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FanB14

FanB14 Rockville, VA, United States Member Since 2011

Short, Simple, No Spoilers

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3
  • "Character-Driven Mystery"

    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Alternating between 2011 and 1940, a dying mother, visited by her children, hints at a past regret to her daughter, Laurel. Present day Laurel visits libraries, families and spends her day digging into the past to determine what changed her mother all those years ago. Dorothy's past unfolds with love interest, Jimmy and you walk beside her experiencing the decisions she made for better or worse.

    At first, I thought this book would be predictible. I adored, "The Secret Garden," liked "Distant Hours," but didn't care for "House at Riverton." Hesitant to pick up this fourth offering from Morten and happy I did. She introduces complex characters whose desires make them human; neither perfect nor wrong. There are many corners you turn in the story and just when I thought I'd figured out the ending, I was led down a divergent path. Enjoyed the journey and hope you will, too. Excellent choice for women who like a good character driven mystery.

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    The Secret Keeper

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Kate Morton
    • Narrated By Caroline Lee
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2518)
    Performance
    (2149)
    Story
    (2158)

    England, 1959: Laurel Nicolson is 16 years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

    Maria says: "Kate Morton (and Caroline Lee) does it again!"
  • "Pure Poetry"

    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Can a novel composed in iambic pentameter be relatable, detailed, and meaningful? The answer is a resounding yes! Rakoff's lyrical rhyming composition doesn't detract or sacrifice story. It's not just a novelty for he packs each character's storyline with ironic and heartbreaking realism. A girl suffers a tragic event only to be dismissed by insecure mother; a secretary navigates a sexist boss in a loveless affair, and many other stories and scenarios I won't spoil.

    This novel is brief, yet loaded with satirical and tragic tales of ordinary people dealing the hand they're dealt. It's heartbreaking, yet beautiful. The vocabulary, turn of phrase, and irony transform this "poem" to a higher level. Felt I needed to revisit the 500 core GRE words to keep up! Listened on 1X to absorb the meaning and paused frequently to take in all the information. Short, yet thought-provoking and sad this is his last work. If you enjoyed this, check out another of his books, "Fraud."

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    Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By David Rakoff
    • Narrated By David Rakoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (128)
    Performance
    (120)
    Story
    (117)

    From the incomparable David Rakoff, a poignant, beautiful, witty, and wise novel in verse whose scope spans the 20th century. Through his books and his radio essays for NPR's This American Life, David Rakoff has built a deserved reputation as one of the finest and funniest essayists of our time. Written with humor, sympathy, and tenderness, this intricately woven novel proves him to be the master of an altogether different art form. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish leaps cities and decades as Rakoff sings the song of an America whose freedoms can be intoxicating, or brutal.

    FanB14 says: "Pure Poetry"
  • "24 Karat Collection"

    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    The title pays homage to Robert Frost and each story has a reference to gold therein. Characters from all age ranges tied to the Appalachian landscape fill this raw, real collection of tragic short stories. Trapped physically or mentally, each person navigates their ineffectual circumstances in hopes of reaching for sunlight only to realize the futility of their dreams. For example, in "Cherokee", a man and wife win big at a casino only to realize their victory is fleeting. I don't want to give away anymore details so you can enjoy each story as you go.

    Rash is a master story teller placing you in the middle of each story, connecting quickly with the characters, standing in their rough landscape, and facing the consequences of their choices some ending with dark consequences.

    Don't forget to press pause after each story; the next one begins quickly and you'll want to mull over the details from the last.

    If you enjoyed this, check out "The Cove," and "Serena," also by Rash and "Winter's Bone," by Danny Woodrell.

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    Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Ron Rash
    • Narrated By Alexander Cendese, Robert Petkoff, Prentice Onayemi, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19)
    Performance
    (19)
    Story
    (18)

    PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author Ron Rash turns again to Appalachia to capture lives haunted by violence and tenderness, hope and fear, in unforgettable stories that span from the Civil War to the present day. In the title story, two drug-addicted friends return to the farm where they worked as boys to steal their former boss' gruesomely unusual war trophies. In "The Trusty", which first appeared in The New Yorker, a prisoner sent to fetch water for his chain gang tries to sweet-talk a farmer's young wife into helping him escape, only to find that she is as trapped as he is.

    FanB14 says: "24 Karat Collection"
  1. The Secret Keeper
  2. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Di...
  3. Nothing Gold Can Stay: St...
  4. .

A Peek at connie's Bookshelf

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Votes
3215
 
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 395 REVIEWS / 1444 ratings 1437 Followers / Following 142
 
connie's greatest hits:
  • A Son of the Circus

    "If you liked "Q+A"..."

