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The Last Rhinos by Anthony Lawrence

Last Rhinosred_earphonesWhen Lawrence Anthony learned that the northern white rhino, living in the war-ravaged Congo, was on the very brink of extinction, he knew he had to act. If the world lost the sub-species, it would be the largest land mammal since the woolly mammoth to go extinct. In The Last Rhinos, Anthony recounts his attempts to save these remarkable animals.

The demand for rhino horns in the Far East has turned poaching into a dangerous black market that threatens the lives of not just these rare beasts, but also the rangers who protect them.

The northern white rhino’s last refuge was in an area controlled by the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most vicious rebel groups in the world. In the face of unmoving government bureaucracy, Anthony made a perilous journey deep into the jungle to try to find and convince them to help save the rhino.

An inspiring story of conservation in the face of brutal war and bureaucratic quagmires, The Last Rhinos will move animal lovers everywhere.

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The Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

BloodTyrantsred_earphonesNaomi Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, a brilliant combination of fantasy and history that reimagines the Napoleonic wars as fought with the aid of intelligent dragons, is a twenty-first-century classic. From the first volume, His Majesty’s Dragon, readers have been entranced by the globe-spanning adventures of the resolute Capt. William Laurence and his brave but impulsive dragon, Temeraire. Now, in Blood of Tyrants, the penultimate volume of the series, Novik is at the very height of her powers as she brings her story to its widest, most colorful canvas yet.

Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge . . . and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.

Here is the lovely review from AudioFile Magazine:

In this eighth and penultimate book in Novik’s series, which combines dragons and the Napoleonic wars, the highly dramatic action spans the globe. British aviator William Lawrence, his dragon, Temeraire, and their companions begin the story in Japan, make their way to China, and end up in Russia on the eve of battle. Narrator Simon Vance returns, and it’s a marvel how he smoothly switches voices from that of an English gentleman to those of an Incan dragon and a Japanese samurai–always keeping the characters distinct and fresh. Vance’s pacing is also masterful; he knows when to let the adventure of the narrative drive the story and when to let the quiet moments between characters enjoy breathing room. One cannot imagine anyone else reading these tales. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver_Twistred_earphonesOne of Charles Dickens’ most popular novels, Oliver Twist is the story of a young orphan who dares to say, “Please, sir, I want some more”. After escaping from the dark and dismal workhouse where he was born, Oliver finds himself on the mean streets of Victorian-era London and is unwittingly recruited into a scabrous gang of scheming urchins. In this band of petty thieves, Oliver encounters the extraordinary and vibrant characters who have captured audiences’ imaginations for more than 150 years: the loathsome Fagin, the beautiful and tragic Nancy, the crafty Artful Dodger, and the terrifying Bill Sikes, perhaps one of the greatest villains of all time.

Rife with Dickens’ disturbing descriptions of street life, the novel is buoyed by the purity of the orphan Oliver. Though he is treated with cruelty and surrounded by coarseness for most of his life, his pious innocence leads him at last to salvation – and the shocking discovery of his true identity.

Here’s the really wonderful review given this audiobook by AudioFile Magazine:

You see the book’s title, and you make certain assumptions. It’s a classic. It’s uniquely English. And it will capture (or recapture) your imagination as only great books can. If you’ve never read it, let this version be your introduction. If you’ve already experienced it in print, then indulge yourself in a terrific audio experience. From the very start–and I mean the first word of this production–narrator Simon Vance raises a banner that announces a once-in-a-lifetime performance that exquisitely matches narrator and text. Vance has a mellifluous English voice, an engaging tone, and marvelous diction. The elastic quality of his voice delightfully differentiates the myriad characters that live between Dickens’s pages. The result is a wonderful listening experience for all ages–not to be missed. R.I.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013

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The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Stockholm_Octavored_earphonesLife is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in the Office of Customs and Excise in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of the Town—a drinker, card player, and contented bachelor—until one evening when Mrs. Sofia Sparrow, a fortune-teller and proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor, shares with him a vision she has had: a golden path that will lead him to love and connection. She lays an Octavo for him, a spread of eight cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision—if he can find them.

Emil begins his search, intrigued by the puzzle of his Octavo and the good fortune Mrs. Sparrow’s vision portends. But when Mrs. Sparrow wins a mysterious folding fan in a card game, the Octavo’s deeper powers are revealed. For Emil it is no longer just a game of the heart; collecting his eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos. Set against the luminous backdrop of late eighteenth-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, The Stockholm Octavo brings together a collection of characters, both fictional and historical, whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic in a breathtaking debut that will leave you spellbound.


