Camrose Public Library

Audio File Episode 8: Historically Speaking

May 24, 2022 Camrose Public Library Season 4 Episode 8
Camrose Public Library
Audio File Episode 8: Historically Speaking
Show Notes Transcript

Hello and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on historical fiction. All time periods and geographies are fair game. The majority of selections are adult historical fiction with one YA historical fiction choice. Let’s get to it! 

Narrator 00:03
Hello everyone and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on historical fiction. All time periods and geographies are fair game. The majority of selections are adult historical fiction with one YA historical fiction choice. Let’s get to it! 

Our first pick is Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton. The year is 1876. Warring native American tribes still populate America's western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William's newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West's most notorious characters.

Dragon Teeth is the eighteenth novel Crichton published under his own name and the third to be published after his death. It was originally written in 1974 and published on May 23, 2017. While the novel is undoubtedly fiction, it does have some basis in fact. The Bone Wars actually happened between the real-life paleontologists of Marsh and Cope, though it didn’t really end well for either of them. Cope and Marsh were financially and socially ruined by their attempts to outcompete and disgrace each other, but they made important contributions to science and the field of paleontology and provided substantial material for further work. Both scientists left behind many unopened boxes of fossils after their deaths. The efforts of the two men led to more than 136 new species of dinosaurs being discovered and described.  

The 2017 Harper Audio production of Dragon Teeth is read by Scott Brick. Actor, writer and award-winning audiobook narrator Scott Brick certainly knows how to tell a story, in a way that keeps publishers, best-selling and award-winning authors, critics and the public at large begging for more.  Hailed by Audible in 2012 as their most prolific narrator, Brick has narrated almost 900 audiobooks including titles such as: Jurassic Park, the Jack Reacher series, Alexander Hamilton, the Hunt For Red October, The Passage trilogy, In Cold Blood, the Bourne trilogy, Atlas Shrugged, Helter Skelter, Fahrenheit 451 and the Dune series. To date he's won over 60 Earphones Awards for his narrating skills, as well as five Audie Awards, five SOVAS Awards for voiceover, and a Grammy nomination for the multi-cast recording of The Mark of Zorro in 2011. So you know, he’s kind of a big deal. His performance here is a reflection of his skill behind the microphone and sucks the listeners right into the story.   

To quote the Audio File review of this production: “Scott Brick is a narrator at the top of his game, and this is a meaty tale for him to get his--well, teeth--into. There's action aplenty, but the narrative develops at a steady pace rather than the unputdownable pace of better-known Crichton titles. But it's still a compelling listen--and one that will leave the listener feeling pleasantly educated as well as entertained.” In addition, Publisher’s Weekly had this to say about the production, “The tale has all the hallmarks of a Crichton adventure: scientific discovery, dueling scientists, and bravado. Veteran voice actor Brick delivers the story smoothly and heightens the intensity of the survival on the frontier with his pacing.”
If you’re looking for a western brimming with dinosaur bones, try Dragon Teeth. 

Our second pick is Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery by J. Aaron Sanders. Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City's body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena's behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her.
Walt's estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham's murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham's involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena's deaths.

Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery is a winner of the Lambda Award. This was Sanders’s debut novel and his short stories and essays have been published in such places as Lithub, Carolina Quarterly, Writer’s Digest, and Library of America among others. He earned an MFA at University of Utah, a PhD at University of Connecticut, and was a Professor of English at Columbus State University from 2008-2016. 

The 2016 Penguin Random House Audio production of Speakers of the Dead is read by Mark Bramhall. Bramhall has performed off-Broadway, at venues nationwide, and extensively in film and television. He holds numerous honors for his narrations and has repeatedly been featured among AudioFile Magazine’s best readers of the year. He has also taught and directed at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, and coaches privately. His poetry and prose have won grants and residencies from The Ucross Foundation and The Lannan Foundation. He is a recipient of the American Library Association’s 2016 Odyssey Award, was a finalist for the Audiobook Publishers Association’s AUDIE Award in 2013 and, in 2016, was a twice-nominated finalist and first-time winner of that award, for fiction narration. In short, he’s an audiobook veteran and it should come as no surprise that he gives an excellent performance here. 

To quote the Audio File review of this production: “Those who think of Walt Whitman as just a poet are in for a surprise. Sanders's mystery reimagines one of America's literary giants as a detective. Mark Bramhall's performance is entrancing, grabbing the listener with an understated delivery that increases in intensity as events unfold. He's particularly adept at conveying dialogue, defining even secondary characters with tones and inflections that complement every aspect of this thoroughly enjoyable story.”  
If you’re looking for a historical jaunt into the macabre, try Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery. 

Our third pick is The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper. An orphaned young math prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman's peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906: Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship. Having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane's mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and present converge and Elizabeth's grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel her story before it's too late.
From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel presents a mystery that spans continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

The Girl in the Painting is on a growing list of acclaimed historical fiction from Tea Cooper, who is an international, award winning, and best-selling author. The Girl in the Painting was long-listed for the 2021 Davitt Awards and came in at #33 in the Better Reading Top 100 of 2021. On a more local level, we have two copies of this audiobook at CPL with 18 holds on them at the time of this recording, so there’s obviously some excitement for it. 

The 2021 Bolinda/Harper Collins Audio production of The Girl in The Painting is read by Casey Withoos. Born and raised in Melbourne, Casey studied for a Bachelor of Music (Classical Voice) at The University of Melbourne. Since then, she has developed a career performing in stage musicals. As well as her on-stage credits, Casey has also begun carving out a career for herself as a Voice-Over artist. Within the span of 12 months, Casey has recorded 25 audiobooks, both fiction and non-fiction, to great success. She has a great speaking voice and her Australian accent really helps pins the story to its geography, which elevates the listening experience. 