    Overall

    ...you might like this bizarre tale of family, community, hierarchy, missionaries, twins separated at birth, and transexual serial murder in India. Unlike Q+A's Vikras Swarup, Irving isn't Indian, but he avoids cultural appropriation (I think--I'm not Indian) by stating upfront in the intro that he doesn't know India well, thanking a host of South East Asian artists for their help, and creating an ex-pat main character who is alientated from his birth country but not assimilated into the West.

    I found the novel humourous and tremendously entertaining, but it's not for everyone: Know that there are multiple quirkly characters weaving through several intersecting storylines highly dependent upon coincidence, like a modern day tale from Trollope or Dickens with a twist of PG Wodehouse's mania, all held together by excellent narration.

    Irving asks, in a postcolonial global village, "where are you from?" rather than the usual, "who are you?", and the only viable attitude he offers to complexities of human nature is that of a child's wonderment at a circus, despite the probability that the acts are based on cruelty to participants. The opposite of such wonder is fundamentalism. Many characters are shackled by fate, but a few escape predictable ends through human imagination or altruism.

    Irving presents an unflattering but loving portrait of Bombay/Mumbai in the late 80s, before the terrorist bombings of 1993 and economic boom of 2000s. I'm not sure how an inhabitant would respond to the outsider's view. Also I'm not sure how a transexual might react to some of the characters. Some also might be put off by the novel's use of "cripple"/"crippled" to describe what we refer to now as disability, but all the charaters are "crippled," if not physically than emotionally or socially.

  • A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement

    "The epic Ken Follett wished he could write"

    Overall

    James from Vancouver describes this series so well - I want just to add that the prose as an audiobook becomes music and underline the subtle humour in its unfolding. Simon Vance handles the words like a master musician. I so look forward to the remaining three "movements" because this series is new to me. If you like Brit lit, pass over Follett for Powell. I'm glad Follett wrote his "Giants" -- that's probrably why a publisher reproduced Powell for us now. Long live audiobooks for making accessible novels some of us would never otherwise experience.

  • Buddhaland Brooklyn: A Novel

    "engaging listen"

    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a feel good listen with dharma (though the Buddhist sect depicted is fictional). The novel is unique and not at all saccharine, though it fits in the "happily ever after without angst" category. It's such an easy read, yet this novel has substance and poetry! I'm tempted to call it Paulo Coelo light, but I don't mean that as negative.

    The publisher's label of "fairy tale" and "fable" may mislead fantasy fans. While it can be heard as a fable about finding oneself, it's a storyline/fictional memoir from everyday life with little of the fantastic except a belief in a spiritual world - one that is shared by many faiths.

    I listen to a lot of novels, and this one landed just as I needed something fresh - It really gave my spirit a lift. I've listened to many Christian and Buddhist books about becoming less judgemental-- this novel worked better than nonfiction at getting me there. I haven't enjoyed a listen so much since many, many books ago.

  • A Dance to the Music of Time: Second Movement

    "not just for nostalgic posh Brits!"

    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Unfortunately we can't hyperlink in these reviews, but even Ian Rankin testifies to the enjoyableness of this series. When replying to a question something like, "best gift book ever' he wrote in The Guardian: "I started reading the first book, thinking: not sure I'm going to like this. All snobby privilege and a world I won't be interested in. By volume two, I was hooked. Widmerpool and the others were such good company, and the writing was elegant and concise, so I bought the rest of the books in the series."

    No matter if you are an Oxbridge or a Rebus type, a Brit, a Yankee or a Commonwealther, give Powell a chance, and your mind will dance with delight: elegant, concise, good company -- what more can we ask of a novel? Maybe that it's beautifully read to you - and Vance does just that.

richard

richard San Anselmo, CA, United States 07-25-13 Member Since 2006

63 y/o psychologist with two sons, living in SF Bay Area. I absolutely love all the feedback I've been getting for my reviews. It's very gratifying. Thanks to all of you.

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2
  • "A genuine laugh riot. Balerini is a..."

