Speaking of Audiobooks: JIAM, the Audies, and June Recommendations

Audie-LogoJune Is Audiobook Month (JIAM)! That’s not just a statement – it’s also the title of a month long event celebrating audiobooks sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association (APA). All month long you will find all sorts of special events and giveaways across the audiobook community. You can participate in some of the action by following two month-long blog hops.

First, the APA has scheduled 31 single audiobook giveaways throughout the month, each featuring one of the 31 Audie Awards winners (announced on May 29th). Bloggers are lined up to give away the winning audiobooks courtesy of the respective publisher. It promises to be a lot of fun and actually started this past Saturday at Audiobooker. Visit Audiobooker to enter for your chance to win the Audiobook of the Year, Billy Crystal’s Still Foolin’ ‘Em, and to discover the next stop (and giveaway) along the way or follow hashtags #audiomonth and/or #Audies2014 on Twitter and Facebook.

Second (but certainly of no less importance) is Spoken Freely 2014. Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, is teaming up with Xe Sands’ Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate JIAM by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories, and essays. Thirty bloggers are working together to have one, if not two, new audio selections performed by one of the Spoken Freely narrators up each day of June. You’ll find a schedule at the Summer Shorts link or just start with Day 1, published on May 30th at Publishers Weekly and follow along. You can also use the hashtag #SummerShorts14 on Twitter and Facebook. All proceeds from the sale of the audio collection go to ProLiteracy.


June Releases That Are Sure To Please

s BloodWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood – Diana Gabaldon     June 10th

Narrated by Davina Porter

It’s Book 8 of the Outlander series – need I say more? Davina Porter narrates the entire Outlander series in unabridged format and all are simply outstanding. It’s one of the finest audiobook series available although its audience certainly isn’t limited to romance listeners. If you have yet to listen to Outlander, take a look at this earlier Speaking of Audiobooks column dedicated to the Outlander series.

Sunset Embrace – Sandra Brown     June 10th

Narrated by Ellen Archer

I haven’t listened to an Ellen Archer narration but I have every confidence that she will deliver Sunset Embrace with all the style and character differentiation we could hope for. Word about her narrations is positive and the samples of her work at Audible are very impressive. Add to this the actual book – a popular old West tale from 1990 and I’m certain I’ll be enjoying this one.

The Black Hawk – Joanna Bourne     June 10th

Narrated by Kirsten Potter

We knew Kirsten Potter would excel in her narration of the remaining entries in the Spymaster series after her dynamite performance of The Spymaster’s Lady in 2010. She has proven this with the recent releases of The Forbidden Rose and My Lord and Spymaster.

Highlander Avenged – Laurin Wittig     June 24th

Narrated by Phil Gigante

Romance listeners don’t get to hear enough of Phil Gigante which leaves us always yearning for more. The first in the Guardians of the Targe series, Highlander Betrayed has fared well in romance discussion groups and it’s sitting in my audio library as well. Would I be recommending Book 2 if Phil Gigante wasn’t narrating? Probably not but Wittig pens a decent tale and Gigante knows how to make any Highlander male sound irresistible.

Shield of Winter – Nalini Singh     June 3rd

Narrated by Angela Dawe

Fans of the Psy/Changeling series in audio format (and there are many), it’s time for the next in the series. Tomorrow, Shield of Winter releases simultaneously in hardback, eBook, and audio format and although I don’t follow the series, I have a good number of audio buddies who do and are eagerly anticipating this almost-sixteen-hour adventure.

Vixen in Velvet – Loretta Chase     June 24th

Narrated by Kate Reading

Kate Reading has received high praise for her three Loretta Chase narrations to date in 2014 – Lord of Scoundrels, Silk Is for Seduction, and Scandal Wears Satin. I have no doubt her excellent narration will continue and this is Loretta Chase!

Rock Chick 2Rock Chick Books 2 – 8 – Kristen Ashley     June 10th

Narrated by Susannah Jones

I’ve experienced the rush that comes after discovering Kristen Ashley. You don’t want to read anything else as you start devouring her extensive backlist. After reading ten in a row, I was worn out and haven’t been able to generate a lot of enthusiasm for any Ashley titles since. Still, I understand the addictive nature of reading these books and romance listeners have absolutely loved her audiobooks released to date – regardless of the narrator. However, I have listened to Susannah Jones narrate Rock Chick and let me tell you, she’s good! And she’s the best of the Ashley narrators I’ve heard to date. So, it’s party time for Ashley fans and a good time to try an audiobook for the first time.

Devil to Pay and Happily Never After – Jeaniene Frost     June 24th

Narrated by Tavia Gilbert

Two short stories from the Four Dukes and a Devil anthology and the Weddings from Hell anthology, these should prove fun for Night Huntress fans. But with each running only 2-3 hours in length, let’s hope their individual price is reduced from the pre-order cost of one Audible credit or $16.53 for members. Non-members, of course, pay more.

Tempting Fortune – Jo Beverley     June 18th

Narrated by Alison Larkin

Historical romance audio fans have been yearning to see the Malloren series released in audio format. Tempting Fate is Book 2 in the series and although reports back on the narration of Book 1, My Lady Notorious, are generally good, there is concern over Larkin’s performance of Rothgar. Apparently her depiction is greatly lacking for one who plays such a major role in the series. Let’s hope she changes up her performance of this all-important character before long.


Romance and The Audie Awards

Well, it’s happened again. A non-romance title has won the Audie Award for Best Romance Audiobook. And for those who say “But this was a romantic Nicholas Sparks book…”, I will calmly say that Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride is categorized as General Fiction. Yes, you read that correctly – The Longest Ride, a non-romance title, won the only romance award out of thirty-one at the Audies.

s Heart 240I’ll admit that, for the most part, the five romance finalists weren’t all that spectacular with the exception of Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart narrated by Nicholas Boulton. And I’ll admit that, as a romance listener, I believe Ms. Kinsale is the most deserving romance finalist in the history of the Audies. But the question begs to be asked, “Why weren’t all five of those finalists spectacular?” The romance audio genre certainly had a significant number of high quality productions in 2013. And, why oh why, call it a Best Romance award if you aren’t going to limit it to the hundreds (probably thousands) of romance audios released in 2013?

Of course, I realize that the Audies is not a People’s Choice type of award. My incomplete understanding of the Audies is that the success of a book’s marketing is a big factor as well as high production values. But aside from that, are the volunteer judges for the romance category actually romance listeners who recognize a quality romance? I also wonder if Sparks’ inclusion in the Audies Romance Category (more than once) is simply a matter of the APA unknowingly accepting it in the wrong category. Or, rather than requiring that romance finalists are actually categorized as romance, can any fictional book that contains a romance be included as a Best Romance Finalist?

I can refer you back to the 2012 Speaking of Audiobooks column, The Audies and Romance, if you are interested in seeing the number of romances which have actually held Audie finalists spots (and those that haven’t) over the years or to 2013’s The Audie Finalists in Romance column and my “it’s getting better” hopeful evaluation. But this year, my observation is to simply sigh and say that romance authors – those authors who proudly represent the romance genre and claim that title – have been left behind again and the powers that grant titles such as Best Romance for an entire industry have told the world that Nicholas Sparks, general fiction writer, has the best romance audiobook of the year.


Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks keeps growing and now has 774 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.


I hope you will follow along with the JIAM blog hops and discover more about the growing audiobook community that is all around us.

Enjoy your listening.

–      Lea Hensley

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