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Blood Rose Rebellion

Rosalyn Eves, read by Fiona Hardingham. Listening Library, , unabridged, 9 CDs, 8.5 hrs., $55 ISBN 978-0-7352-0711-0

In this new Regency fantasy series set in 19th-century London, 16-year-old Anna is a member of the Luminate, the British nobility whose magic powers solidify their place as the ruling class. But Anna has no magic of her own, only the ability to break others’ spells, which makes her the black sheep of the family. After ruining her sister’s debutante spell, she is sent to Hungary to live with her exiled grandmother. But once there, she discovers that the Luminate are artificially keeping magic for themselves and that there is a resistance movement dedicated to freeing magic for all to use—and Anna’s special gift may be the key, if she is willing to join them. Voice actor Hardingam emphasizes Anna’s yearning and conflicted emotions, and she is especially gifted at creating unique character voices with an endless array of authentic accents: the upper-class British nobility, cockney servants, a Scottish revolutionary, Anna’s Hungarian cousins and elderly grandmother, and Austrian officials, as well as ghoulish supernatural creatures with unearthly voices. Her dazzling narration creates a dark and intriguing world that fans of both Jane Austen–style drawing room novels and the supernatural will enjoy. Ages 12–up. A Knopf hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame, read by Andrew Wincott. Dreamscape Media, unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-5200-6857-2

A children’s standard for over a century is given a first class reading by actor Wincott. Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger are four lovable animal friends who live on the river. Together they enjoy a quiet life of picnics and boating. But adventures do touch their lives upon occasion, the most well-known of these being the fabulous Mr. Toad’s wild ride in a stolen automobile, an act that lands the childishly impulsive amphibian in jail, which then leads to a clever escape and further escapades. The prose and phrasing of the tales, first published in 1908, may be antiquated for today’s children, but actor Wincott’s exuberant reading is lively enough to catch the attention of listeners of all ages. His upbeat, enthusiastic narration brings vitality to every passage, poem, and personality. This audiobook is an excellent way to introduce young readers to this literary classic. Ages 9–up. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Beyond the Bright Sea

Lauren Wolk, read by Jorjeana Marie. Listening Library, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-5247-7502-5

Several central characters populate Wolk’s New England coming-of-age novel. The protagonist, Crow, at 12, has begun asking questions about her past as an abandoned baby—questions that neither her taciturn foster father, Osh, nor their matter-of-fact neighbor Miss Maggie are equipped to answer. As the story unfolds, the three characters venture forth from their tiny island off Cape Cod to discover the truth about Crow’s lost family, encountering unexpected dangers along the way. Marie is a sensitive narrator whose characterizations are unique and often power- ful. She excels at playing Osh, who speaks little but communicates much, ensuring his deep love for Crow shines through in his brief and sometimes stern dialogue. Marie also provides interesting performances for the loyal Miss Maggie and several island residents, as well as for the villain of the piece: a cold-blooded treasure hunter who is determined to unearth the secrets of Crow’s past before she does. Marie handles the challenge of three leading characters with ease, keeping listeners captivated throughout. Ages 10–up. A Dutton hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, read by Kimberly Farr. Random House Audio, unabridged, 14 CDs, 17 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-1-5247-2288-3

The sprawling narrative from journalists Allen and Pares incorporates multiple unnamed insider sources who agreed to share their firsthand experiences anonymously. A fair amount of straight-up dialogue materializes at key intervals, but the book’s foundation is extensive sections describing the perspectives of the key players in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the factors that contributed to her loss to Donald Trump. Veteran stage actress Farr juggles these elements smoothly, partly because her serious tone and metered pacing resemble the voice of Clinton herself. She also revs up the tension by adding extra weight to her voice in some of the more dramatic parts of the narrative, such as when the campaigners react to public statements made by then FBI director James Comey and—of course—the drawn-out events of election night. Farr helps the authors paint mental pictures for the audience. The threads will come together most clearly for those listeners who are already steeped in political news coverage. A Crown hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home

Amy Dickinson, read by the author. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 7 CDs, 9 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-1-4789-1251-4

Dickinson, who writes the syndicated “Ask Amy” advice column, follows The Mighty Queens of Freeville with this similarly themed memoir of love lost and found. Returning as a divorced adult to the small town near Ithaca, N.Y., where she grew up, Dickinson did not expect to find love; her primary motivation for moving was to be near her aging mother. But most of this memoir is about falling in love with a prior acquaintance, carrying out a courtship under the prying eyes of a small town, and remarrying and becoming a stepmother. Reading the audiobook, Dickinson’s emotions comes through as she recounts the ups and downs of these years, especially the slow decline of her mother and her own debilitating grief following her mother’s death. She is more spirited while reading the lighter elements of her story, gleefully recounting a series of terrible dates between her two marriages and describing the various indignities of middle age. Dickinson’s delivery can be rushed and at times giggly, with many sentences rising in pitch at the end so that they resemble questions. Still, the intimacy of this memoir rests on Dickinson’s authenticity, so these small imperfections only add to the listening experience. A Hachette hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

