Our Summer Listens
By Pauline Bird, Emily De Vogele and Cameron Phillips
We are well into the swing of summer. The days are hot and long, the grass is green, and everything seems a little lighter. We are here to recommend to you our best summer listens, whether you want a new audiobook to listen to, or if you want to switch it up and take a break from reading physical books. These novels are perfect if you’re on your way to the field for a picnic with friends, or lounging around in the warm weather.
My choice just had to be a Taylor Jenkins Reid book. She’s the queen of summer and creates perfect atmospheres in her novels. Malibu Rising was written to be read in summer, no doubt about it. It follows the Riva family, famous for their father’s career and their own achievements. One fateful night in August 1983, the oldest sister, Nina, throws her infamous end of summer party. However, unlike previous years, this party is full of secrets and mysteries and the siblings must face the truth about their past, and each other’s true identities, before the night is over.
There are simply no words to describe how stunning this book is. June and Nina, the sisters, are the most complex women I’ve ever read about. Jenkins Reid does them an absolute honour by writing them with so much love and compassion. The sibling dynamic grabs you and holds onto you for the entire novel, leaving you breathless by the end. There’s a perfect balance between the beautiful nostalgia of summer, and the heartbreaking future that the siblings have on their horizon.
As with the rest of Jenkins Reid’s novels, the narrator helps bring the story to life. She keeps a steady tone throughout, but not one of monotone, rather the opposite. Her voice perfectly encapsulates each sibling and their individual stories, love lives, and trauma.
There are a million things I could say about this book, but I’ll leave you with this: listen to it, you won’t regret it. Malibu Rising brings summer alive, it makes you feel like you’re right there with the rest of the Riva siblings, in 80’s Malibu.
My choice for the summer pick is Jack Campbell’s Ad Astra. This series of short sci-fi stories focus on the types of fictional problems mankind could encounter after they pass the horizon. Exploring various moral and philosophical dilemmas, but never preaching to the unconverted, Jack Campbell’s series of short stories are packed nicely in his very low-key thoughtful style. They are very old school, Asimov and Clarke style science fiction stories, which Campbell never tries to hide, but they shine in their own unique way.
One thing that pulls me towards these stories, particularly set in space beyond our own horizon, are my own ambitions for this summer. I’d like to broaden my own horizons, re-engage and reconnect myself to my friends and hobbies, which have ebbed and flowed at various points over the COVID-19 pandemic. Short story science fiction are easy for me to digest, and these Jack Campbell’s tales never outstay their welcome, whilst providing some thought provoking details and debates.
When choosing a book for this issue’s theme, I wanted to choose one that was fairly long – that children or families could listen to on a long journey whether in the car, train or plane. I also wanted to pick an audiobook which could transport the listener to another landscape that might be less familiar or new to listeners in the UK. Finally, I wanted to share a book that has been recently published, rather than share one that has been around for a while. With this criteria in mind, I selected Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu.
At 7 hours and 36 minutes long, it is a substantial listen. We have no holiday plans this year, but we’ve been on numerous long day trips in the car, and the children have really looked forward to listening to it as we travel to and from our destinations. In terms of diverse landscapes, this action-packed middle grade adventure begins in the UK, but the majority is set in Nigeria. Originally published in June 2022, it is an incredible testament to the wonderful audiobooks for children that are being created right now.
The first in a superhero series, we are introduced to the protagonist, Onyeka, a British-Nigerian girl who discovers that her afro hair has psychokinetic powers. When this is revealed to her mother, she is quickly sent to the Academy of the Sun, where Soalri, children with various superpowers, are trained to become Protectors of Nigeria. But all is not what it seems, and soon their powers are put to the ultimate test as Onyeka hunts for her father, who disappeared after making a genetic breakthrough.
This immersive tale is expertly narrated by Nneka Okoye, who helps bring the vivid landscape and action-packed adventure to life. The whole family was fully invested in this story and we can’t wait to listen to the next instalment!