Category Archives: Tantor Audio

Audiobook Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

  • Publisher: Tantor Media; Unabridged,MP3 – Unabridged CD edition (February 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1452667896
  • Source: Personal copy

When Elise Darliss’ mother falls victim to the pox, Elise flees her home on a farm and seeks employment as a maid at the castle. It doesn’t take long for her to rise up the ranks from chambermaid to a private maid to the queen herself. The castle quickly becomes more of a home than her place of birth ever did, and for good reason. Growing up, she felt her life so separate and far from that of the castle. As she grows older she matures into a fine, respected lady, a far cry from the life she had before. She forms friendships and bonds with individuals in the highest echelons of the royal family, learning that her life in the castle is one that is earned and deserved.

The reader (or listener, in my case) follows Elise through her life in the castle. War, disease, and power struggles fail to hold Elise back when it comes to protecting those that she loves. Rose, the daughter of King Ranolf and Queen Lenore, becomes Elise’s sole passion in life. Her youth, her vitality, and her innocence are the sparks to warm Elise’s heart.  When Rose’s fate is threatened by the King’s evil aunt, Millicent, protecting her life and securing her future becomes Elise’s obsession.

Blackwell’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty adds great depth and intrigue to the story we all grew up hearing.  Gone are the stories of magic and spells, replaced with horrific tales of power hungry individuals willing to do anything to obtain their spot on the throne.  The growing role and importance of women in places of power added a uplifting, modern spin to this age-old tale.

As I’ve stated many a time before, I’m typically not a fan of retellings. With that said, I have made it a mission of mine to step outside my comfort zone and embrace these retellings as they seem to be appearing quite rapidly. Some have been met with success, others with a less than desired outcome. In the case of While Beauty Slept, however, I was thoroughly impressed with the changes Blackwell made to the story. She added a modern, mysterious spin that had my attention from the start.

Adding to this experience was the dynamic narration by Wanda McCaddon. Elise starts out as a young, uncertain chambermaid and evolves into a well-respected lady of the court. This is directly reflected in the tone of McCaddon’s narration, the listener sensing the growing maturity and self-confidence in her voice. Additionally, McCaddon’s narration would change with Elise’s age, reflecting the change that comes to one’s voice with the passing of time and age.

Although  While Beauty Slept is portrayed as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, I personally viewed it as a wholly unique and original story with bits of homage to the classic fairy tale. Readers apprehensive about reading or listening to a fairy tale need not worry. For me, this novel had more characteristics of a historical fiction/thriller than a fairy tale. While the premise captured my attention from the start, it was the vividly drawn characters and unique storyline that captured my attention. Highly, highly recommended.

Zombie Mondays: Audiobook Review-Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar

  • Listening Length: 6 hours and 25 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Source: Publisher

Taliban soldiers, while surveying the remnants of an air strike on a secret Al-Qaeda meeting, are infected by a virus. They each embark on different travel routes following their infection, spreading the virus as they go, across the borders of neighboring countries. Those infected reanimate within minutes, and unlike the “typical” zombie they retain some of their memories. Adding to the creepy factor is their instinct to wrap their heads in black cloth and shriek “jihad” as they attack. They hide during the day, deciding to strike out against the living during the twilight hours. 

As the world tries to fight back, an unlikely crew joins forces, desperate to survive these creatures, referred to as biters. Made up of a Navy seal, an aging romance writer, a seventeen-year-old boy who has just lost his entire family, and a teen girl and her toddler brother. It’s not long before they learn that the youngest in their party holds their fate in their hands and they must risk life and limb to keep him out of the hands of the biters.

In Zombiestan, Dhar puts a completely new and unique spin on the typical zombie novel. Not only do these biters retain a bit of their previous knowledge, they evolve, soon learning to weapons such as handguns and rifles. Additionally, they are able to proceed with a purpose other than devouring human flesh. In this case their mission is to destroy the young child whose very blood may serve as a cure or vaccination for this horrific virus.

Additionally, despite being surrounded by death and devastation, Dhar throws in a bit of a romance, something not too often seen in zombie fiction. Nothing over the top, but sincere and genuine. Not a fan of romance myself, but I do admit to cheering for the aforementioned couple.

