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Soneela Nankani has one of those voices that I could hear all day. When I started listening to audiobooks she was instantly outstanding as a narrator and I started reading her impressive work and looking for novels to add to my TBR. A trained actress who has appeared on many respected theater companies, she is a dynamic and flexible narrator who narrates everything from nonfiction to YA to fantasy, approaching 200 different titles. She is the voice behind beloved children’s books like Aru Shah and The End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, the Reese Witherspoon Book Club, which picks its only wife from Peace Adzo Medie, and a personal favorite, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. Is there a story that she can’t beautifully bring to life? I do not think so. Here are five great novels by Soneela Nankani that you should download right now!
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
This was the first book I ever heard from Soneela Nankani and it got her on my radar! Amani Al’Hiza is a poor orphan in the desert, where her city is at the mercy of the soldiers who have invaded the deserted areas as small and rumored beasts. She wants to get out of her town and enters a sniper competition that she can go to – and there she meets Jin, a mysterious stranger who changes all of her plans. Before she knows it, Amani flees the only house she knows and sets off towards magic, danger, and a fate she could not have imagined. Nankani’s narrative captures the adventure and romance of this book so well, and it perfectly reveals the dramatic twists and turns in the plot.
The problem of hating you from Sajni Patel
Liyah is an anomaly and scandal in her traditional community because she has a strong job, moved out of her parents’ home as quickly as possible, and has no intention of submitting to an arranged marriage. When a trick meeting with Jay Shah, a very skilled attorney, gets Liyah up and running, she hopes her parents get the message that she isn’t interested. But then she discovers that Jay is the lawyer sent to aid her struggling society and she is forced to face him. As they spend more time together – reluctantly at first, then willingly – Liyah discovers that she is very fond of Jay. But can she be with him without giving up her hard-won identity? I liked the emotions Nankani brought to this narrative, especially since it is a romance novel that deals with serious topics such as assault, rape culture, domestic violence, and family alienation. Bonus – This is a dual POV novel where Nankani also narrates Jay’s perspective, and I think she did a great job with his voice.
Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Nima is a teenager who is still angry and upset that her mother left her and her father months ago and hasn’t made contact in all that time. When she and her best friend go to their town’s summer festival, Nima discovers a tent full of drag performers, all of whom are confident and dazzling in their skills, and she is immersed in her world. Soon she is flirting with a very cute drag king, befriends a drag queen and tries out drag performing for herself. But she also neglects her best friend and pushes herself out of her comfort zone, with unexpected and sometimes disastrous consequences. What I love about this book and Nankani’s narrative is that it contains some of the most painful and embarrassing moments for Nima, and Nankani captured that awkwardness perfectly, making it easy to listen while I longed for Nima.
Caught by Alexa Martin
Soneela Nankani narrates the majority of this audiobook (another actor just narrates the prologue) that follows Elliot, a young biracial woman who got her dream job as a publicist for the Denver Mustangs. But she falls into a PR nightmare when star quarterback Quinton takes a knee during her first few weeks at work during the national anthem. While Elliot agrees and agrees with his protest against racial injustice, she is also under pressure from her boss to “fix” the situation. At first, Elliot and Quinton meet in a spectacular way, but when Elliot learns more about Quinton’s story, they fall in love, even if the situation at work becomes even more complicated. This is another standout romance that deals with heavy topics and reflects current events, and Nankani did a great job of telling all of the nuances this book touches on.
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Internment of Samira Ahmed
In this YA dystopia, which will set in in the near future, there is an increasingly volatile political situation and a decree by the Islamaphobic government that all US Muslims must move to internment camps. Layla is appalled when she and her parents are evicted from their home, and she tries hard to keep in touch with her boyfriend outside. But through the friends she makes in the camp and the connections she has outside, she and those who are wrongly imprisoned fight back against the camp and its director and demand that their voices be heard. From the beginning, Nankani’s voice captures the fear and tension of the political situation, but also the delicate moments between Layla and those she loves.
Some other great books Soneela narrated and read in print are Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao and Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed! Want more recommendations for Nankani audiobooks? We’ll cover you.