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My Favorite Audio Books: Not Adult Ficiton

Since my car rides are so long I generally listen to adult fiction or nonfiction, as they are usually longer. But sometimes I like to switch it up. These are my favorite children’s, middle grade and YA audiobooks.

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Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

Unless you’ve lived under a rock since 1991 (can you believe Sorcerer’s Stone came out 25 years ago!), you know the general outline of the Harry Potter series. Jim Dale does a marvelous job of narrating Harry’s adventures. I listen to Harry Potter all the time. It’s a great distraction while running on the treadmill.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Tara Sands

This audiobook takes listening to the next level. It isn’t just someone reading the books, but every time Ulysses is about to begin a heroic, superhero feat, music swells to accompany the task. When Ulysses gets sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, he knows all is lost. But! Something amazing happens and he is reborn from the vacuum cleaner with amazing abilities. Namely, the ability to fly, heroic strength and poetry. Flora is changed too. The pessimistic reader of “Terrible Things Can Happen to You” learns to hope.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie, Lucy Gaskell

I don’t even know where to begin describing this book. There are so many great details and plot twists that I don’t want to inadvertently spoil. So I’m going to cheat and copy the Goodreads blurb.

“I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.”

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra

Eleanor is different from everybody Park knows. Sure, her clothes are strange and there are whisperings about her family, but there is something else about her. Something special. And so begins their Romeo and Juliet romance. Full of heartbreak, honesty and passion, Eleanor and Park will truly make you feel.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, narrated by David Tennant

You may have seen the 2010 movie How to Train Your Dragon, but did you know it’s a book? The series follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (also called Hiccup the Useless by some) on his quest to become a hero. While the print version is wonderful, and has humorous illustrations, the audio version is narrated by David Tennant (of Dr. Who and Harry Potter Fame) and filled with music, accents, and dragonese.

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My Favorite Audio Books: Adult Fiction

I drive almost an hour to work each day, and most times those drives are accompanied by an audio book. Since I’ve listened to such a variety of audiobooks, I thought I’d list my favorites, starting with adult fiction.

adult fiction audiobook collage

Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

Her Royal Spyness follows Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line for the throne, in 1930s England. Despite being a royal, Georgianna is utterly broke. When the Queen asks Georgie to subtly spy on her playboy son David and his new friend, the awful Wallis Simpson, Georgie immediately agrees. Now she has a place to stay away from her domineering sister in law, and good food and company. Along the way, Georgie discovers a dead Frenchman in her bathtub and it is up to her to prove her and her family’s innocence. Each book in the series follows Georgie’s adventures trying to find a job, a place to call home, and most importantly, love. I listened to the first three books and I find I cannot read them. I need Katherine Kellgren’s narration, and hear her portrayals of the characters; otherwise, it’s just not the same.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Laura Hamilton

It’s 1999 and Lincoln O’Neill took a job as “Internet Security Office” at the local newspaper. His job isn’t nearly as glamorous as his title implies. Basically, Lincoln reads the staff’s emails when they are flagged for using certain work inappropriate words. When Lincoln comes across a series of messages between two coworkers and friends, Jennifer Scribner-Snyder and Beth Fremont, Lincoln knows he should write his report as usual, but there’s something different about these emails. As they keep showing up in Lincoln’s mailbox, and Lincoln continues to read, he finds himself falling in love with Beth. But how can he strike up a conversation with her, without her hating him?

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, narrated by Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, Alex Tregear, Andrew Wincott, Owen Lindsay

“…I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.”

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Louise Clark abruptly finds herself jobless when the cafe she’s worked at forever suddenly closes. Will Traynor suddenly finds himself paralyzed when hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. Despite growing up in vastly different worlds, the two come together, form an incredible bond, and change each others lives forever.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, narrated by Jenna Lamia

We all know about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, but do you know his wife? Z tells the story of Zelda and Scott, the quintessential couple of the Lost Generation, through Zelda’s eyes. At first everything is new and exciting and glamorous, but eventually, the party must end. And who is Zelda? Is she Scott’s wife? Is she an artist? Is she a mother? Who can say. Fowler brings us a fictionalized biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, told in what I hope, is an accurate portrayal.

The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig, mostly narrated by Kate Reading (The Temptation of the Night Jasmine narrated by Justine Eyre is not nearly as good)

The Pink Carnation series tells multiple stories. First, there is Eloise Kelly, history PhD candidate from Harvard, off on a research quest in England. Her topic, spies in 18th and 19th century England sounds fascinating, but is awfully hard to research (spies not being known for keeping documents), and she is just about to give up when she stumbles upon an absolute treasure trove of information. Too bad it also comes with a grouchy, territorial, if handsome, Englishman. Second, there are the historic spies. Lots of spies. French spies, English spies, Irish spies, spies who just like to spy.

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While the series is generally considered romance, and are fun, fluffy reads, Willig’s research is excellent. She actually was as Harvard History PhD.

Call the Midwife

I watched a few episodes of the BBC show Call the Midwife but I just couldn’t get into it, but I was intrigued by the story, so I ordered the audiobook from the library. The TV show is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth (nee Lee), and details her time as a midwife in 1960s in the East End of London. While listening, I kept forgetting Call the Midwife took place in the 60s. The lack of toilets and proper hygiene detailed throughout the memoir seemed more like the 1920s or 30s to me. It really opened my eyes to the kind of poverty people experienced not that long ago (and unfortunately, I’m sure people are experiencing something similar today).

While I appreciated the respect paid to the nuns of Nonnatus House, I did not anticipate the religious tilt of the memoir, especially towards the end. Throughout my time listening I found I enjoyed the stories of midwifery more than Worth’s accounts of her personal life during that time. Although I do really wonder about the identity of this mysterious  man she loved so deeply. Perhaps I will have to read the other two in the series…

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One quick note about the narrator of the audiobook. While I loved Nicola Barber’s Cockney accent, her regular reading began to grate on my ears. It sounded like she was in a constant whisper and I kept thinking, “doesn’t talking like this make her throat hurt?” I remember thinking the same thing when I listened to Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair.