy Crystal is 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving dinners with half your meal on your shirt. In humorous chapters like “”Buying the Plot”” and “”Nodding Off,”” Crystal not only catalogues his physical gripes, but offers a road map to his 77 million fellow baby boomers who are arriving at this milestone age with him. He also looks back at the most powerful and memorable moments of his long and storied life, from entertaining his relatives as a kid in Long Beach, Long Island, and his years doing stand-up in the Village, up through his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live,When Harry Met Sally, and his long run as host of the Academy Awards. Listeners get a front-row seat to his one-day career with the New York Yankees (he was the first player to ever “”test positive for Maalox””), his love affair with Sophia Loren, and his enduring friendships with several of his idols, including Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. He lends a light touch to more serious topics like religion (“”the aging friends I know have turned to the Holy Trinity: Advil, bourbon, and Prozac””); grandparenting; and, of course, dentistry. As wise and poignant as they are funny, Crystal’s reflections are an unforgettable look at an extraordinary life well lived.

All you need to do to be entered is leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your favorite humorous audiobook or your favorite funny moment in or with an audiobook. The winner will be randomly selected on 6/19/14 and notified via e-mail.

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s giveaway for the Narration by Author category at Overreader, (where you can double your chances of winning Still Foolin’ ‘Em) and tomorrow’s Literary Fiction winner giveaway at So Not a Runner.


Summer Shorts ’14 – Featuring Paul Boehmer

June Is Audiobook Month and in celebration, the audiobook community is giving back. Spoken Freely — a group of more than 40 professional narrators – has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. For the full schedule, check out the Spoken Freely page of the Going Public blog but don’t forget that the purchase of the Summer Shorts ’14 compilation not only gives you 20 bonus tracks but all proceeds will benefit ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation and a group that advocates on behalf of adult learners and the programs that serve them, provides training and professional development, and publishes materials used in adult literacy and basic education instruction.

As someone who loves poetry, I’m honored to be able to host this recording of Paul Boehmer performing “Mother’s Ashes” from Motherless, a collection of poems by Kimberly Morgan. The three poems in the compilation are a sampling of a collection written the year following the death of Kimberly’s mother. They deal honestly and frankly with the love and longing of the passing of a parent as well as acknowledging the complicated relationship between parent and child.

Copyright is held by Kimberly Morgan. Recorded with permission.

Paul Boehmer

Paul Boehmer attended his first Shakespearean play while in high school; he knew then that he was destined to become the classically trained actor he is today. Graduating with a Masters Degree, Paul was cast as Hamlet by the very stage actor who inspired his career path. A nod from the Universe he’d chosen aright! Paul has worked on Broadway and extensively in Regional Theatre; coinciding with another of his passions, Sci-Fi, Paul has been cast in various roles in many episodes of Star Trek. Paul’s love of literature and learning led him by nature to his work as a narrator for Audiobooks, his latest endeavor. Paul is married to the love of his life, Offir and they live in Los Angeles with their two midnight-rambling Tomcats Dread & David.

Summer Shorts ’14 is made possible by the efforts of the Spoken Freely narrators and many others who donated their time and energy to bring it to fruition. Post-production, marketing support, and publication provided by Tantor Media. Graphic design provided by f power design. Project coordination and executive production provided by Xe Sands. Non-profit partnership coordination provided by Karen White.

But wait, there’s more! Today is a two-fer, with narrator Robin Miles over at The Project Gutenberg Project  and don’t forget to check out the previous post in this series: a double-feature with Patrick Lawlor and David Drummond at Overreader. You may also want to mark your calendar for tomorrow’s posts featuring John Lee at Literate Housewife and Käthe Mazur at Lakeside Musing.