STAFF PICK: Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow

Post by Jennifer Joudrey

Title: Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow
Author: E.K. Johnston
Narrator: Catherine Taber

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Star Wars fans are familiar with the legendary story of Luke Skywalker and how he used to bullseye womp rats back on Tatooine, leading him to successfully bring down the Death Star, or how about the unforgettable tale of the Millenium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. These stories are heavily embedded in Star Wars lore, but what about some of the unknown stories?

In Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow we are reunited with Padmé Naberrie, formerly the Queen of Naboo. Now leaving her nobility behind, she finds herself in the middle of the chaotic and dangerous Galactic Senate on the planet of Coruscant. As Queen, Padmé was always so certain of her actions, but as a Senator everything is new. Trying to maneuver her way through the volatile political climate proves challenging as she learns who she can trust and who she cannot.

The narrator Catherine Taber delivers the action-packed book in an energetic and exciting manner. Listeners familiar with the Star Wars saga will enjoy this movie-like audio experience. This book is full of characters that are well-known in the Star Wars universe, and she gives each character a dynamic presence in audio form. Through her tone, the listener can hear both the strength of Padmé as a character who successfully defended her home planet of Naboo from invasion, and her vulnerability as a new Senator attempting to navigate an ever changing political environment.

This is E.K. Johnston’s second Star Wars novel. Similar to her previous novel, Johnston was able to provide more background and history to a character that has such an important role in the fandom that Star Wars fans know and love. She has provided us with a detailed account of the struggles that Padmé faced entering the Galactic Senate because of factors such as her age, gender, and inexperience. There has been a lot of debate recently regarding the way that female characters are portrayed in the media, and Johnston’s portrayal of Padmé shows strength and determination in the face of adversity. Writing a book about such a pivotal character could be a daunting task, however, Johnston effectively bridges what we know about Padmé’s past and future in an exciting read.

Listening to a Star Wars audiobook will be a game-changer for any fan of the movies. I cannot recommend them enough. Other amazing titles to check out would be:
Star Wars Ahsoka, Phasma, and Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Leia, Princess of Alderaan.

Publisher Summary:

Written by the #1 New York Times best-selling author of Star Wars Ahsoka!

When Padmé Naberrie, ‘Queen Amidala’ of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.

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STAFF PICK: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Post by Graeme Rassenti

Title: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Lenny Henry

Have you ever imagined a version of yourself that was more suave, more talented, and cooler than you thought you could ever be? What if you met that person? Have you ever felt like nothing ever goes your way? What if you met the person for whom everything always works out? And what if that person was a brother you never knew you had?

Anansi Boys tells the story of Charles Nancy (Fat Charlie) who, upon learning that his embarrassing and estranged father has died on stage singing karaoke, finds his entire past opening its mysteries to him. Charlie learns of his father’s hidden identity as the African god Anansi, and of his long lost brother, Spider, of whom he has no memory. After an evening of drinking, Charles invites Spider into his life, only to find everything turned upside down. Spider has the powers of a God, and with a word can make people believe whatever he chooses. And Spider chooses a lot of things: including making Fat Charlie’s fiancée believe Spider is Fat Charlie, prompting her to fall in love with the much more dynamic and interesting version of her fiancé.

In this novel, Neil Gaiman explores the idea of stories and storytelling. Interspersed through the various characters’ stories are Anansi’s origins in African mythology. We learn how the trickster Anansi stole all of the stories and controls the flow of stories. We hear how he does bad things, but isn’t a bad person. We also hear of Tiger, a brutal killer, and how he is so often tricked by the clever Anansi. These stories are, like many stories of myth, simple in their presentation, but they serve to offer lessons that the heroes of the tale often need to learn in order to survive the strange circumstances that they find themselves in.

Charles Nancy’s journey is one of self-actualization that so many of us strive for ourselves. He has dreams and aspirations but puts them on hold because he’s afraid of being mocked for trying, and because he believes it’s a failure in itself to lack the very things he wants. It’s only as events with his brother unfold that he is forced to face his own potential, and to move out of his comfort zone.

