Nebula Award Finalists

The Nebulas, a prestigious science fiction award, has just announced the list of finalists for 2017, and the ballot is out of this world! Take a look at the full list of novels under consideration, with the results to be announced in May. I’ve already devoured all of them, and have no idea how they will ever decide. Give them a listen for yourself here, and feel free to leave your thoughts below!

 

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

“Trust no one with anything especially in Amberlough City.”

From author Lara Elena Donnelly, comes a debut spy thriller, Amberlough, where a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup

Combining the espionage thrills of le Carré with the allure of an alternate vintage era, Amberlough will thoroughly seduce and enthrall you. Listen to a sample.

 

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

 

“Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.”

Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders–and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Listen to a sample.

 

 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory 

 

“Hilarious, heartfelt and brimming with humanity.” -Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

Harnessing the imaginative powers that have made him a master storyteller, Daryl Gregory delivers a stunning, laugh-out-loud novel about a family of gifted dreamers and the invisible forces that bind us all.

Listen to a sample.

 

 

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

“She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.”

The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest you drop everything and get on that immediately.

Listen to a sample.

 

 

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

 

“It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.”

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew awake with with no memory of how they died, and somehow must find their murderer — before they kill again.

Listen to a sample.

 

 

Jade City by Fonda Lee

“FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.”

Award-winning author Fonda Lee explodes onto the adult fantasy scene with Jade City , an epic saga reminiscent of The Godfather with magic and kungfu, set in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis. Lose yourself in this tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.

Listen to a sample.

 

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

From award winning tech-journalist and io9 founder Annalee Newitz comes a highly anticipated science fiction debut, 

Autonomous will pull listeners into a dark and dirty world that feels, at times, a bit too familiar to readers today. And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Listen to a sample.

 

 

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4 Narration Considerations when Choosing an Audiobook

Audiobook lovers know the importance of a good narrator. Narrators have the potential to expertly enhance a book, or, unfortunately, to sometimes drag it down. It can be tricky for audio publishers to find a voice that suits both the book and everyone’s preferences. (A sweet, bubbly voice doesn’t belong in scenes of gore, just as ragged, ominous voices have no place in light-hearted fairy tales.)

As listeners, we need to know ourselves and our narration tastes in order to opt for books that suit us, so we’ve come up with a quick guide to test a narrator. While listening to samples as you’re browsing for your next audiobook, here are some things to consider.

Pace:
Does the narrator match your preferred pace? Are they reading too quickly during scenes that need better build up? Do they take too long during descriptive paragraphs? If the pace doesn’t quite fit, try changing the playback speed to see if it improves the experience.

TECH TIP! To change playback speed, tap the 1x icon on the player screen in the Audiobooks.com app. 

Pitch and Intonation:
Very important in regards to narration is the delivery. Is the reader too monotone? Do they exaggerate dialogue to the point where it’s cheesy? Is the pitch of the voice suitable? Even if the pace suits you, inappropriate intonation could make a potentially great audiobook personally unbearable.

Accents:
This one is a little more difficult. You may have a preference for certain accents during general narration, but when it comes to dialogue, accents are an important part of the character. Depending on where you’re from, you may be more tolerant of narrators putting on certain accents. Those accustomed to a North American accent may cringe if a British narrator fails to imitate a Southern character. Similarly, people in the UK may be distracted from the story when an American narrator portrays someone from Ireland.

Background noise:
While this last one isn’t in the narrator’s power, it’s worth considering that some audiobooks have sound effects and music in the background as a way to enhance the audio. To some, this is a welcome addition that turns the experience up a level, but others find it distracting and unnecessary. Determine the side you relate to and listen for it in the sample.

TECH TIP! To sample an audiobook before committing a credit to it, simply press play on a title in the Audiobooks.com app. After the set sample time is up, you’ll be prompted to apply a credit and keep listening, or choose to keep browsing. 

What do you think? Do you look for similar factors when sampling audio? What are your listening preferences? Let us know!

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STAFF PICK DEAL: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Oh my goodness, this is an absolute treasure of a book. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss tells the story of monstrous women: characters from classic literature who were barely considered noteworthy, infused with lives and voices all their own. While the respectable Mary Jekyll and the untameable Diana Hyde begrudgingly explore what it means to have a sister so unlike yourself, they are joined by Catherine, the unlucky creation of Doctor Moreau; Justine, the would-be bride of Frankenstein’s monster; and Beatrice, the tragic daughter of the botanist Rappaccini. The women adventure throughout Victorian London with varying degrees of enthusiasm, trying to unravel the mystery of a secret society of alchemists that seems to hold the answers to each of their respective origins.

