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  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Tom Franklin
    • Narrated By Kevin Kenerly
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were unlikely boyhood friends. Larry was the child of lower middle-class white parents, Silas the son of a poor, single, black mother - their worlds as different as night and day. Yet a special bond developed between them in Chabot, Mississippi. But within a few years, tragedy struck. In high school, a girl who lived up the road from Larry had gone to the drive-in movie with him and nobody had seen her again.

    Ann says: "Excellent story, terrific narrator."
    "An Excellent Listen"

    Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is part murder mystery, part tale of personal and family redemption, and wholly evocative of a poor, rural area of Mississippi in both the '80s and the present. Tom Franklin's writing is superb -- carefully crafted, its beauty at times spare and at times lyrical -- and his ear for dialect is unerring. Kevin Kenerly's narration captures the South and the timbres of black and white voices with perfect understatement.

    One reviewer remarked that this is not a book for the sensitive, but I disagree. Yes, it touches our own pain on many levels; yes, we are drawn into bleak lives. Even at their bleakest moments, though, the characters are never entirely without a touching, tenuous, almost baffling hope. Ultimately, this is a story of healing, of refashioning what is broken into a new wholeness. A book that can take us on that journey is for the most sensitive among us, a book that above all is uplifting.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • The Good Daughters: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Joyce Maynard
    • Narrated By Joyce Maynard, Rebecca Tuttle, Jeff Woodman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike. Ruth Plank is an artist and a romantic with a rich, passionate, imaginative life. The last of five girls born to a gentle, caring farmer and his stolid wife, she yearns to soar beyond the confines of the land that has been her family's birthright for generations. Dana Dickerson is a scientist and realist whose faith is firmly planted in the natural world.

    DIANE says: "Loved this book!"

    The family secret on which this plot hung was obvious after only a few minutes. Even the final twist on the secret was obvious early on. This would have been a far more interesting book if Joyce Maynard had revealed it all to the reader in a prologue and developed the characters within that framework.

    That said, the plot was poignant, and the characters were generally likable through most of the book. It seemed a shame, though, to learn near the end that perhaps the most likable character was guilty of making a truly monstrous decision years before, rather than having been as much victim as everyone else. I was left feeling cheated by that revelation after investing too much in a character capable of something so awful. Again, had we known of this character's actions at the outset and seen the flaws, contradictions and complexities developed during the course of the book, I think it might have been possible to come away with affection for the character intact.

    Maynard captures the setting and era well. Overall, I think The Good Daughters is worth a listen. I only wish the potential in its premise had been more fully realized.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sing You Home

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Jodi Picoult
    • Narrated By Therese Plummer, Brian Hutchison, Mia Barron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. And it’s music that brings her back to love. When fertility issues lead to a divorce, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. As an unexpected friendship with a woman slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people - even those she loves and trusts most - don’t want that to happen.

    CDN says: "A Good Listen (except the music)"
    "A Good Listen (except the music)"

    Unlike other reviewers, I can't say the music spoiled this book, but its mediocrity was embarrassing -- especially in light of the scene in which Vanessa calls Zoe "the next Sheryl Crow."

    Other than that, for once I was not infuriated by the ending of a Picoult book. Her premises are invariably too tempting to resist, but her compulsion to kill off characters for no particular reason is something I've found disturbing. Here, at least, she finds a way to resolve a plot without tragedy.

    I thought the main characters were reasonably well-drawn. Even Max, despite his many flaws, was not wholly unsympathetic.

    Picoult's handling of the legal circus is reminiscent of Grisham's A Time to Kill, though not as deftly handled. The idea works here, though -- the characters' personal struggle lost in their very public exploitation by outsiders who care only about their own agendas. It would have rung a bit more true if there had been an equal amount of exploitation coming from those in Zoe's court. That side is where my own sympathies lie, but I harbor no illusions; in real life there would have been just as many high-profile lawyers and groups grabbing publicity as on the other side.