The entire audio experience is expertly narrated by Lenny Henry, who brings to life the wide cast of characters very well. From Charles’s enigmatic boss to Charlie’s old next door neighbor Mrs. Higgler, Lenny Henry does a terrific job bringing this cast of characters to life.

Anansi Boys is an excellent listen for anyone who wants to believe in a world a little bigger than our own, and who would love to discover their own amazing place in it.

Publisher Summary:

God is dead. Meet the kids.

Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. 

Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep — about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting… and a lot more dangerous.

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STAFF PICK: Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah Mccoy

Post by Pam Campbell

Title: Marilla of Green Gables
Author: Sarah Mccoy
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

As I was getting ready to begin Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy for the first time and get lost in Avonlea life, I suddenly became nervous. Would this story live up to my love and appreciation for the classic Anne of Green Gables stories? What if it didn’t? (This has happened to me before and it’s heartbreaking.) Within the first few minutes of listening, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and settled in for the long haul as I knew I would listen to this book in one go.

Readers are transported back to Avonlea to meet Marilla Cuthbert at the tender age of 13, where she brings us into her life and the lives of those around her. We meet a shy,  teenaged Matthew, who wears his heart and morals on his sleeve. Miss Rachel Lynde is just as strong-willed and free-speaking as ever in her teenage years, and we finally get to know the story behind Marilla and John Blythe’s much alluded to romance. We get a glimpse into the reasons for adult Marilla’s hard exterior, but we are so lucky to see her hopes, dreams, trials, triumphs, and, most importantly, her heart as a young lady.

Sarah McCoy did a wonderful job of keeping the integrity, heart, and soul of these beloved characters. To add to this delight, Cassandra Campbell narrates the audiobook, and she does not disappoint. Her delivery of such tender sentences such as, “June arrived in a torrential downpour of sunshine,” is sure to take you back to the beautiful tone, pacing, and style of the original stories. Thankfully, McCoy has crafted many more of these captivating sentences throughout the book for Campbell to bring to life.

Marilla of Green Gables is a delightful imagining of one of literature’s greatest female characters. Anne would be so proud to see Marilla’s story come to life. It truly is a long awaited hug from a kindred spirit.

 

Marilla of Green Gables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Author: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Narrator: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Hollywood marriages are rarely ones that people would consider long lasting, inspirational, or ‘great love stories’, but Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman have never been the type to follow trends. From their May-December partnership (Mullally is 12 years older than Offerman), to their courtship while she was an Emmy Award winning superstar on Will & Grace and he was sleeping in a friend’s unfinished basement and struggling for work, they’ve trumped the expectations society has put on Hollywood stars, and on love itself.

In The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Mullally and Offerman dissect their marriage, careers, childhoods, passions, and what makes them work as a unit. Both are known for being hilarious scene stealers in two outrageously funny sitcoms (Will & Grace and Parks & Rec, respectively), as well as their many guest appearances in other shows that always capture an audience’s attention. As a team, they play off each other’s humor brilliantly, and listening along with their back and forth had me laughing in the car all the way to work each day.

Unlike most traditional books, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is an open dialogue between our two narrators rather than a structured linear timeline of their courtship and relationship. Mullally and Offerman go off on tangents, sing songs, side bar, and tease each other (and the listener) in a playful, sweet way that comes with the intimate knowledge of nearly two decades together. Intercut between topics such as family life, having kids, acting, and music are solo chapters more akin to traditional biographical works, where Offerman shares his personal histories and views on his life in Hollywood, and his devoted love for his wife, and a few from Mullally exploring her eccentric childhood, career, and aging in Hollywood.

This was easily the most fun I’ve had listening to an audiobook, and I had to pause several times simply because I was missing chunks of the story because I was laughing too hard. Even with the laughter, sidebarsm, and tangents, at the heart of the book are two people who are very much in love after 18 years together in Hollywood. And that is pretty inspirational.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Post by Pam Campbell

Title: A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Narrator: Jodi Picoult and Bahni Turpin

We begin at the end in Jodi Picoult’s latest mesmerizing audiobook, A Spark of Light. It speaks to her storytelling abilities that we’re able to follow along in reverse. The theme of the audiobook is controversial, but her writing is in top form. To be honest, I am at a loss as to where to begin this review. Trying to keep my personal beliefs about this topic to myself and simply review the story line, characters, writing, and world that Picoult has created is difficult. I’m going to borrow her method and start with how I normally end a review and work my way backwards.

