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Find Me

Laura van den Berg, read by Emily Woo Zeller. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 7 CDs. 8.5 hrs. $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4945-1000-8

Reader Zeller provides a heartfelt reading of Van den Berg’s dark yet inspiring apocalyptic novel. As a mysterious illness spreads across the world, 19-year-old protagonist Joy Jones is living as ward of the sinister Hospital, along with other immune children, subject to the strange experiments of Dr. Bek, whose interest in Joy extends beyond medical inquiry. Zeller’s modulations in tone and pace conjure up the emotional starkness of Joy’s world and her roller coaster of emotions. The lightness in Zeller’s voice conveys Joy’s youthful optimism when she’s thinking of her mother and her happiness when she is with her beau, Louis. But when Joy is sad, lost, and heavy with her reality, Zeller’s tone drops and her pace becomes slow and thick like the cough syrup that Joy drinks to numb herself to her world. Zeller is careful not to overwork her narration and at times adopts an evenness in her voice that highlights Joy’s desperation and the ambiguity of what is and is not true in her sterile world. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Dracula

Bram Stoker, read by a full cast. Naxos AudioBooks, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 17 hrs., $89.98 ISBN 978-184-379-873-6

This full-cast production is a masterly depiction of the Victorian gothic ethos in Stoker’s classic tale. Told through a series of letters and diary entries, the novel begins when Count Dracula lures a young English lawyer named Jonathan Harker to his castle in Transylvania under the pretense of a real estate transaction, but Harker soon discovers the count is a vampire and the diabolical intent in the real estate deal. It falls to the resourceful Professor Van Helsing, along with a handful of intrepid heroes, including Harker and his fiancée, Mina, to stop the count’s evil plans. The readers each have a distinctive voice for their characters and do a perfect job of conveying the emotional content of the assorted letters and diaries. Jamie Parker’s portrayal of Harker is particularly stirring, especially as the character slowly pieces together the horrific truth about Dracula. Alison Pettitt succeeds at providing a gamut of emotions for the voice of Mina throughout the story. Each reader hits the mark with precision. For anyone who has never read (or for anyone looking to revisit) this classic tale of gothic horror, this is a fine way to do so. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Double Fudge Brownie Murder

Joanne Fluke, read by Susan Toren. Recorded Books, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $34.99 ISBN 978-1-4703-8196-7

Set in the idyllic little town of Lake Eden, Minn., this 18th entry in Fluke’s popular series begins with its cookie-maven heroine, Hannah Swensen, about to go on trial for her involvement in a fatal auto accident. If that’s not disturbing enough (even for the self-possessed Hannah), she discovers the judge murdered in his chambers. But the mystery element quickly gives way to Hannah’s more personal adventure—she’s falling in love with Ross, a former college classmate who may be moving back to town. Along with a soupçon of suspense and a large helping of amour, Fluke manages to stir in a fair amount of cookie chat with matching recipes. The latter, which has aided the series’ popularity, doesn’t work so well in audio format. The recipes also interrupt the generally entertaining plot (previous audio versions of this series wisely saved the recitation of recipes for after the story’s conclusion), which Toren narrates in splendid fashion. She also does a noteworthy job of giving voice to the novel’s charming red-haired Hannah; her engaging, multigenerational family; friends old and new; and assorted unpleasant antagonists. A Kensington hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Murder of Magpies

Judith Flanders, read by Susan Duerden. HighBridge Audio, unabridged, 7 CDs, 8 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-62231-602-1

The good news is that Flanders’s humorous debut thriller about the perils of a British book editor is filled with wit and snarky comments, along with shrewd insight into London’s apparently cutthroat publishing scene. The not-so-good news is that reader Duerden has a singsongy manner of speech that eventually detracts from the cleverness of the writing. Otherwise, her delivery—British, breathy, confidential—is a proper, pleasant enough match for Samantha “Sam” Clair, the self-effacing book editor who is the novel’s often-imperiled protagonist and narrator. And Duerden suitably adapts her voice to fit Sam’s glam, glib, razor-sharp corporate attorney mum; her eager and efficient goth assistant; an elderly, gentlemanly upstairs neighbor; and the blasé, slightly short-tempered Insp. Jake Field, who, in the course of searching for an author of Sam’s who’s gone missing, becomes her love interest. A Minotaur hardcover. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 04/24/2015 | Details & Permalink

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