    I'd have preferred fewer courtroom revelations coming out of the blue. They came and went too quickly to serve any real purpose in terms of either plot or character development, especially so late in the book, and they made Zoe's lawyer look extraordinarily inept. By contrast, the plot point on which Zoe's decision rested was wholly predictable. One only wonders why on earth Vanessa did not have sufficient information to foresee, at the very least, a conflict.

    Nonetheless, I found this to be a book with an interesting idea at its heart, characters who were likable, and a satisfying resolution.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Tick Tock: Michael Bennett, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 11 mins)
    • By James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
    • Narrated By Bobby Cannavale, Scott Sowers
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    New York City's number-one detective, Michael Bennett, has a huge problem: the Son of Sam, the Werewolf of Wisteria, and the Mad Bomber are all back. The city has never been more terrified. The city calls on Detective Michael Bennett, pulling him away from a seaside retreat with his 10 adopted children, his grandfather, and their beloved nanny, Mary Catherine. Not only does it tear apart their vacation, it leaves the entire family open to attack.

    Chris says: "Another great listen!"
    "Fast-paced and Satisfying"

    I tended to stay away from James Patterson's co-authored books until I happened to stumble over the first in his Michael Bennett series. I was instantly hooked. Bennett and his family are immensely engaging. I was delighted to see another in the series, and it didn't disappoint. I read the first two and opted to listen to the next two. These audio versions are extremely well done. Bobby Cannavale's narration captures Michael Bennett perfectly in a voice as likable as the written character. Highly recommended.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Then She Found Me

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Elinor Lipman
    • Narrated By Mia Barron
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    April Epner teaches high school Latin, wears flannel jumpers, and is used to having her evenings free. Bernice Graverman brandishes designer labels, favors toad-sized earrings, and hosts her own tacky TV talk show: Bernice G! But behind the glitz and glam, Bernice has followed the life of the daughter she gave up for adoption 36 years ago. Now that she's got her act together, she's aiming to be a mom like she always knew she could. And she's hurtling straight for April's quiet little life....

    CDN says: "An Entertaining Book"
    "An Entertaining Book"

    Then She Found Me is a charming book. It's funny, at times poignant, and its characters are vivid and complex. Elinor Lipman's writing sparkles. I highly recommend it if you're in the mood for something light and entertaining.

    Mia Barron's narration is energetic and suits the book's tone, but I'd have liked the characters' voices to be a bit more nuanced and the pacing to be a little more varied. If I could have deducted only half a star for that, I would have.

    Note to those who (as I did) found their way here after seeing Helen Hunt's movie adaptation and hoped to delve a little more deeply into some of the movie's themes: You won't find the movie here. The movie's broad premise is the same, Bernice is essentially the same, and the April of the book is vaguely recognizable on film, as if strayed into a parallel universe and driven by different motivations. The movie's plot is entirely different, with most of the other characters either absent, utterly changed, or newly-created for the screenplay. The insights at the end of the movie, which are perhaps what I value most about it, are not drawn from the book.

    None of that is to say that the book suffers by comparison, no matter how much you loved the movie. In its own right, it's a lovely book with characters you'd miss if you read the book first and then saw the movie -- just as the movie is a lovely and deeply touching movie, with characters you miss if you see it first. If you're forewarned, if you approach the book as a different story, you won't be disappointed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Siege

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Stephen White
    • Narrated By Dick Hill
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    As a lovely weekend approaches on the Yale campus it appears that a number of students - including the sons of both the secretary of the army and newest Supreme Court justice - may have gone missing. Kidnapping? Terrorism? The authorities aren't sure. But the high-profile disappearances draw the attention of the CIA and the FBI's vaunted Hostage Rescue Team.

    L. Edgar says: "Hunh!!!??"
    "For the first time, I couldn't finish listening"

    I had to stop listening to this book halfway through. It's the first time I've done that. I don't know what possessed Dick Hill to make the choices he did in his narration, but it was unbearably ponderous and articulated with a bizarre sameness, no matter which region a character was supposed to be from. Purdy sounds as if he ended up in Minnesota by way of New York. Poe's accent is simply a toned-down version of Purdy's. I don't know if Hill thinks this quirk of speech is characteristic of law enforcement generally (although he couldn't seem to break out of these speech patterns for any of the characters), but after over seven hours of it, I was ready to jump out of my skin.