Another unique trait this novel holds are the truly strong and well-developed characters. Unlike many novels of this type, the focus isn’t solely on the walking dead and the havoc they reap, instead a tremendous amount of time is spent focusing on the character development, the evolution of the characters as they progress on their trek to safety. They all prove they are beyond capable to be the guardians that take the source of humanity’s salvation to safety. Some start out as mild and weak but eventually evolve in to some pretty kick-ass characters.

Narrated by John Lee, the audio production is absolutely suburb. British himself, Lee quite a range of accents/inflections, allowing him to accurately portray characters from all ethnic backgrounds with ease and without flaw.

Zombiestan is truly a thrill-ride of a read. Don’t let the zombies frighten you way from a truly impressive read. While the walking dead are prevalent, Dhar does an outstanding job of toning down the graphic aspect of zombies and instead focuses on this tremendous band of survivors, out to save mankind. Highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Rise Again by Ben Tripp

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured book is Rise Again by Ben Tripp:

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media; Unabridged,MP3 – Unabridged CD edition (January 30, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1452656053
  • Source: Publisher

Danny is a battle scarred (mentally & physically) battle-scarred Iraq war vet who has returned to her hometown of Forest Park, a small town outside of Los Angeles, and now serves as the sheriff. It’s Independence Day and the town is celebrating by awarding Danny with a key to the town. Danny has her mind on other things, mainly her sister, Kelly, who has taken off with Danny’s prized Mustang. Danny raised Kelly on her own, admittedly not doing the best job since she returned from the war.

During the parade, however, things change. People begin running like mad, arms flailing, screaming at the tops of their lungs. Danny searches the crowd hoping to find a source but is unable to find one. Suddenly those individuals who were running fall dead, right in their tracks.  The crowd of “infected” individuals grows dramatically, suddenly the town is full of hundreds of them. Danny rounds up the survivors, a small group of people who haven’t been affected by the outbreak.  But before they are able to get far, the most horrific incident transpires: the dead rise.

So begins a life-threatening escape from their once quiet, peaceful small town. The outbreak isn’t isolated there, soon Danny and the survivors realize it has affected the entire area, including the city of Los Angeles. Danny attempts to put on a strong front and lead the citizens of the town to safety, but she’s unable to put all of her effort into it. In the back of her mind, she worries about Kelly, about whether or not she’s safe, if she’s alive or one of the walking dead.

Her hope and spirit is challenged as she journeys across the California desert. She has flashbacks of her experience in Iraq. It’s no shock, the world around her is just a shell of what it used to be. She arrives in San Francisco to find that the military is attempting to cover up the outbreak, attempting to continue to exist as status quo.  They are reluctant to listen to Danny’s experience with the zombies (which they refer to as Zeroes). Danny knows the zombies are evolving, getting smarter. Unable to convince them, Danny returns to the motley group of survivors only to find them ambushed by a rouge team of paramilitary, known as Hawkstone. Now, it’s not only the zombies/zeroes they must protect themselves against, but also their own kind.

Danny’s character is on one hand infuriating as she risks the lives of those who rely on her for safety in order to find her sister. However,I can’t say that I’d do different, honestly. On the other hand, she’s a incredibly strong-willed, stubborn individual. She’s also completely flawed but she uses that to her advantage, in a sense.

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is yet another zombie novel. In Rise Again, Tripp provides readers/listeners with a completely unique spin on the traditional zombie novel. While their creation is similar to other zombie books/movies, the similarities end there. Tripp’s zombies evolve. First it is minute differences like their ability to go dormant until they smell a human in their presence. Then, however, they begin to progress more rapidly, forming the ability to run, to hunt, to shoot, to….speak. A completely engaging and rewarding experience, Rise Again is a must read/listen for any zombie fan.

Audio production: Rise Again is narrated by Kirsten Potter. Potter did an outstanding job in her narration, accurately portraying the devastation suffered by the survivors of the outbreak while also successfully showcasing the power behind Danny’s character.  Click here to listen to a sample of the audio.