The book is narrated with all five distinct voices telling the same story, often interrupting themselves and each other in the margins to let us know exactly how vexing the process is. Goss manages to weave this together with a simple elegance that masks how ambitious and nuanced the writing style truly is. They bicker as fiercely as they support each other, in a way that feels purely human and heartwarming.

These “monstrous” women, all by-products of men with too much power and too little humanity, are brought together by the need for answers about their origins, and stay together with the bond of chosen family. With them, we walk through familiar male-dominated worlds of classic sci fi and horror, reanimated by the vibrancy, agency, and aspirations of these five beautifully well-rounded, engrossing characters who have finally been given the space to flourish.

And, until February 11th, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is on sale! You can get this book in a BOGO with Himself–another charming, quirky mystery that draws inspiration from classic folklore. Jump on the deal here, under “Inspired Fiction”!

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2018 Academy Award Nominations

Now that the 2018 Academy Award Nominations have finally been announced, check out the audiobooks of the works that helped inspire these great films!

 

1.Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. During the restless summer weeks, unrelenting but buried currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them and verge toward the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. André Aciman’s critically acclaimed debut novel is a frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion.

 

 

2. Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink by Anthony McCarten

May 1940. Britain is at war, Winston Churchill has unexpectedly been promoted to Prime Minister, the horrors of Blitzkreig witness one western European Democracy fall after another in rapid succession. Facing this horror, with pen in hand and typist-secretary at the ready, Churchill wonders what words could capture the public mood when the invasion of Britain seems mere hours away.

It is this fascinating period that Anthony McCarten captures in this deeply researched and wonderfully written new book, The Darkest Hour. A day-by-day (and often hour-by-hour) narrative of this crucial moment in history provides a revisionist look at Churchill-a man plagued by doubt through those turbulent weeks-but who emerged having made himself into the iconic, lionized figure we remember.

 

3. Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine

The Battle of Dunkirk, in May/June 1940, is remembered as a stunning defeat, yet a major victory as well. The Nazis had beaten back the Allies and pushed them across France to the northern port of Dunkirk. In the ultimate race against time, more than 300,000 Allied soldiers were daringly evacuated across the Channel. This moment of German aggression was used by Winston Churchill as a call to Franklin Roosevelt to enter the war. Now, historian Joshua Levine explores the real lives of those soldiers, bombed and strafed on the beaches for days on end, without food or ammunition; the civilians whose boats were overloaded; the airmen who risked their lives to buy their companions on the ground precious time; and those who did not escape.

 

4. The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero’s laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” (Entertainment Weekly), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. Written with award-winning journalist Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is an inspiring tour de force that reads like a page-turning novel, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart.

 

5. The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War by Neil Sheehan

Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War, Neil Sheehan

The Pentagon Papers is a series of articles, documents, and studies published by The New York Times that revealed the true depth of US involvement in the Vietnam War for more than two decades starting in 1945, bringing to light startling conclusions about America’s role in that conflict. It won both a Pulitzer Prize and a ground-breaking Supreme Court decision.

With a foreword by James L. Greenfield, who coordinated the team that reported the series, this edition is sure to provoke discussion about freedom of the press and government deception, and shed light on issues that are still relevant now, more than four decades later.

 

6. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound, Hillary Jordan

Hillary Jordan’s mesmerizing debut novel won the Bellwether Prize for fiction. A powerful piece of Southern literature, Mudbound takes on prejudice in its myriad forms on a Mississippi Delta farm in 1946. City girl Laura McAllen attempts to raise her family despite questionable decisions made by her husband. Tensions continue to rise when her brother-in-law and the son of a family of sharecroppers both return from WWII as changed men bearing the scars of combat.

 

7. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder, R. J. Palacio

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school-until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? R. J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with spare emotional power.

 

8. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis

In this powerful and realistic tale, eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city during the Taliban rule. Parvana’s father- a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed- works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food. As conditions in the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden by the Taliban government to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy and become the breadwinner.

 

9. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf

With music and sound effects, this audiobook is perfect for those who love Ferdinand and those who have yet to meet him.

A true classic with a timeless message, The Story of Ferdinand has enchanted readers since it was first published in 1936. All the other bulls would run and jump and butt their heads together. But Ferdinand would rather sit and smell the flowers. And he does just that, until the day a bumblebee and some men from the Madrid bullfights give gentle Ferdinand a chance to be the most ferocious star of the corrida—and the most unexpected comic hero.

