For this installment of Amazing Audiobooks, I have a jumble of fun, funny, exciting, just-plain-great fiction that didn’t fit with the previous three categories. But you have my word: all these are winners!

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. You’ll laugh out loud at this one, in which the Apocalypse goes all wrong when an angel and a demon accidentally swap out the Antichrist for a normal human boy.
  • The charming Flavia de Luce Mysteries by C. Alan Bradley, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
  • 11th Hour, the latest from James Patterson (or if you’re new to the Women’s Murder Club series, start at the beginning with 1st to Die)
  • …In Death series by J.D. Robb: a futuristic police procedural – particularly recommended for those who like listening to sexy, seductive, lilting Irish accents.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball phenom (I reviewed the novel in June)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A deeply sad but very sweet and rewarding novel; tells the story of a girl who learns about death and love while helping her parents hide a Jewish man from the Nazis in a small German town. Appropriate for teens and older kids as well as adults.
  • Stephen King’s latest hit, 11/22/63, about JFK’s assassination and time travel.
  • The Night Circus, a lovely atmospheric love story brought to life by Jim Dale. Lexie reviewed this on the blog back in October. There’s a movie version in development scheduled for a 2013 release, so get in on the ground floor of opinionated ‘book-was-better’ arguments by reading the book first!
  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: listen to Lara, a twenty-something Brit, spar with the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie, whose 23-year-old form has come straight out of 1927 to beg the living girl to track down her missing necklace. It’s a hoot!

For this segment of Amazing Audiobooks, I’m focusing on the behemoth novels that fill up disc after disc of listening material. These exciting, immersive *bugcrushers will eat up time spent on the road, on the treadmill, or doing chores – listen while you cook dinner or fold the laundry; listen when your knitting needles click or break out your headphones when you want to keep reading but your partner insists on lights out!

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, read for you by John Lee: A beloved gargantuan novel of the people building a cathedral in 1100s England – filled with mystery, suspense, rich historical detail, and captivating characters. This 32-disc novel is a winner! Its sequel, World Without End, is similarly enthralling.

 

A Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin and masterfully performed by Roy Dotrice. This single novel takes up 28 CDs, or 33.5 hours. More than enough for the usual road trip! The four sequels to this novel are each around 30 discs of listening material, which would supply your listening needs long enough to drive from Davenport to Orlando Florida and back – three times!

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, written by Susanna Clarke and performed by Simon Prebble, is a fantasy novel that answers the question: what if a society of proper London magicians were around to magically assist the armies of England in the Napoleonic wars? And what if the leaders of that group were fighting against each other as well as taking on malevolent forces from the realm of Faerie? And what if all of this was written in a superb Jane-Austen-esque style that evokes all the sparkling wit and manners of the times without sacrificing the edge-of-your-seat action that modern audiences expect? Or, to put it more simply: This is an amazing novel and you should listen to it or read it right away. 32 hours of listening pleasure on 26 discs.

Some more excellent, lengthy novels:

*Bugcrusher: A book that is so big and heavy, you’d like to have it in hand to squish a scary bug.

Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.

 

Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.

submitted by Georgann

Ghost Ship, a novel of the Liaden Universe by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

I was SO GLAD to see this new novel in the series come out! This is the third in the series-within-a-series, this one continuing the tale of Theo Waitley. Theo has grown up a lot from the student she was when we first met her, and she is still just as likeable as she was to begin with. With maturity and her First Class pilot’s jacket comes many more adventures and unexpected twists in her life.

She is learning about her father’s side of the family, and quite a family it is! (You can read all about them in the previous novels of the series. You can find more thoughts about the series in an earlier blog post.) They are thrilled to have her; she’s not quite so sure about them! She is learning about being a solo pilot who really needs backup. She is learning about a sentient ship who is claiming her as Captain. Shea hasn’t yet learned how extraordinary she is!

It is a great story, full of relationships, characters you care about, mystery and intrigue. The only bad thing about it was it was over too soon, and the next one’s not out yet!

Though first published in 1996, A Game of Thrones and its four sequels (collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire) have become a phenomenon in library hold queues of late thanks to HBO’s serial adaptation (season 2 premieres on April 1) and the summer ’11 release of the bestselling A Dance With Dragons. If you’re interested in the series but were turned off by the verbose visuals and relentless attention to detail, you are not alone. Try these titles for an alternative jaunt into gritty, political, and subtly-fantastical realms.