    I listened to clips of some of the other books Dick Hill narrates, and he's clearly capable of making entirely different choices.

    I don't feel as if I've missed much. The book's premise has a lot of promise, but the first half meanders among the personal woes of angst-ridden cops, with little plot development.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Passage: The Passage Trilogy, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (36 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Justin Cronin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

    Nicole says: "You love it or you hate it..."

    Justin Cronin writes well. His post-apocalyptic world is well-imagined (especially life in the Colony), and the characters are well-realized. Scott Brick's narration is excellent.

    What bothered me throughout The Passage is that far too many elements are derived from The Stand -- major plot devices, settings, characters (especially Auntie, but others in subtler ways), even the taunting voice of evil in dreams (certain phrases like "got a little bunski in the ovenski" struck me as a near parody of Stephen King).

    King did it better, though. If you're one of his fans, I recommend holding out for an audio version of The Stand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Watership Down

    • UNABRIDGED (15 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Richard Adams
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren; he felt sure of it. They had to leave immediately. So begins a long and perilous journey of survival for a small band of rabbits. As the rabbits skirt danger at every turn, we become acquainted with the band, its humorous characters, and its compelling culture, complete with its own folk history and mythos.

    B. Cable says: "Still one of the best!"

    It has been years since I read Watership Down, but much of it, including names, personalities, and lapine words, stayed with me all this time. Richard Adams imagined a non-sentimental, engrossing rabbit world, which he then fully realized and sustained in writing that beautifully and lyrically brings it alive. Ralph Cosham's narration does it full justice.

    Like another reviewer, I find myself wanting to share this magnificent audio version with my family -- and like that same reviewer, I laughed out loud at the story of Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wogdog.

    Watership Down held me in its spell when I was 30, and in audio format it is equally, if not more, spellbinding years later. Highly recommended!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • The False Friend

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Myla Goldberg
    • Narrated By Myla Goldberg
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    One after­noon, two young friends decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened. The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward....

    CDN says: "Haunting"

    I listened to The False Friend over three months ago, and it continues to tug at me. Myla Goldberg has written what is not so much a coming-of-age story as a compelling novel about the profound and lingering wounds from girlhood bullying that we carry with us into womanhood. This is not the story of someone who was bullied; it is told from the point of view of someone who was a bully. On a journey to her childhood home to confront the truth behind a tragedy, she discovers that she left a broader swath of damage than she imagined. And a plot twist uncovers the unexpected extent of the damage she did to herself.

    The False Friend is a novel of repentance and atonement. It is also a sobering cautionary tale. Young adults will probably not be able to project its full implications decades ahead into their own lives. What we can hope is that in this book women will find a healing perspective, and that all parents and teachers will find a renewed strength in guiding their daughters away from accepting bullying as a rite of passage.

    Myla Goldberg does a creditable job of narration, although, as with most authors (with the notable exception of Sue Miller), Ms. Goldberg's pitch and tone are not ideal for a narrator. Given that her book delves into a pre-adolescent past, her chirpiness is not entirely misplaced. Though in the future I'd prefer to hear someone else narrate her work, in this instance her narration does not detract from the novel's impact.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Asylum

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Patrick McGrath
    • Narrated By Ian McKellen
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the summer of 1959 Stella Raphael joins her psychiatrist husband, Max, at his new posting - a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. Stella soon falls under the spell of Edgar Stark, a brilliant sculptor who has been confined to the hospital for murdering his wife in a psychotic rage. But Stella's knowledge of Edgar's crime is no hindrance to the volcanic attraction that ensues -a passion that will consume Stella's sanity and destroy her and the lives of those around her.

    Mebythesea says: "So enjoyed this book!"
    "Astonishingly good"

    The multiple layers of obsession and madness in Asylum are masterfully crafted right through its final sentence. Ian McKellen's narration is flawless, perfectly nuanced. I have well over two hundred books in my library, and I'd put Asylum high in the top five.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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