At the heart of this story is a woman’s right to make decisions with regards to her body; her self; her worth. What Picoult brings to this sensitive subject is a somewhat balanced view of individuals on either side of the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Bahni Turpin does a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life and enhances the heightened atmosphere created by Picoult.

Exploring every aspect of women’s health and how it can affect those around us, Picoult takes a private matter and shines a light on how it becomes a public matter, exposing the raw emotions of why this topic is so provocative, and why there are such extreme opinions.

A Spark of Light is fast-paced, which made it difficult to press pause. Every chapter represents an hour in time on the fateful day when a women’s health center is held hostage. We are immediately taken to the end of the day and the end of the hostage situation. We are introduced to the survivors in disbelief, and to Hugh McElroy, the hostage negotiator and father of 15-year-old Wren, a hostage in the center.

The end unfolds before us, before we have bonded with the characters, before we know their motives. And it works. I was immediately invested in knowing how this came to pass. I wanted to know more about Wren, Hugh, Janine, Dr. Ward, Joy, Aunt Bex, and George. A Spark of Light begins like a newscast interrupting your daily programming to bring you a breaking story. It is a story that needs to be told and one that Picoult expertly delves into with passion, respect, and conviction.

A Spark of Light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Bus on Thursday
Author: Shirley Barrett
Narrator: Katherine Littrell

The tagline of The Bus on Thursday, “Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist,” didn’t just grab my attention — it had me hitting download the moment it was available. Balancing snappy comedic diaries with one of my all-time favorite horror movies was something I needed to get in my headphones immediately.

That, and I was also curious to see if it was actually doable.

I was really pleased that The Bus on Thursday was able to combine the fast paced, comedic timing and humility I was looking for and the dark, demonic mystery that has me dying for cooler weather, sweaters, and all things Halloween. In this hilariously evil audiobook from author and screenwriter Shirley Barrett, we meet Eleanor Mellett, a primary school teacher whose life is turned upside down after a bad breakup and a breast cancer diagnosis in her early 30s.

Eleanor finds herself out of work and being sliced, diced, and reconstructed, all while trying to figure out her love life and what comes next. Once she receives a clean bill of health, Eleanor knows she needs a fresh start — one that doesn’t involve her old job, ex, and best frenemy. That’s when she finds Talbingo, a small town in immediate need of a new teacher.

At first glance, Talbingo seems perfect. Nestled near the mountains with learning-hungry kids and friendly neighbors is exactly what Eleanor had in mind. But things aren’t exactly what they seem in this quaint Australian town. The last teacher has been declared missing, and the kids aren’t the biggest fans of their new teacher. There’s also a local priest who is convinced that Eleanor’s cancer isn’t a medical issue, but a demonic one.

Through witty blog posts, Eleanor invites us into her life and the craziness that is Talbingo. Day by day, readers learn about the overly attached teen that is getting too close in class, the handsome neighbor who may know more about the previous teacher’s absence than he lets on, the petite woman from church who is crying over her decoupage, and the rest of Talbingo’s more interesting residents.

The Bus on Thursday is a clever, fast-paced listen that kept me guessing with each minute. Is Eleanor possessed by a demon? Or is she just losing her mind due to the isolation of Talbingo? Is her new paramour the devil? Or is he just not looking for a commitment? Either way, Eleanor is hilarious and going through this journey with her kept me laughing and spooked at the same time — just in time for Halloween.

Eleanor’s blog is brought to life with fiery sass by the amazing Katherine Littrell. Her inflection, attitude, and heart really added to the story in a way that made me feel like Eleanor was a friend pouring her heart out to me rather than being just a character in the book. Even as she’s breaking down, she kept me laughing and I dreaded having to hit pause.

The Bus on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New to Audiobooks.com? Get a free audiobook when you sign up for our one month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobook!

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