    33 of 35 helpful votes

    Clearly I had never heard of Tonino Benacquista before. I have, however, become something of a student of Edoardo Balerini. I would be the president of his fan club, were he to have one. The man has engaged and entertained me in a way which beggars description. This book is the story of an Italian gangster and his family, who go into the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) after he testifies against his former colleagues. The family ends up in a small town in Normandy, the name of which I swear to you sounds something like Schlong-sur-Mer. The gangster takes the name of Fred Baker, and tries to convince an entire town bristling with French gossips that he is a writer, engaged in some magnum opus mysterioso. His wife and chldren are dragged most unhappily into this fiasco. It is torture for them to keep the lie going, but of course it is essential that they pull it off, as unspeakable deaths await them if they fail. Mr. Baker's real name is Giovanni Menzano, I believe. The wife and kids have to invent names and full identities for themselves. They have one so-called friend, who is their supervisor in the WITSEC program, a man named Tom Quintiliani. (Please forgive me if I am messing up these names: it is very hard to memorize names when you are laughing out loud at the story, and at the exquisite predicament this family is in.)
    Edoardo Balerini has now reached a pinnacle (in my mind) which no other living narrator has ever come close to. It's not just that he's Italian; you can hear the pronunciation of his own name sound more Italian with each book. Since the book is set in France, Mr. Balerini must master a large variety of French accents and individual speech proclivities. You just cannot imagine how funny this is until you hear it. It is easy for Americans to make fun of the French, for reasons which have little to do with this book in particular (they are, though, so ENTIRELY full of themselves): please stop me now before I become quite tasteless. The plot ambles around in a good-natured sort of way. I actually got lost, as I was reading about four other books at the same time, and I discovered that it was a complete pleasure to start this book from the very beginning again. I realized that some of the jokes had just filtered through my cortex without being stored in memory (a fancy and preposterous way of saying that I forgot them), and so each was funny anew. This one is a winner. I hope Mr. Benacquisto has more up his sleeve. From the sounds of Mr. Balerini's voices I would guess him to be in his forties: how very, very lucky for us.

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    The Family - A Novel (Movie Tie-In), previously published as Malavita

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Tonino Benacquista
    • Narrated By Edoardo Ballerini
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (31)
    Story
    (29)

    The Blakes are newcomers to a small town in Normandy. Fred is a historian researching the Allied landings, Maggie enjoys charity work, and their kids are looking forward to meeting other teenagers at the local lycee. Or so it seems. In fact, Fred is really Giovanni Manzoni, an ex-goodfella turned stool pigeon who's been relocated from New Jersey to France by the FBI's witness protection program. And when imprisoned mobster Don Mimino gets wind of their location, it's Mafia mayhem.

    richard says: "A genuine laugh riot. Balerini is a master."

What's Trending in Literary:

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    Why we think it’s a great listen: Never before has an author’s narration of his fiction been so important to fully grasping the book’s impact and global implications. Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of its monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.

    Joseph says: "A storyteller's story"
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    In a scrap heap within an abandoned factory, the greatest invention in history lies dormant and unused. By what fatal error of judgment has its value gone unrecognized, its brilliant inventor punished rather than rewarded for his efforts? In defense of those greatest of human qualities that have made civilization possible, one man sets out to show what would happen to the world if all the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike.

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    Stephanie says: "Best Book in a while"
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    Of all of John Irving's books, this is the one that lends itself best to audio. In print, Owen Meany's dialogue is set in capital letters; for this production, Irving himself selected Joe Barrett to deliver Meany's difficult voice as intended. In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys – best friends – are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.

    Alan says: "Outstanding"
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    The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil.

    Lynda Rains Bonchack says: "A long time coming..........."
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    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Donna Tartt
    • Narrated By David Pittu
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4414)
    Performance
    (4039)
    Story
    (4039)

    The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity. It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

    B.J. says: "A stunning achievement - for author and narrator"
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    • By William Faulkner
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    An Oprah's Book Club Selection regarded as one of Faulkner's greatest and most accessible novels, Light in August is a timeless and riveting story of determination, tragedy, and hope. In Faulkner's iconic Yoknapatawpha County, race, sex, and religion collide around three memorable characters searching desperately for human connection and their own identities.

    Robert Stevens says: "Superb reading of an excellent work"
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    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Christina Baker Kline
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    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
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    (1944)
    Performance
    (1722)
    Story
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    Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to "aging out" out of the foster care system. A community-service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse.... As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

    Susan says: "Fascinating Journey for Two"
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    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Therese Plummer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character - lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative.

  •  
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    • By Tim O'Brien
    • Narrated By Bryan Cranston
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    Hailed by The New York Times as "a marvel of storytelling", The Things They Carried’s portrayal of the boots-on-the-ground experience of soldiers in the Vietnam War is a landmark in war writing. Now, three-time Emmy Award winner-Bryan Cranston, star of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, delivers an electrifying performance that walks the book’s hallucinatory line between reality and fiction and highlights the emotional power of the spoken word.

    Melinda says: "Heavy Load"
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    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 48 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Neil Gaiman
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    A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.

