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#AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks Nominations, Volume 2

The Amazing Audiobooks Blogging Team is back with another round of amazing audiobook nominations, featuring historical LGBTQ romance, nonfiction, a murder mystery, a quiet contemporary, and a fantasy romance.

The Gentleman's Guide to VIce and Virtue

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, narrated by Christian Coulson
Audio Published by: HarperAudio
Publication date: June 1, 2017
ISBN: 9780062743114

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue follows the story of Henry “Monty” Montague’s Grand Tour of Europe. Accompanied by his dashing best friend, Percy, and his head-strong sister Felicity, the trio manages to find danger and adventure along their journey. Monty’s sexuality and general debauchery incites disapproval from his father, who threatens to cut Monty off if he does not change his ways. The Tour is Monty’s last chance, with the expectations of obeying his chaperone and becoming the respectable member of the British aristocracy he was born to be. Rather than succumbing to his father’s whims, Monty steals an artifact from the French court after a disastrous party, then proceeds to wreak havoc across the continent. Throughout their exploits, Monty’s relationships with both his friend and sister change, leading to personal revelations and growth.

One of the aspects of the audiobook that stuck most to me was the yearning Monty felt for Percy. The narration captured the love that Monty had for his friend, despite believing his feelings to be unrequited. I love romances of all flavors and the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling I got from listening to Monty’s thoughts about Percy made this one of the best love stories I’ve read recently.

This novel is perfect for fans of young adult gay romances like Becky Albertalli’s  Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as well as books by David Levithan, Adam Silvera, and Benjamin Alire Sáenz. If could listen to British accents all day (Prince Harry, I’m available if you want to chat), and love your fiction with a dash of humor, this is the perfect audiobook for you. 

— Kennedy Penn-O’Toole

Girling UpGirling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular by Miyam Bialik, narrated by Miyam Bialik
Audio Published by: Penguin Random House Audio
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
ISBN: 9781524780418

Girling Up is a friendly and informational book about growing up with two X chromosomes. Bialik coined the phrase “girling up” to mean not only growing up as a girl, but also becoming the best version of yourself. The book has several sections that talk about the physical and emotional changes that happen during adolescence, nutrition, health and physical fitness, education and staying organized, the world’s expectations of women, and informed choices that can give us more options for our futures.

Bialik reads the book herself, bringing words to life in her own voice, which lends to a more honest and compelling listen. She sounds like a wise older sister sharing her own personal experiences and anecdotes. At the beginning, she explains her authority to talk about growing up a girl; her background growing up in the public eye as an actress on the television series Blossum, having her first kiss be on screen in front of millions of people, her education and PhD in Neuroscience, and research into physical and emotional developmental of adolescent girls.

Bialik is great at educating us with very little bias. She is a vegan, but does not try to convert listeners to veganism. Instead she talks about general nutrition standards and what vitamins and minerals are important for our well-being. She is also Jewish and talks about religion in a matter of fact way, in no way trying to convince listeners to conform to certain beliefs.

By being so honest and open, Bialik encourages girls to ask difficult questions, questions that could be challenging or embarrassing to speak to adults about. One section that was particularly helpful was when Bialik discussed staying organized and on top of your schoolwork. She suggested having a notebook where you write down all of your assignments and the deadlines for each one. She even used to color code her assignments for each class.

This book has a friendly and encouraging tone throughout. It is a lot of fun to hear Bialik’s stories about herself growing up and her mentions of the television shows she’s famous for, Big Bang Theory and Blossum. She candidly discusses some difficult times she’s gone through, such as her divorce. She also briefly mentions the double standards for women, especially in the aspect of her acting career, and challenges she’s faced due to these standards. Sharing her personal stories may help girls be more open in communicating with the adults in their lives.

This book is clearly aimed at girls and should be recommended reading for teenage girls of all ages. 

— Erin Durrett

Who Killed Christopher GoodmanWho Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf, narrated by Jesse Lee, Nick Podehl, Lauren Ezzo, Whitney Dykhouse, Scott Merriman, Scott Lange, Kate Rudd, Will Damron
Audio Published by: Candlewick
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
ISBN: 9781536661996

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? was written in part because of the author’s experience with the murder of a teenage boy with whom he went to high school. While a lot of the events that are found in this book are based on events from the author’s life, this book is ultimately a work of fiction. Like the author’s childhood, this story is also set in the 1970s, prime Beatles and bellbottom days.

Christopher Goodman was an all-around nice guy. Being from California, he talked differently and used words like “ennui,” wore his hair long and his bell bottoms wider than most. Kids in Goldsburg, Virginia thought he was a bit odd, but everyone liked his easy going personality and friendly attitude. The story is told in alternating viewpoints of Doc Chestnut ‘The Sleepwalker’, Squib Kaplan ‘The Genius’, Hunger McCoy ‘The Good Ol’ Boy’, Hazel Turner ‘The Farm Girl’, Mildred Penny ‘The Stamp Collector’ and occasionally from the murderer himself.  Doc and Squib are best friends who find the body of Christopher Goodman on a run one morning. The events that precede the Deadwood Days festival and ultimately the death of Christopher Goodman are all told through short vignettes by all of the characters except Christopher. The book concludes with how each of the six main characters deals with and is affected by Christopher’s death and how they pay tribute to his memory.