If you’re looking for mystery, romance, and history all rolled into one, try The Girl in the Painting. 

Up next is the The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II by Madeline Martin. Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

August 1939: London is dismal under the weight of impending war with Germany as Hitler's forces continue to sweep across Europe. Into this uncertain maelstrom steps Grace Bennett, young and ready for a fresh start in the bustling city streets she's always dreamed of—and miles away from her troubled past in the countryside.

With aspirations of working at a department store, Grace never imagined she'd wind up employed at Primrose Hill, an offbeat bookshop nestled in the heart of the city—after all, she's never been much of a reader. Overwhelmed with organizing the cluttered store, she doesn't have time to read the books she sells. But when one is gifted to her, what starts as an obligation becomes a passion that draws her into the incredible world of literature.
As the Blitz rains down bombs on the city night after night, a devastating attack leaves the libraries and shops of London's literary center in ruins. Miraculously, Grace's bookshop survives the firestorm. Through blackouts and air raids, Grace continues running the shop, discovering a newfound comfort in the power of words and storytelling that unites her community in ways she never imagined—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of war-torn London.

The Last Bookshop in London made it to number 8 on the New York Times Bestseller list for Paperback Trade Fiction back in 2021. The What’s Better Than Books review of The Last Bookshop in London called it, “poignant, affecting, and beautifully written”. It went on to say that, “The writing is seamless and smooth. The characters are brave, resilient, and supportive. And the plot is an absorbing tale of life, loss, family, heartbreak, friendship, self-discovery, community, determination, tragedy, survival, and love.”

The 2021 Harlequin Audio production of The Last Bookshop in London is read by Saskia Maarleveld. Maarleveld is an AudioFile magazine Earphones Award–winning narrator living in New York City. Working full-time in the voice-over world, Saskia has recorded over 160 audiobooks. She switches seamlessly between accents and can often be heard speaking in British, Australian, New Zealand, and various European accents, in addition to her own American accent. She’s recorded for just about every genre and age group possible. In addition to audiobooks, Saskia's voice can be heard in animation, video games, and commercials. She attributes her love and understanding of reading books aloud to coming from a large family where audiobooks were the only way to get though car rides without fighting! 

If you’re interested in seeing a prominent moment in history from the lens of a humble bookshop, try The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II. 

Our fifth pick is The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant. Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning YA adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris's criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina's life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father's fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger—the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh—Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city's dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice—protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger. 

The Court of Miracles is the first in a planned trilogy and Kester Grant’s debut novel. Kester a.k.a. Kit Grant is a British-Mauritian writer of color who has lived all over the world: Mauritius, Democratic Republic of the Congo, England, the USA, and France. She has worked as a copywriter and a volunteer writing mentor for the Ministry of Stories, a UK nonprofit based on Dave Eggers’s 826 National.

The 2020 Penguin Random House Audio production of The Court of Miracles is read by Ajjaz Awad and John Lee. Awad is relatively new to the audiobook world with a handful of books under her belt. The Be Heard Voices Website, describes her as husky, confident, real, feisty, charming, easy-going, cool, clear and a little bit cheeky. Her natural accent is a London accent. She handles the character of Nina deftly and this will hopefully be remembered as one of her first successes in a long and illustrious career. 

On the other hand, British narrator John Lee has read audiobooks in almost every conceivable genre, from Charles Dickens to Patrick O'Brian, and from the very real life of Napoleon to the entirely imagined lives of sorcerers and swashbucklers. He has won numerous Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards, and he was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile in 2009. Lee is also an accomplished stage actor and wrote and coproduced the feature films Breathing Hard and Forfeit. Lee lends his skill to the production in a way that supports Awad and makes for a stellar outcome. 

To quote the Audio File review of this production: “In this series opener, narrator Ajjaz Awad perfectly crafts the fierce and determined voice of Nina as she traverses hardships in an alternative French world brimming with competition. Awad's pronunciation of French locations and phrases sounds authentic, offering the listener the opportunity to connect with the French culture. Using a crisp voice, Awad showcases Nina's cutthroat and menacing demeanor while she commits burglaries as a member of the Thieves Guild. Narrator John Lee expertly voices the stories of the Miracle Court throughout the book. This young adult fantasy has a lot of action and drama, and Awad brings it all to life, enhancing the desperation of the characters.”

If you’re looking for a fresh twist on a French classic, try The Court of Miracles. 

Our last pick is The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. 1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park's few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter—the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer...

What is a list for historical fiction recommendations without Kate Quinn? After all, Fiona Davis, the New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, calls Quinn “The reigning queen of historical fiction”. The Rose Code in particular is an Alex Award winner. Kate Quinn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and “The Diamond Eye.” All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

The 2021 Harper Audio production of the Rose Code is read by Saskia Maarleveld. Maarleveld was mentioned earlier in this episode, so we won’t revisit her accolades a second time. Suffice to say, Maarleveld is a master narrator who has narrated some of the most prominent titles of the historical fiction genre. Thus, you know you’re in good hands for this audiobook. 

If you’re looking for a historical tale of espionage and secrets within secrets, try The Rose Code. 

That’s it for this episode of Audio File. All the audiobooks discussed are available at Camrose Public Library in audio CD or downloadable audio format at the time of this recording. Thanks very much for listening and remember to stay curious.