Here is the review from AudioFile Magazine:

Cartomancy is divination using regular playing cards in a game called the Octavo. This and the language and geometry of fans, as well as several other arcane practices, form the intriguing premise of Karen Englemann’s engrossing debut novel. Mrs. Sparrow, mistress of a gaming establishment in late-eighteenth-century Sweden, predicts a golden future for minor customs official Emil Larsson. Simon Vance does everything right as Emil meets the human embodiments of the eight cards that are destined to assist him. With characters as diverse as King Gustav, a French fan-maker, and the scheming Uzanne, Vance never misses a step. His descriptions of several luscious young women, and of one particular fan thought to contain magical powers, are a marvel of nuance and subtlety. A delicious pairing of narrator and material. S.J.H.

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The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Tao_of_Poohred_earphonesThe Tao of Pooh starts with a description of the vinegar tasters, which is an actual painting portraying the three great eastern thinkers, Confucius, the Buddha, and Laozi over a vat of vinegar. Each tasting the vinegar of “life,” Confucius finds it sour, the Buddha finds it bitter, but Laozi, the traditional founder of Taoism, finds it satisfying. Then the story unfolds backing up this analogy.

Hoff presents Winnie-the-Pooh and related others from A. A. Milne’s stories as characters that interact with him while he writes The Tao of Pooh, but also quotes excerpts of their tales from Milne’s actual books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, in order to exemplify his points. Hoff uses many of Milne’s characters to symbolize ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets. Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wei wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing,” and pu, the concept of being open to but unburdened by experience. In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh’s simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation. The book also incorporates translated excerpts from various prominent Taoist texts, from authors such as Laozi and Zhuangzi. (This material is from Wikipedia)

This book has been nominated in three Audie categories!

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Here is the wonderful review from AudioFile Magazine:

With his delicious British accent, Simon Vance is the perfect choice for this beguiling gem. His crisp diction offers clarity while maintaining a warmth that invites the listener to settle back and enjoy another–albeit grown-up–adventure with friends from A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. But don’t dismiss this as a children’s story. Hoff’s text is ingenious as he uses these childhood icons and their tales to present Tao’s message of simplicity, tolerance, and peace. With his unerring sense of pacing, Vance delivers instructive passages in a conversational tone, then seamlessly becomes Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit. Hoff and Vance have created an audio classic, offering a unique and delightful experience that gently instructs as it entertains. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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English Society in the 18th Century by Roy Porter

EnglishSocred_earphonesA brilliant work….Porter s picture of eighteenth-century England is boldly drawn….He ranges far and wide, from princes and paupers and from the metropolis to the smallest hamlet. Stay-making and corsetry, prisons, rural festivals, diet and housing, bordellos and sex therapists…paintings and plays, work and wages, balloons and bastady are only a fraction of the topics covered by this breathtaking narrative….No one will fail to learn much from Porter s bustling book. –London Review of Books

Offers a succession of vivid images of thought, politics, work culture, deviance, sex-life and smell of eighteenth-century Englishmen….it is the gusto, the vigor and the fun that make this book. –Sunday Times

Covers a vast area of historical scholarship, both traditional and contemporary….His writing glows…and positively crackles when expressing the vigor and zest of what has been rightly called the age of exuberance. –Times Literary Supplement

Porter bowls through eighteenth-century society with the brash confidence of the rubicund tradesman whose world he recaptures so well, deploying formidable erudition, vigorous ideas and skillful expression to provide a book which should inform, arouse and provoke. –New Statesman –.

Vivid, witty, and entertaining….easily the best general account of eighteenth-century society that we have. –New York Review of Books

Here is the Earphone Award winning review from AudioFile Magazine:
Roy Porter’s engrossing, encyclopedic history of English life in the 1700s receives its due in this fine production, which will appeal to many more than the bibliophile and the audiophile. While he touches on politics and personages, Porter’s approach is expansive and demographic, a survey of every factor that shaped social life, and produced changes over the century. Only a narrator as accomplished as Simon Vance and as immaculate in articulation could convey the sharpness and precision Porter achieves through a steady accumulation of detail. What for a lesser reader might be only a plodding list of population figures, or descriptions of land holdings, becomes instead a window into a past time, each sentence to the point, illuminating, engaging the intellectual and the sensual imagination. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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