Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2020) Nominees Round Up, November 27 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton; Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Grand Central Publishing / Hachette Audio
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
ISBN: 978-1549182099

Salty and potty-mouthed, this hilarious apocalyptic tale is narrated by S.T., a domesticated crow whose understanding of the human world comes from watching television with his “MoFo” human companion, Big Jim. Set in Seattle, Washington, S.T. watches as a sickness is coming over the humans turning them into zombies, and it falls on this unlikely chosen one to save the world for all animal kind.

Robert Petkoff’s genius narration captures S.T.’s voice perfectly, bringing the foul-mouthed crow front and center, and lands all the punny humor the book is laden with. This upside-down zombie tale is told mostly through S.T., but Petkoff brings a humorous touch and new voice to when the point of view switches to other animals, such as Winnie the Poodle and Genghis Cat, who are also living through a human zombie apocalypse.

A fresh take on the zombie trope, this anthropomorphic version will delight fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, and Max Brooks’ World War Z. Fans of humorous and snarky animal POV’s like David Duchovny’s Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale and Jim Woodring’s comics will feel at home. Buxton’s strong Seattle setting will please fans of other humorous Emerald City stories like Lish McBride’s Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

–Danielle Jones


Torpedoed by Deborah Heiligman; Narrated by Marisa Calin
Henry Holt and Co. / Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
ISBN: 9781250233912  

Heiligman’s meticulous research and Calin’s heartfelt narration combine to bring alive the heartbreak and heroism of a 1940 wartime tragedy. The CORB project sought to evacuate English children to the Commonwealths so that, if the population was decimated by war, those youngsters could someday re-populate the country. Many parents were understandably reluctant to send their children away, but many Blitzed-out families welcomed the prospect of safety and sent their children on board ships across the Atlantic. On this particular voyage, the S.S. City of Bernares, a luxury liner built for the England-to-India route staffed largely by Muslim sailors known as lascars, sailed from Liverpool. On board were children going to Canada and their volunteer escorts as well as paying passengers, journalists, and filmmakers, all leaving Britain under the threat of German invasion.

Though the audio production lacks the many primary sources and images which enrich the print text, Calin’s superb delivery creates an immersive and atmospheric listening experience that leaves the listener rapt. Heiligman’s poetic repetition of certain haunting refrains, including “it’s only a torpedo,” “would you rather be bombed at home or torpedoes at sea?” and the heart-wrenching notifications to the families of those lost, are particularly affecting as performed. The joy of the ample meals and unlimited ice cream provisioned give way to confusion, terror, and despair of those on failing rafts and sinking lifeboats in the North Atlantic. There is palpable relief when many of the surviving children were welcomed on board a Royal Navy destroyer, only to return to the pathos of Lifeboat 12, which was lost at sea for several days after other survivors had been rescued.

Heiligman even provides some insight into the work of the U-Boat crews which sank the Benares, their celebration at having struck a vessel of such tonnage, and their immediate ignorance of the human cost of the incident. This version will be popular among readers of Heiligman’s other excellent nonfiction volumes, and is a complement to other World War II books like M.T. Anderson’s splendid Symphony for City of the Dead, Tantor audio’s series of Holocaust accounts, and fiction including Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, Monica Hesse’s Girl in the Blue Coat and The War Outside.

— Wendy Stephens


All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle; Narrated by Marisa Calin and Elizabeth Sastre
Listening Library / Penguin Random House Audio
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN: 978-0593106136

When letters surface after Mandy’s funeral that suggest she may still be alive, seventeen-year-old Deena Rhys sets out in search of her sister. Mandy is not only alive, but also trying to break a generations-old family curse that may have recently befallen Deena.  With a tinge of magic and equal parts anger and incredulity, Deena slowly reveals a devastating history of secrets and lies that lead her across Ireland in search of her sister and their family’s truths.  As the mystery surrounding Mandy’s disappearance unfolds, Deena’s journey offers a devastating, deeply feminist indictment of Ireland’s shameful past with a glimmer of hope for the future.

Atmospheric dual narration brings to life lyrical writing that spans generations of wronged Rhys women in this haunting, suspenseful story.  Through a mix of narrative, letters, and family lore, with the past and present dividing the task between Calin and Sastre, raw and painful traumas — both old and new — are slowly revealed in a nonlinear recounting.  Righteous indignation rings through Deena’s voicing, and the mounting intensity of Deena’s search, both for Mandy and for her family’s truth, builds to a taut and desperate, if slightly tidy, climax.  Thick Irish brogues from the two British narrators immerse listeners in this compelling, gothic, and timely tale.

Fans of Fowley-Doyle’s debut, The Accident Season, will surely appreciate this similar blend of eerie magic and secrets, and Kate Alice Marshall’s recent Rules for Vanishing shares its quest for a missing sister.  The lasting ramifications of Church wrongdoing call to mind Ruta Sepetys’s The Fountains of Silence and Laura Ruby’s Thirteen Doorways and Wolves Behind them All.  Naturally, Riverdale and Sabrina make for witchy and queer teenage television pairings, but the earnest intensity of Fowley-Doyle’s themes, including LGBTQ history and violence against women, lend a gravitas to this teen tale that will broaden its appeal to new adults.

–Kit Ballenger


Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff; Narrated by a Full Cast
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Listening Library
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
ISBN: 978-1524780784

Tyler Jones, a born Alpha, is super pumped for draft day, he’s so pumped that he can’t sleep and decides to go out flying for a little very early in the morning. Only it’s not a quick flight to be back in time for the draft, he ends up stumbling upon Aurora who’s been cryo frozen for 200 years on a legendary missing spaceship. After rescuing her and missing the draft both Tyler and Aurora have to deal with the repercussions. Tyler must adjust to a team he did not pick, and Aurora with life 200 years in the future, and a group of people who want to kill her. Tyler and Aurora’s paths collide again and send them all on a mission that’s bigger than they can imagine.

Kaufman & Kristoff did it again. They created a fantastic science fiction story that you’ll fly though, and end wanting more. This multiple perspective story with a crew full of misfits will entice many to read. Furthermore, the full cast of narrators do a fantastic job bringing the story to life. Each narrator nails their characters personality, and that of the rest of the cast. When Tyler, Aurora, or Cat are talking during Scarlet’s chapter the narrator matches the accents and tones of the narrator who voices that character making it very consistent and clear who is always talking.  Brava to the Full Cast!

Of course if you loved the Illumina Files you’ll truly love this next series. For some additional space tales be sure to check out Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Disasters by M.K. England, and Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray. And if you like stories with multiple perspectives, you might want to try One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, Scythe by Neal Schusterman, The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon, and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

–Samantha Jackson