John T. Edge, read by the author. Penguin Audiobook, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-1-5247-3617-0

Edge, who serves as director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, projects a relaxed yet erudite style in rendering the audio edition of his latest title, an exploration of his region’s complex—sometimes contradictory—history with food in the decades since World War II. His gentle drawl and generally leisurely pacing comes across like a conversational lecture, remaining teacherlike enough to convey the sense of someone expounding on an academic discipline. In delivering the many passages of the book tied to issues of race and ethnicity, Edge takes great pains to give divergent figures distinct voices without resorting to stock characterizations. This is no small feat, particularly given the baggage that surrounds the relationship between white and black southerners in the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. His depiction of the brave activism of civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer, who focused on agricultural justice for African-Americans in addition to her crusade for voting rights, evokes a stirring sense of time and place. A Penguin Press hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness

Paula Poundstone, read by the author. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7.5 hrs., $34.99 ISBN 978-1-6816-8403-1

One of veteran comedian Poundstone’s highest-profile recurring gigs involves panelist duties on National Public Radio’s Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! game show, and the accomplished funnywoman draws quite effectively on her natural ease in front of a microphone, bringing the droll quality of her stand-up comedy to the audio medium. The narrative centers on her quest to find the elusive experience of bliss through various experiments, ranging from the altruism of donating plasma and volunteering in a nursing home to the hedonism of renting a sports car or watching movies at home with her three kids for 24 hours in a row. Poundstone’s turn imitating the teenage angst of her technology-addicted son leaves a particularly memorable impression. An Algonquin hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My Darling Detective

Howard Norman, read by Bronson Pinchot. Blackstone Audio, unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $34.95 ISBN 978-1-4708-6223-7

In Norman’s smart new novel, set in 1970s Nova Scotia, protagonist Jacob Rigolet is attending a photographic art auction when his mother, Nora, a patient at a nearby residential treatment center, rushes into the room and tosses ink on Robert Capa’s famous 1945 photo Death on a Leipzig Balcony. After a swift arrest, Nora is interrogated by Halifax Regional Police investigator Martha Crauchet—who is also her future daughter-in-law. The story behind the attack on Capa’s photo is revealed, bringing up other mysteries involving family relationships, romantic entanglements, books, libraries, an amusingly noir radio drama, and murders. All of this is presented in a fast-paced, whimsical, semidetached literary style that few can bring off as successfully or as entertainingly as Norman. Fortunately, Pinchot is an actor capable of the subtlety this type of stylized fiction demands. His excellent portrayals of the hopelessly-in-love Jacob and Martha, to the wistful Nora, and the hard-boiled characters on the couple’s favorite radio show, Detective Levy Detects, don’t miss a beat. A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Devil and Webster

Jean Hanff Korelitz, read by Kate Burton. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 9 CDs, 11 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-1-4789-3486-8

A consummate actor, Burton hits all the right notes delving into the conflicted inner life of Webster College President Naomi Roth: she convincingly portrays Roth’s pain that her daughter is growing older and moving on, and as she deals with a student rebellion and its leader, Palestinian student Omar Kayal, whom she at once admires and distrusts. Burton makes listeners ponder, as Roth does, sets of antithetical values: freedom and discipline, friendship and principles, youthful idealism and unrestrained rebellion, pity and common sense. This is a thought-provoking book and Burton’s narration is excellent throughout. A Grand Central hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Adrian McKinty, read by Gerard Doyle. Blackstone Audio, unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $34.95 ISBN 978-1-5046-8765-2

Doyle returns as narrator for McKinty’s sixth Sean Duffy novel. It’s 1988, and Det. Sean Duffy is a Catholic policeman serving in Northern Ireland during the unstable time of The Troubles. He’s seen a lot during his career, but the murder by crossbow of a local drug dealer is something new even in a world where car bombings, riots, and assassinations are almost commonplace. As he and his team dig into the case, he learns that there is more to the dealer’s death than meets the eye, and his continued inquires will endanger not only his own life but the lives of those closest to him. This is familiar territory for Doyle, and he knows exactly how to navigate the material. From the tense opening scene he keeps the story moving at a steady pace, expertly building the suspense as Duffy delves deeper into the mystery. Bolstered by excellent characterizations, Doyle’s reading holds the listener transfixed straight through to the final confrontation when all is revealed. A Seven Street paperback. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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