July #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Ken Liu, Kat Howard, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Walter Mosley, Field of Dreams, Scott Westerfeld’s Zeroes, and much more

July brought a refreshed list of Summer Reading Deals and 50 Kindle Books for $2 Each to the Kindle store, and there’s over 700 titles in there, 387 of which are Whispersync for Voice enabled in the “Summer Reading Deals” alone. (There’s another 46 in the $2 Kindle listings.) What’s most worth checking out? There’s a lot, even there, including a few titles from 2016 from Saga Press and Simon & Schuster Audio, classics, and more. Here you go, starting with those Saga/S&S titles that I can hardly believe can be had for this price so soon:

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, read by Corey Brill and Joy Osmanski for $1.99+$3.99 — Even with all of the other audiobooks in this roundup, I absolutely have to lead off right here. Liu is one of the great young writers of science fiction and fantasy today, and this collection includes some absolutely fantastic stories: “Best-selling author Ken Liu selects his award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales for a groundbreaking collection – including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume. With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards); “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner); “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist); “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalist); “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist); “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist); and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (the only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards). A must-have for every science fiction and fantasy fan, this beautiful book is an anthology to savor.”

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard, read by Madeleine Maby for $1.99+$3.99 — Publishers Weekly Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Novel of Summer 2016 is here and on sale for under $6, people. “Imogen and her sister, Marin, escape their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, whether it be art or love, in this haunting debut novel from “a remarkable young writer” (Neil Gaiman). What would you sacrifice for everything you ever dreamed of? Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales, because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults Imogen and her sister, Marin, are accepted to an elite postgrad arts program – Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.”

Borderline (The Arcadia Project Book 1) by Mishell Baker, read by Arden Hammersmith for $1.99+$3.99 — “A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker. A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales. For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds. No pressure.”

Fledgling: A Novel by Octavia E. Butler, read by Tracey Leigh for $3.99+$3.99 — “Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s last novel, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.”

Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent World by Walter Mosley, read by Richard Allen for $1.99+$3.99 — “Life in America a generation from now isn’t much different from today: The drugs are better, the daily grind is worse. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened to a chasm. You can store the world’s legal knowledge on a chip in your little finger, while the Supreme Court has decreed that constitutional rights don’t apply to any individual who challenges the system. Justice is swiftly delivered by automated courts, so the prison industry is booming. And while the media declare racism is dead, word on the street is that even in a colorless society, it’s a crime to be black. But the world still turns, and folks still have to get by with the hands they’re dealt. Walter Mosley brings to life the celebs, working stiffs, leaders, victims, technocrats, crooks, oppressors, and revolutionaries who inhabit a glorious all-American nightmare that’s just around the corner. Welcome to Futureland.”

The Cutting Edge (A Handful of Men Book 1) by Dave Duncan, read by Mil Nicholson for $1.99+$1.99 — “The Aurora Award–winning author of the Man of His Word novels returns to the magical realm of Pandemia with the first in his Handful of Men series. For fifteen years, Queen Inos and King Rap—the former stable boy and secret sorcerer—have ruled Krasnegar wisely and happily, raising a family and prospering in their remote little kingdom. But a darkness is encroaching, foreshadowed by prophecies of unimagined cataclysms across Pandemia. Prince Emshandar, better known as Shandie to Krasnegar’s royal family, is engaged in several conflicts along the Impire’s borderlands, as armies of djinns, gnomes, and other races declare and wage war. His grandfather, the aged imperor himself, continues to behave more erratically and tyrannically with each passing hour.”

A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock, read by Susan Duerden for $1.99+$1.99 — Highly recommended book and audiobook, I thoroughly enjoyed this one: “Finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and the Kitschies Golden Tentacle (Debut Novel) Award. Late in the twenty-first century, big business is booming and state institutions are thriving thanks to advances in genetic engineering, which have produced a compliant population free of addictions. Violent crime is a rarity. Hyper-intelligent Jayna is a star performer at top predictive agency Mayhew McCline, where she forecasts economic and social trends. A brilliant mathematical modeler, she far outshines her co-workers, often correcting their work on the quiet. Her latest coup: finding a link between northeasterly winds and violent crime. When a string of events contradicts her forecasts, Jayna suspects she needs more data and better intuition. She needs direct interactions with the rest of society. Bravely—and naively—she sets out to disrupt her strict routine and stumbles unwittingly into a world where her IQ is increasingly irrelevant…a place where human relationships and the complexity of life are difficult for her to decode. And as she experiments with taking risks, she crosses the line into corporate intrigue and disloyalty.”