    Cynthia says: "Shadows Dissolved in Vinegar"
  • Atlas Shrugged

    • UNABRIDGED (63 hrs)
    • By Ayn Rand
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
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    Story
    (2918)

    In a scrap heap within an abandoned factory, the greatest invention in history lies dormant and unused. By what fatal error of judgment has its value gone unrecognized, its brilliant inventor punished rather than rewarded for his efforts? In defense of those greatest of human qualities that have made civilization possible, one man sets out to show what would happen to the world if all the heroes of innovation and industry went on strike.

    Mica says: "Hurt version decidedly superior"
  • The Kite Runner

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Khaled Hosseini
    • Narrated By Khaled Hosseini
    Overall
    (6240)
    Performance
    (1590)
    Story
    (1610)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: Never before has an author’s narration of his fiction been so important to fully grasping the book’s impact and global implications. Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of its monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them.

    Joseph says: "A storyteller's story"
  •  
  • Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 50 mins)
    • By Anna Quindlen
    • Narrated By Carrington MacDuffie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (199)
    Performance
    (173)
    Story
    (170)

    Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

    Jen says: "Exceeded My High Expectations"
  • Americanah

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Narrated By Adjoa Andoh
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (67)
    Performance
    (62)
    Story
    (60)

    Marilyn says: "Love this love story!"
  • The Luminaries

    • UNABRIDGED (29 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Eleanor Catton
    • Narrated By Mark Meadows
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (620)
    Performance
    (528)
    Story
    (546)

    It is 1866 and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

    Ian C Robertson says: "Literally Dickensian"
  • Life After Life: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Kate Atkinson
    • Narrated By Fenella Woolgar
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (947)
    Performance
    (846)
    Story
    (851)

    On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

    Diane says: "Life after life after life after life after life.."
  • This Blue

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Aurelie Sheehan
    • Narrated By Anne Bates
    Overall
    (0)
    Performance
    (0)
    Story
    (0)

    Born in France, Sophie returns to her birthplace on a quest to find not the place where she was a child but her childhood itself. Her poor French and the mistake of a cab driver results in her stepping into the Hotel Placide, an ancient house of blue walls and blue curtains and blue rugs, in which she encounters an aspiring nun, a trigger-happy little boy, and a quiet, enigmatic farmer.

  • The End of the Point: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Graver
    • Narrated By Hillary Huber
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    A precisely observed, superbly crafted novel, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver charts the dramatic changes in the lives of three generations of one remarkable family, and the summer place that both shelters and isolates them. Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts, has anchored life for generations of the Porter family, who summer along its remote, rocky shore. But in 1942, the U.S. Army arrives on the Point, bringing havoc and change.

    Kathi says: "Absorbing family saga"
  • The Realm of Last Chances

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Steve Yarbrough
    • Narrated By James Colby
    Overall
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    When Kristin Stevens loses her administrative job in California' s university system, she and her husband, Cal, relocate to Massachusetts. Kristin takes a position at a smaller, less prestigious college outside Boston and promptly becomes entangled in its delicate, overheated politics. Cal, whose musical talent is nothing more than a consuming avocation, spends his days alone, fixing up their new home. And as they settle into their early fifties, the two seem to exist in separate spheres entirely.

  • Cracks

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Sheila Kohler
    • Narrated By Jeri Silverman
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    A beautiful schoolgirl mysteriously disappears into the South African veld. Forty years later, 13 members of the missing girl's swimming team gather at their old boarding school for a reunion, and look back to the long, dry weeks leading to Fiamma's disappearance. As teenage memories and emotions resurface, the women relive the horror of a long-buried secret. A stunning and singular tale of the passion and tribalism of adolescence, Cracks lays bare the violence that lurks in the heart of even the most innocent.

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  • Tender Is the Night

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Narrated By Therese Plummer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
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    Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character - lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative.

  • Mr. Darwin's Shooter: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Roger McDonald
    • Narrated By Steffan La Touche
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    As a boy of 13, Syms Covington leaves his home in Bedford and goes to sea, passing into manhood as he sails the world, surveying Patagonia, and losing his virginity in the Pampas. Aboard the HMS Beagle, he enters the service of Charles Darwin as an energetic and precocious 15-year-old, and in the course of their voyages together he shoots and collects hundreds of specimens for his "gent", specimens that become fundamental to the formulation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

  • Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By John Irving
    • Narrated By Joe Barrett
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    Trying to Save Piggy Sneed contains a dozen short works by John Irving, beginning with three memoirs, including an account of Mr. Irving’s dinner with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. The longest of the memoirs, The Imaginary Girlfriend,” is the core of this collection.