 

10. Victoria & Abdul (Movie Tie-in): The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu

Victoria & Abdul (Movie Tie-in): The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, Shrabani Basu

Drawn from never-before-seen first-hand documents that had been closely guarded secrets for a century, Shrabani Basu’s Victoria & Abdul is a remarkable history of the last years of the 19th century in English court, an unforgettable view onto the passions of an aging Queen, and a fascinating portrayal of how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the British Empire.

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In Memory of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin was a profoundly influential figure, and truly a literary icon. To this day, I credit my discovery of The Dispossessed as a teenager as foundational to my development as a person, as an activist, and as a reader with a deep love of speculative fiction. This experience has been shared by countless other readers who have explored her work over the decades. We salute Ursula’s memory on this day, and thank her for her incredible contributions to not just sci-fi and fantasy, but to poetry and non-fiction as well.

Here is a selection of her titles that left an enormous impact on the literary landscape.

 

1. A Wizard of Earthsea

Originally published in 1968, it is an early precursor of Harry Potter, and regarded as a classic of fantasy and children’s literature.

The story is sA Wizard of Earthseaet in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea and centers around a young mage named Ged, born in a village on the island of Gont. He displays great power while still a boy and joins the school of wizardry, where his prickly nature drives him into conflict with one of his fellows. During a magical duel, Ged’s spell goes awry and releases a shadow creature that attacks him. The novel follows his journey as he seeks to be free of the creature.

 

2. Rocannon’s World

Rocannon's WorldThis was Le Guin’s first published novel, and employs a masterful blend of hard science fiction with heroic fantasy elements. This novel introduced readers to the world which would become to setting for many of her novels and stories.

Earth-scientist Rocannon has been living on a world shared by three native humanoid races: cave dwellers, elves, and warriors. When the planet is suddenly invaded, Rocannon sees his friends murdered and his spaceship destroyed. Marooned, he leads the battle to free this new world, and legends grow around him.

 

3. Lavinia

In this winner of the 2008 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, Le Guin lends a resonant voice to a pivotal yetoften overlooked character of Vergil’s The Aeneid.

Lavinia

Born into peace and freedom, Lavinia is stunned to learn that she will be the cause of a great war-or so the prophecies and omens claim. Her fate is sealed, however, when she meets a man from Troy.

Le Guin has described Lavinia as a translation of the last six books of the epic poem into prose. Lavinia herself seems to have an awareness of her role in this translation, and frequently converses with “the poet” directly.

 

4. The Dispossessed

The Dispossessed Book CoverIn response to its highly political nature, this novel received a huge amount of literary recognition. It won a Nebula, Hugo, and Locus award for Best Novel, and received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well.

The dual narrative set on twin planets–one capitalist and patriarchal, the other anarcho-syndicalist–is an exploration of humanity, society, and revolution, in an extraordinary work that is more relevant now than ever.

 

5. The Left Hand of Darkness

Perhaps her most famous novel, this winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards is a groundbreaking achievement of intellectual science fiction.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Title: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
Author: Jennifer Wright
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Disease isn’t funny. But this book made me laugh. If you listen to Get Well Soon, you’ll understand. Jennifer Wright takes us on a journey through some of history’s worst plagues, descriptively noting their symptoms, causes and cures, but more importantly noting the reaction of society and of medical professionals.

She talks about pustules and lobotomies, of death and corpses. She talks about cultures that created an atmosphere conducive to healing as well as those that made the situation far worse. She draws parallels to modern society and hints at ways we’re susceptible if another plague was afoot. That doesn’t sound amusing at all, but the ridiculousness of “cures” and “expert opinions” truly are. Wright’s matter-of-fact tone, laced with dark humor, makes it all the better. Some of the images conjured by her explanations really made me laugh aloud on my drive. Here’s one such excerpt :

‘The dancing plague of 1347 was supposedly halted by a priest holding open the mouth of each suffering person and shouting into their mouths, “praise the true God, praise the Holy Ghost, get thee hence, thou damned and foredoomed spirit.” (When your boss suggests you try new ideas and think outside the box, you could consider yelling into your coworkers mouths.)’

My entertainment was amplified by Gabra Zackman’s narration, which was both straightforward and sassy, breathing extra hilarity into the remedies of yore. Her voice is steady and very enjoyable, even when I sped her up to 1.25x.

We learn history so we don’t repeat its mistakes. This audiobook lends a hand toward that goal, describing how societal reactions to disease have not grown much since the 1600’s, despite medicine’s leaps and bounds. It will benefit any listener by spreading awareness of what helps and what harms. Even if you have a firm grasp of plague best-practices, this book will lend perspective from history. I promise it’s worth it if just for the laughs… but maybe don’t listen during lunch.

Get Well Soon Audiobook Cover

 

Listen to a sample (and then the full title) here: Get Well Soon

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