If you are intrigued by the era of Martin’s inspiration, England’s Wars of the Roses, try The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, or any of her rich historical novels set in a similar time period, including The Red Queen (a direct sequel), The Other Boleyn Girl, and The Other Queen. For a factual (but nonetheless exciting) version of the story, try Alison Weir’s The Wars of the Roses.

Part of the appeal of Martin’s work is the very small part that magic and fantasy play in the narrative. If you appreciate that ratio, consider The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, in which a modern woman is embroiled in the continuing high-stakes mystery of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). Another tale of subtle magic is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which explores the lives a Southern family with a unique talent for growing (and using) magical plants in a successful catering business.

If the gripping political drama of a royal family pulls you in, but the fantasy elements are off putting, you’ll love Bernard Cornwell, whose Arthur books (beginning with The Winter King) make the mythic saga fresh, exciting, and utterly believable.

If you enjoy gritty fantasy but not a lot of length, consider The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch or The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Both are #1 in their respective serials, but can be enjoyed individually. Additionally, they each still come in very far below the page count Martin sets. In hardcover, A Song of Ice and Fire numbers 4,223 pages in total – a truly intimidating figure. By contrast, Abercrombie’s entire trilogy numbers only 1,810, and Lynch’s tale wraps up in a snappy 752.

guest post from Georgann

Libraries and fairy-tale magic! What a combination! A sort of a cross between The Librarian movies and mish-mash of fairy tales, The Grimm Legacy has a flavor all of its own which left me hoping for more!

Elizabeth, our reminiscent-of-Cinderella heroine, is lonely at her new school. She does a kind deed for a stranger and is noticed by her social studies teacher. He recommends her for a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository. What is the New York Circulating Material Library, you may ask? Elizabeth had to ask too. This particular library checks out all sorts of unusual objects, from clarinets to coronets, from chess sets to tea sets, and from doublets to fondue pots. And, the New York Circulating Material Library has some very special collections, including the Grimm Collection, which, believe it or not, contains actual magical items featured in a wide variety of tales! And the magic really works!

As it turns out, Elizabeth’s new job is full of adventure and unusual experiences. Plus, she makes new friends and finds a place for herself. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The characters were likable. The fantasy was fun and intriguing. There were some exciting moments and some mystery.

I wonder just what all might be available in our Special Collections. Hmmm……

The thing about librarians is, they’re always reading about books and hearing about books and reading books. So they’re bound to know the best books. Here’s the next in our end-0f-year recap of best books.

Rita listened to her favorite book, Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. “When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer. Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans – and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

“This recording kept my attention from beginning to end. It is the first in a trilogy and I can’t wait for the next one. The writing is excellent, her description and use of words is brilliant. This book is for anyone who enjoys good literature and fantasy”.

I have always had a soft spot for retellings of fairy tales; growing up enthralled by animated Disney movies that did just that (Snow White! Sleeping Beauty! The Little Mermaid! Aladdin! Mulan!), I suppose it was inevitable. This sub-genre of fantasy has obvious appeal to kids and YAs as a convenient segue from Disney princesses to fiction and fantasy, but there is lots of adult appeal as well.

My favorite is Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. In this romantic, atmospheric adventure, teenaged Sorcha faces down incredible odds with the lives of her six older brothers on the line. An evil stepmother has transformed them into swans, and Sorcha must spend years in magically induced silence weaving them shirts out of a prickly, punishing plant that bloodies and blisters her fingers. The fairy tale is Celtic and the book is beautiful, with as much historical and mythical appeal as romance.

 

 

A close second is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. In this deceptively mature tale, a young English boy slips into the world of fairy tales – but not everything is as his storybooks told it. There are some gruesome moments but it’s never unduly gory; teen readers as well as adults (and even mature tweens) should be comfortable with the scares. Connolly is a thriller writer by trade and that style is evident in The Book of Lost Things, which is tense and atmospheric. A chilling and very unique take on familiar fairy tale motifs.