This audiobook is narrated by a cast of readers. Besides being able to more clearly differentiate who is speaking, the cast helps add unique qualities to each character. Squib and Hazel were especially likeable characters, having the most personality and keeping my interest. Hazel is quick-witted and sharp and is narrated that way too. Squib is highly intelligent, but we only learn that from his internal dialogue, as he dumbs himself down to fit in with his friends. The narrator assigned to Squib reads his parts with authority, good humor and confidence. Considering this book deals with a difficult topic, it was surprisingly funny. The brief part of the story that describes the murder is tragic and difficult to listen to, but not overly detailed or graphic.

At the end of the audio, the author tells us fact from fiction and shares that the character of Doc Chestnut was based off of events from his point of view. Wolf also relays what anecdotes actually happened to him or other characters in the book.

This book’s subject matter, while dealing with murder, is not gruesome in anyway. There is occasional suggestive language and banter, but otherwise this book would be appropriate for teens of all ages. This books is perfect for readers who enjoyed Bang by Barry Lyga or the mystery found in One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus.

–Erin Durrett

Crazy Messy BeautifulCrazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos, narrated by Michael Crouch
Audiobook published by: Listening Library
Release Date: February 7, 2017
ISBN: 9781524749781

As a child, Neruda’s father and grandfather steeped him in the poems of his namesake, the Nobel-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Now a high schooler, he’s come to love “The Poet’s” works as well. They serve as his guide to matters of the heart and are hopefully the key to winning over the one he wants to be girlfriend number 8, Autumn Cho. His perspective on romantic love is very much formed by Pablo Neruda’s poetry which makes it difficult for him to accept that love can be a lot more complex and nuanced in real life. Neruda is oblivious to Autumn’s indifference until she returns his book of poetry with a heartbreaking note enclosed.

He urges Ezra, a former prisoner and now big-brother figure, to reconnect with the girlfriend he had before he went to prison, and doesn’t understand why Ezra prefers to move on. Neruda begins spending time with Callie, a classmate, and they bond over art, museum visits and movies, but even that friendship stalls when he reveals he’s fallen for her. The crushing blow is his discovery that his father has been having an affair.  Angry, lonely and disappointed, Neruda feels keenly the agonizing truths of The Poet’s words. In the end, Neruda doesn’t exactly get the girl but he does acquire a more layered and hopeful understanding of love.

In a pleasingly understated performance Michael Crouch’s youthful voice and introspective tone gives quiet emotional heft to Neruda’s painful, and sometimes awkward but thoughtful search for the meaning of love. Share this with listeners who prefer an intellectual weight to their romances (such as by authors Rainbow Rowell and John Green, and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. Of course, Pablo Neruda devotees will appreciate this YA tribute to “The Poet,” while those not familiar will be moved to know more.

— Beatriz Pascual Wallace

Roar by Cora Carmack narrated by Soneela Nankani
Audio Published by: Blackstone Audio
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
ISBN: 9781504738224

Roar is Cora Carmack’s first foray into literature for young adults. She has previously written romance for adults. In Roar, Aurora Pravan is the princess of Pravan, but needs to marry as soon as possible to keep the throne. Her family’s lineage has produced several fierce Stormlings that capture the hearts of storms, which increases ones power and ones affinity to fight specific types of storms. However, Aurora has shown no affinities and does not seem to possess the ability to capture a storm heart.

Enter her fiancée Cassius, a Stormling prince from the city of Locke. At first Aurora is excited and nervous to meet her betrothed. Once she overhears him talking to his brother about his plans for her and Pravan, Aurora feels betrayed. She follows the prince to a secret market that sell all sorts of illegal goods made from storm hearts. At the market, she meets Locke, a member of a storm chaser group that travels, sells goods, and catches storm hearts.

Aurora learns that anyone can train to become a Stormling and that it is not just passed down in royal families. Determined to become her own person and learn to fight storms, she joins Locke and his group to travel the land and learn how to fight storms. To escape, she has a servant help her cover her tracks and makes it appear as she’s been kidnapped on the morning of her wedding.  Aurora tells her companions her name is Roar and dyes her hair, so she is not recognized as the princess of Pravan. Locke and Roar have a tension filled mentor and student relationship. Both are stubborn and argumentative, but their dissonance sparks an electric and passionate romance. Roar begins to learn that she can communicate with storms and starts to take on their personality traits. Once she learns that Cassius and his family have taken over Pravan and that the city of Locke has been destroyed, she convinces the group that they have to go back to Pravan.

The premise and ideas behind this book feel fresh and original. The personification of storms and their ability to possess emotions, thoughts, and hearts is intriguing. There are a lot of parallels readers can draw to their own lives, such as becoming your own person and self-discovery.

Soneela Nankani reads the story beautifully, expressing the fierceness of Roar and the storms that she faces, as well the passionate romance between Roar and Locke. The book is urgent and charged the whole way through and was hard to put on pause. This is the first book of the Stormheart series and will leave readers and listeners eager for the sequel.

The fantasy in this book will appeal to all teens; however the romance may appeal to older teens. This book is perfect for fans of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth. 

— Erin Durrett