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The Raven King

Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton. Scholastic Audio, , unabridged, 11 CDs, 12 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-0-545-64908-7

In the final book of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Richard Gansey’s quest to find the lost king Glendower is only part of the sprawling, fascinatingly complex plot, weaving together past and future, secrets and prophecies, with a colorful cast of characters (each with his or her own magical power or secretive past). This magical world’s mythology has the air of a dark fairy tale: Gansey previously died but was brought back; Blue is destined to kill her true love with a kiss; Noah is a ghost, struggling to stick around long after he should have faded away; Ronan is a dreamer whose dreamed creations come to life. As in the previous audiobooks of the series, Steifvater’s poetic, literary style of prose is served well by reader Patton, whose gravelly, folksy voice sounds tailor-made for a storyteller: it’s easy to imagine him sitting around a campfire spinning inventive tales. Moreover, he gives every character in the huge cast a voice so distinctive that one might think this was a multicast recording. Patton’s extraordinary, masterly performance is a perfect match for this imaginative and compelling series finale. Ages 14–up. A Scholastic Press hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Highly Illogical Behavior

John Corey Whaley, read by Robbie Daymon and Julia Whelan. Listening Library, unabridged, 5 CDs, 6.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-0-7352-8579-8

Solomon Reed, 16, suffers from acute anxiety and agoraphobia and hasn’t left his house since a panic attack in seventh grade. His former classmate Lisa—an ambitious straight-A student, in need of a subject for a scholarship essay about mental illness, thrusts herself into Solomon’s life with a plan to “cure” him using some armchair cognitive behavior therapy. Solomon doesn’t think he needs saving (and doesn’t know about the essay), but he lets Lisa in, followed by her handsome boyfriend, Clark, who shares his interest in comic books, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and card games. Heartbreak ensues when Solomon falls for Clark. Voice actors Daymon and Whelan alternate reading chapters that focus on Solomon and those that focus on Lisa. Daymon captures Solomon’s awkward and eccentric personality, while Whelan adeptly communicates Lisa’s arrogance. Both actors add charm to Printz Award–winner Whaley’s quick-witted story with endearing, believably flawed teens. Ages 14–up. A Dial hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Every Exquisite Thing

Matthew Quick, read by Vanessa Johansson. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs., $25 ISBN 978-1-4789-3838-5

In this coming-of-age story, teenager Nanette O’Hare is transformed from conformist to rebel when she reads an out-of-print novel that stresses personal authenticity. With some of her subsequent choices—falling in love with a troubled fellow fan of the book, quitting sports, and refusing to feign interest in her peers’ shallow preoccupations—she discovers the joy of genuine freedom but also the difficult lesson that “you must sometimes pay a high price for individuality.” Johansson is an experienced narrator and voice actress who has performed dozens of audio books, including murder mysteries, middle-grade fiction, and romance. Many of the characters speak with a New Jersey accent, which Johansson nails, adding flavor to the story without sounding caricaturist. Her performance doesn’t shy away from the raw emotions of first love and loss, but it stays in keeping with Nanette’s generally circumspect and level emotional keel: this is a girl who holds things tightly to the chest. Johansson’s narration makes this an engaging and thoughtful listen. Ages 15–up. A Little, Brown hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen

Jazz Jennings, read by the author. Listening Library, unabridged, 4 CDs, 4 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-0-7352-0742-4

Jennings, the 16-year-old YouTube star who is one of the nation’s youngest and most outspoken transgender activists, narrates this brief memoir of her life so far. What’s particularly refreshing is how evident it is that she is still a kid—irrepressible, fearless, and at times charmingly immature. She is a very fast talker, whose performance is long on passion and implied italics. The listener can discern her intensity when she discusses some teachers’ and coaches’ discomfort with her gender identity. Whether she’s relating her family’s crusade to allow her to play soccer on the girls’ team or her frustration at not getting a starring role in a theater production, she is, by her own admission, outspoken and dramatic. She can also be tender when relating the stories of other transgender individuals who have not grown up with the unflagging support she has had from her parents and siblings. But if the performance ever gets too serious, Jennings always brings it back to the bright, upbeat zone of a confident teenager. Overall, this is an entertaining, rapid-fire performance. Ages 12–up. A Crown hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey

Harlan Lebo, read by Tom Zingarelli. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 9 CDs, 10.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-5159-0355-0

Lebo pays tribute to Orson Welles’s masterpiece Citizen Kane in this history of the film’s production and release, published just in time for its 75th anniversary. The book honors Welles’s filmmaking genius, but it also goes notably in-depth on Welles’s principal collaborators. Lebo’s detailed examination takes listeners from Welles’s success on the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast to the nuances of the Kane’s production to its complicated release, impaired by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who tried to prevent the film from coming out when he saw too much of himself in the morally shaky title character. Reader Zingarelli’s deep and projective voice is reminiscent of Orson Welles, which makes him a fun choice to read the audio edition. When the text quotes primary sources, he creates distinct voices that do not attempt to imitate the original speakers but are distinguished enough to guide the listener. His energetic pacing keeps Lebo’s prose lively—there is never a dull moment. A St. Martin’s/Dunne hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction

Neil Gaiman, read by the author. HarperAudio, unabridged, 13 CDs, 15.5 hrs., $44.99 ISBN 978-0-06-241719-0

Pooling together his various nonfiction works over the decades, including articles, reviews, book introductions, speeches, and more, Gaiman gives listeners a fascinating exploration into his own mind and artistic influences. Whether he’s discussing classic literature, comics, film, or other works, Gaiman draws out subtle considerations that often can change how listeners think about the topic. He narrates the book effectively with his deep, slightly nasal voice and a conversational manner that will make listeners feel as he is talking to them directly. His voice reflects his own emotions—often excitement and enthusiasm—as he discusses the ideas, people, and experiences that have had a lasting impact on him. Rarely is an author as charismatic in speaking as he is in writing. A Morrow hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Nancy Isenberg, read by Kirsten Potter. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 12 CDs, 15.5 hrs., $44.99 ISBN 978-1-5159-0544-8

Isenberg tackles a topic rarely addressed by mainstream American writing on race and class as she skillfully demonstrates that “class defines how real people live.” Isenberg highlights how social power brokers (including politicians, lawmakers, psychiatrists, and sociologists, writers of newspaper and literature) play a role in defining and reinforcing class in America. Actress Potter reads this complicated text with the solemnity and respect Isenberg’s prose deserves. In particular, Potter proves a master of emphasis, moving through each sentence and balancing the need to move forward with the need to vocally capture the sentence’s meaning. Her voice has a low but soft quality to it that makes it enjoyable to listen to, while her ability to strike meaning into each sentence keeps listeners engaged through this fascinating history. A Viking hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Security

Gina Wohlsdorf, read by Zach Villa. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-6223-1990-9

Wohlsdorf’s debut thriller plays out on a bank of surveillance monitors in what was thought to be a state-of-the-art security stronghold at the luxe beachfront Manderley Resort in Santa Barbara, California. With its grand opening approaching, the 20-story hotel has been breached by a pair of assassins, who are planning to close off all exits and slaughter, in as grisly a way as possible, the staffers readying the hotel for its debut. Initially, all we know about the narrator is that he’s probably responsible for the resort’s security and is staring at the monitors, witnessing the horror unfold. Reader Villa, given these very bare bones by Wohlsdorf, creates an articulate young man with amazing sangfroid who can segue, without losing a beat, from a monitor image of the hotel’s manager, Tessa, making love with motocross star Brian, to another monitor where an assassin is stabbing, mutilating, and beheading a housemaid. There’s a droll quality to Villa’s delivery that adds to the novel’s flashes of dark humor. And he’s very effective in concocting voices for the staff, including a despotic intemperate French chef, wisecracking electricians, and a thuggish worker who may have compromised the hotel. The narrator’s cool dissolves until, eventually, he sounds totally caught up in their suspenseful struggle. Listeners will be, too. An Algonquin hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Murder Has Nine Lives

Laura Levine, read by Brittany Pressley. Dreamscape Media, unabridged, 6 CDs, 6.5 hrs., $59.99 ISBN 978-1-5200-0814-1

Fans of sitcom writer Levine’s Jaine Austen series about a L.A.-based freelance writer and her snarky cat, Prozac, will find much to enjoy in this cozy tale of murder in the backstage world of TV commercials. With Prozac set to be the new face for Skinny Kitty feline food, Jaine is introduced to a collection of characters, including talent agent Didi Wallace, an assortment of eccentric cat owners, and a mostly malcontent cast and crew. With excellent timing, reader Pressley gets the most out of Jaine’s self-deprecating narration, during her work as copywriter for Toiletmasters’ innovative self-flushing commodes, her toe-cringing dinner date with the world’s most handsome man, who has a fixation on his teddy bear, and her phone calls from her bizarre parents. But Pressley’s most impressive achievements may be the woozy conversations between Jaine and Prozac, with the latter sounding even more blasé and entitled than Garfield. A Kensington hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Kidnapped

Robert Louis Stevenson, read by David Rintoul. Naxos Audiobooks, , unabridged, 7 CDs, 8 hrs., $47.98 ISBN 978-1-84379-957-3

In 1751, after the untimely deaths of his parents, Scotsman David Balfour, the 17-year-old protagonist and narrator of Stevenson’s classic adventure yarn, travels to his father’s childhood home to meet with his uncle, Ebenezer. Instead of a warm welcome, Ebenezer pays the captain of a pirate ship to kidnap his nephew and transport him to America. On board, David meets dashing Highlander Alan Breck Stewart, and together they manage to take over the ship, beginning a friendship that continues through several land-based adventures. One of these involves witness (and escaping blame for) a murder. Scottish actor Rintoul does an amazing job of delivering a bouquet of brogues—including David’s mild-mannered narration, his uncle’s croaky, angry snarl, and Alan Stewart’s almost musical, supremely confident pronouncements. (June)

Reviewed on 08/26/2016 | Details & Permalink

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