 

Finally, if you love fairy tales and Disney princesses, don’t miss out on Robin McKinley. Her retold fairy tales have been popular with teens and adults for decades; Spindle’s End, her spin on Sleeping Beauty, involves a sleek magical realm that’s familiar without being at all boring. Princess Briar Rose (Rosie) is spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia’s curse to be raised in secret as the daughter of a village fairy. Rosie’s ability to speak to animals and her perfect golden curls cling to her, the gifts of her fairy godmothers, despite her average looks and un-princess-like interest in blacksmithing and animals. In Beauty and Rose Daughter, two distinctly different but related books that retell the story of Beauty and the Beast, McKinley reinvents Belle and all the other familiar characters and fills in the missing details of the story.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has become one of the most buzzed-about books of the year, and with good reason.  Set in the late 1800s, it is the story of a boy named Marco and a girl named Celia who are bound in a competition that they don’t truly understand, but they know that it will involve using the magical abilities that both show at a young age.  They spend their young lives being trained by instructors whose methods differ greatly until the time comes for the challenge to begin.  For this purpose, a venue is created:  a stunning, mysterious black-and-white circus that travels constantly and only operates at night, called Les Cirque des Reves.  It is like no other circus you have ever seen, complete with a fortune teller, an illusionist, acrobats, the most delicious food you can imagine, and tents filled with landscapes that will take your breath away.  The two spend years using their abilities to make alterations to the circus, constantly one-upping each other as they grow more and more aware that the consequences could be dire.  Especially once they realize their true feelings for one another.

The story is told through multiple points of view all while bouncing around in time to different points in the lifespan of the circus.  Initially this can make it a little hard to follow exactly when and where everything is happening, but once you catch onto the flow of it, this makes the story more complete and layered.  The focus of the story isn’t just on Celia and Marco, but on all the supporting circus folk as well.  In fact, the part of the story I found most compelling was the story of Bailey, a boy who becomes enthralled with the circus at a young age and waits for years for it to come back.  Eventually he befriends two of the circus performers and find his fate intertwined with that of the circus in a way he never expected.  But my absolute favorite thing about the book is how beautifully it is written.  The language is absolutely lovely and creates the most vivid and uniquely beautiful pictures in the reader’s head.  I don’t even want to describe any of it to you because part of the fun of the book is discovering new parts of the circus as Celia and Marco make their alterations!  Morgenstern creates a very sensory experience; you can see, hear, smell, and taste the circus as though it is going on all around you. 

Making my expereince with The Night Circus even better, I listened to the audio version read by the amazing Jim Dale (narrator of the Harry Potter audio books).  He really brings the characters to life, and his narration makes this already beautifully-written book even more magical.  If you like magic, romance, and very vivid reading experiences, I highly recommend picking up this incredibly enchanting novel.

Like many of our patrons and staff members, I was very excited when library books became available for download on my Kindle. The best of all worlds – books that are free, digital, and recent! As a test run, I downloaded (and immediately loved) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

This fantasy novel follows the stunning exploits of the Gentlemen Bastards, a brazen group of expert con artists led by the singularly brilliant Locke Lamora, an orphan who’s been stealing, lying, and outwitting his betters since he was old enough to walk. His scheming is matched only by the mysterious Gray King, an infamous man who can kill with a touch and has an uncanny way of knowing things he shouldn’t know – much like Locke Lamora himself.

The setting of the novel is quite spectacular and fans of world-building prowess will not be disappointed by the invention of Camorr, a great city built on the ruins of an ancient alien settlement made of the beautiful, unbreakable, eerily glowing, and often deadly substance called Elderglass. It’s like Renaissance Venice through a looking glass: people travel via canal and drink plenty of fine wine in between practicing alchemy and dodging attacks from scorpion hawks. Women and men alike work in dangerous and deadly positions, whether in the criminal underworld, lofty upper classes, or the watery ring of female gladiators who use short javelins to fight 10-foot-long leaping sharks. The action is frequent but unsteadily paced; exciting scenes that would be the climax of any other novel are merely a bump on the road of this thrilling narrative. Lots of adult language and a high body count give this book a gritty, real-life flavor.

This book is great for fantasy fans who are sick of elves and prophecies as well as fiction readers who want to try fantasy for the first time!