Harrowgate by Kate Maruyama, read by Nick Podehl for $1.99+$1.99 — “Michael should be overjoyed by the birth of his son, but his wife, Sarah, won’t let him touch the baby or allow anyone to visit. Greta, an intrusive, sinister doula has wormed her way into their lives, driving a wedge between Michael and his family. Every time he leaves the Harrowgate, he returns to find his beloved wife and baby altered. He feels his family slipping away, and as a malevolent force begins to creep in, Michael does what any new father would do – he fights to keep his family together. Kate Maruyama’s debut novel, Harrowgate, is a chilling, richly detailed story of love, loss, and the haunted place that lies between.”

Archangel (The Chronicles of Ubastis) by Marguerite Reed, read by Dina Pearlman for $1.99+$2.99 — “The Earth is dying, and our hopes are pinned on Ubastis, an untamed paradise at the edge of colonized space. But such an influx of people threatens the planet’s unstudied ecosystem – a tenuous research colony must complete its analysis, lest humanity abandon one planet only to die on another. The Ubasti colonists barely get by on their own. To acquire the tools they need, they are relegated to selling whatever they can to outside investors. For xenobiologist Vashti Loren, this means bringing Offworlders on safari to hunt the specimens she and her fellow biologists so desperately need to study. Haunted by the violent death of her husband, the heroic and celebrated Lasse Undset, Vashti must balance the needs of Ubastis against the swelling crush of settlers. Vashti struggles in her role as one of the few colonists licensed to carry deadly weapons, just as she struggles with her history of using them. And when she discovers a genetically engineered soldier smuggled onto the surface, Vashti must face the nightmare of her husband’s murder all over again. Standing at the threshold of humanity’s greatest hope, she alone understands the darkness of guarding paradise.”


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, read by James Franco for $1.99+$1.99 00 “Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the now famous parable of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW, who has in the later stage of his life become “unstuck in time” and who experiences at will (or unwillingly) all known events of his chronology out of order and sometimes simultaneously.” So it goes. I enjoyed the Ethan Hawke narration of this book, but apparently somebody at Audible wasn’t, as they commissioned a new narration by Franco and the Hawke narration is no longer available, at least in the US.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Tony Roberts for $1.99+$3.95 — “Written contemporaneously with the Cuban missile crisis and countenancing a version of a world in the grasp of magnified human stupidity, the novel is centered on Felix Hoenikker, a chemical scientist reminiscent of Robert Oppenheimer… except that Oppenheimer was destroyed by his conscience and Hoenikker, delighting in the disastrous chemicals he has invented, has no conscience at all. Hoenikker’s “Ice 9″ has the potential to convert all liquid to inert ice and thus destroy human existence; he is exiled to a remote island where Boskonism has enlisted all of its inhabitants and where religion and technology collaborate, with the help of a large cast of characters, to destroy civilization.”

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, read by Robertson Dean for $1.99+$3.95 — Dean is great on this audiobook, and if your only exposure to this story is the 2007 Will Smith film, prepare to encounter something quite different: “Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left. I Am Legend was a major influence in horror and brought a whole new thematic concept to apocalyptic literature. Several humanistic and emotional themes in this book blend the horror genre with traditional fiction: we see Neville as an emotional person, and observe as he suffers bouts of depression, dips into alcoholism and picks up his strength again to fight the vampiric bacteria that has infected (and killed off) most of humankind. Neville soon meets a woman, Ruth, (after three years alone), who seems to be uninfected and a lone survivor. The two become close and he learns from Ruth that the infected have learned to fight the disease and can spend short amounts of time in the daylight, slowly rebuilding strength and society as it was.”

 Star Trek: Into Darkness Audiobook

Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, read by Grover Gardner for $1.99+$3.49 — Gardner is the perfect voice for this wonderful novel of baseball and dreams: “Shoeless Joe, the soul-stirring novel on which the movie Field of Dreams is based, is more than just another baseball story. Kinsella captures the spiritual dimension that baseball represents for its most determined devotees in this tale of love and the power of dreams to make people come alive. “Shoeless Joe” is the great Joe Jackson, one of the eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox who were banned from baseball for throwing the World Series. One day, while out in his corn field, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears the voice of a baseball announcer saying, “If you build it, he will come.” “He,” of course, is Ray’s hero, Joe Jackson. “It” is a baseball stadium, which Ray carves out of his corn field.”

Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster, read by Alice Eve for $1.99+$3.99 — It’s a pity there was not budget enough to have Benedict Cumberbatch narrate this, but Eve’s accent brings an interesting flavor to Foster’s novelization: “The official movie tie-in novelization of the highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s blockbuster feature film Star Trek! Pioneering director J. J. Abrams has delivered an explosive action thriller that takes Star Trek into darkness. When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.”

Unborn (Unborn Series Book 1) and Unseen (Unborn Series Book 2) by Amber Lynn Natusch, read by Angela Dawe for $2+$1.99 each — “Born into mystery. Shackled to darkness…. Khara has spent centuries discovering everything about the Underworld_except her place in it. But when she’s ripped from her home, solving the riddle of her origins becomes more important than ever. With evil stalking her through the dark alleys of Detroit, she finds salvation from an unlikely source: a group of immortal warriors sworn to protect the city. Khara needs their help to unravel the tangled secrets of who and what she is-secrets many seem willing to kill for. But time is running out, and the closer she gets to the truth, the closer necessity binds her to an arrogant fallen angel. Can their shaky alliance withstand that which threatens her, or will her soul fall victim to the unholy forces that hunt her_those that seek the Unborn?”

Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall, read by Emily Durante for $2+$1.99 — “Miramont Castle, built in 1897 and mysteriously abandoned three years later, is home to many secrets. Only one person knows the truth: Adrienne Beauvier, granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles and cousin to the man who built the castle. Clairvoyant from the time she could talk, Adrienne’s visions show her the secrets of those around her. When her visions begin to reveal dark mysteries of her own aristocratic French family, Adrienne is confronted by her formidable Aunt Marie, who is determined to keep the young woman silent at any cost. Marie wrenches Adrienne from her home in France and takes her to America, to Miramont Castle, where she keeps the girl isolated and imprisoned. Surrounded by eerie premonitions, Adrienne is locked in a life-or-death struggle to learn the truth and escape her torment.”

The Last Moriarty (A Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery) by Charles Veley , read by Edward Petherbridge for $2+$2.99 — “On a cold November morning, a young American actress visits 221B Baker Street, desperate for Sherlock Holmes to protect her from the threats of a mysterious, menacing man who has recently appeared in her life. Holmes agrees to help, even though he has just promised the Prime Minister to solve the murder of John D. Rockefeller’s security agent before the incident can derail an upcoming British-American summit. To find the agent’s killer―and help the young actress―Holmes will need all his talents for both deduction and deception. But when another lovely woman, this one from Holmes’s past, reappears and clues to the murder point to the late Professor Moriarty, the famously analytical detective must also look inward. Can Holmes prevent chaos on both sides of the Atlantic and unmask his newest client’s shadowy antagonist? For Holmes and Watson, this is the case that will change everything.”

Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt, read by Leslie Hull for $1.99+$1.99 — “Recent art school graduate Bekah thought she’d hit the jackpot: an unknown relative died, and she inherited a small fortune and a huge house in the mountains of North Carolina. Trey Howard, the lawyer who handled the estate, is a handsome man in his 20s and they hit it off right away – and soon become more than friends. Bekah expected a pleasant year to get her head together and have a romantic fling. Problem is, the house is full of junk…and siblings she didn’t know she had are willing to kill her for it. More important, the junk in her new house is magical, she’s surrounded by monsters, and her life seems to be in mortal peril every time she ventures into a new room. As Bekah discovers more about her mysterious benefactor and the magical world he inhabited, she’s realizes that as tough and resourceful as she is, she might just be in over her head…”

Teen: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti, read by Amber Benson for $1.99+$3.99 — “X-Men meets Heroes when New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld teams up with award-winning authors Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti to create a sizzling new series filled with action and adventure. Don’t call them heroes. But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart.”

Kids: Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms Book 1) by Brandan Mull, read by Keith Nobbs for $1.99+$3.99 — “Adventure awaits in the Five Kingdoms – come and claim it in this start to a new series from the number-one New York Times best-selling author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series. Cole Randolph was just trying to have a fun time with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level. After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them – and ends up in The Outskirts. The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. It’s an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds. And once you come to the Outskirts, it’s very hard to leave.”

Whew! That’s what caught my eye this month. Happy #WhispersyncDeal hunting! And if DRM-free audiobooks is your bag, don’t forget Downpour’s 100-title science fiction $5.95 audiobook sale: Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon, Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, Cory Doctorow, Jeff VanderMeer, Ray Bradbury, and more, which like all the deals on this post expires July 31.

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