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Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 discs
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Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, is a wonderful breath of fresh air in which readers are introduced to Lara Lington and her great aunt Sadie Lancaster.  Part ghost story and party mystery, at its heart this is a story about respect, family tradition, and history.  Unlike Kinsella’s hilarious Shopaholic series, there is a great deal more heart and emotion in this one.  Lara is struggling in her new line of work as a head hunter, after her business partner left her in a lurch, but once she’s accosted during a funeral by a ghost, she has little choice but to look beyond her own plans and go on an adventure she’ll never forget.

Sadie and Lara make a fantastic team as they try to locate her great aunt’s favorite necklace, and in the meantime, Sadie’s whispers are making their way through many lives with some hilarious results.  Lara has spent a lot of time hoping for the best and pining away for her ex-boyfriend, pretending that all is well.  But when Sadie enters her life, she’s forced to really reassess where she’s been and what she’s been doing with her life.  Sadie, who didn’t think she amounted to much in 105 years and lost the one true love of her life, spent a great many years having fun and barely committing to anything or anyone.  They are opposites in many ways, but they teach each other how to truly live.  Rosalyn Landor is a terrific narrator who does excellent voices for male and female characters, as well as a stellar British accent.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, is utterly enjoyable from start to finish, and Kinsella’s characters will have readers itching to break out flapper dresses and dance the Charleston.

About the Author:

Madeleine Wickham is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels. The Shopaholic novels series focuses on the misadventures of Becky Bloomwood, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The books follows her life from when her credit card debt first become overwhelming (“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic”) to the latest book on being married and having a child (“Shopaholic & Baby”). Throughout the entire series, her obsession with shopping and the complications that imparts on her life are central themes.

Under the Dome by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 34.5 hours
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Under the Dome by Stephen King, narrated by Raul Esparza, is an experiment to uncover what would happen in a small, 200 year old Maine town, Chester’s Mill, if a dome trapped them under glass for observation.  Some are trapped in the town by their own circumstances, like drug addiction and lack of ambition, while others remain in the town because they can be top dog in a smaller pond.  Dale Barbara, however, is an outsider who had enjoyed his time in town until he was told in no uncertain terms that he should leave.  Too bad the dome blocked his escape.

As many know, this was turned into a television series, and while it varies widely from the book, there are still some core elements that remain.  Fear, greed, and self-preservation drive many in the town to do unspeakable things, and some of the worst were already in positions of power, like Jim Rennie.  There are horrors within the dome walls — and some of them are very graphic in nature — but it is the world that King builds that will have readers riveted.  These characters could be in any small town you’ve lived in or visited, from the nosy neighbor to the mean girls torturing the smart kid.

Under the Dome by Stephen King, narrated by Raul Esparza, is a really well done audio book that will make readers hold their breath and pray for good outcomes, even when there is no hope.  Rather than rely too heavily on supernatural or alien elements, King focuses on the reactions of the townspeople and their inability to see beyond their own issues.  Their myopic view is one element that will have readers pounding their fists in frustration, and while Rennie is easy to hate, it is clear that there are great things at work than the greed of one man.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. (Photo Credit: Denver Post)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (audio)

Source: Hachette
Audiobook, 12 hours
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The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is rough story with a shining light of hope at its center.  Beautiful girl, who has a developmental disability, meets a deaf African-American man at the School, which is really just an institution for disabled people, in 1968.  Spanning about 40 years, readers are taken on a mysterious journey with beautiful girl, Lynnie, and with Homan as they seek to achieve self-actualization, while still hoping that their dearest wishes will come true.  After a fateful escape from the school and leaving her baby with Martha at a farmhouse nearby, Lynnie is recaptured and returns under the secret tutelage of Kate, who helps her learn to speak again.  As Lynnie grows as an artist and as a young woman, she still harbors the desire to see the man she loved, even though she did not know his name, and her baby again.

Lynnie and Homan are drawn incredibly well and with a compassionate hand by Simon, and the narration by Kate Reading is superb.  Readers will be drawn into their hardships, their hopes, their dreams, and their friendships along the way, and like them, readers will hope for the best possible outcome.  Despite speech difficulties, learning to read, learning sign language, and overcoming harsh disappointments, Lynnie and Homan never become more than human, while they have buried their hopes inside and think about them, they face their disappointments as many of us would.  They despair, they cry, they worry, and they dream.

As a sister of a disabled brother, Simon’s novel hit home in a lot of ways because we knew about these institutions and my parents had decided to keep my brother home and found him area programs that would help him when they could afford them.  The abuse that the disabled suffered in these institutions was nothing short of horrific, and I cannot imagine how my brother would have endured those things.  Lynnie and Homan are discriminated against, made fun of, and more, but its the moments of kindness, compassion, and love that field their journeys.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon, narrated by Kate Reading, is stunning, compassionate, and emotional.  It is a testament to a world in need of healing and greater inclusion and understanding.  I’m only sorry that it took me so long to listen to this phenomenally touching story.

About the Author:

Rachel Simon is an American author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her six books include the 2011 novel The Story of Beautiful Girl, and the 2002 memoir Riding The Bus With My Sister.

 

About the Narrator:

Kate Reading has been a freelance narrator for over twenty years. She received an Audie Award for Bellwether by Connie Willis; an Audie nomination for The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, recorded with her husband, Michael Kramer; and an Audie nomination for Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell. She has also received numerous Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named her Narrator of the Year and, for two years running, Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy for her narration of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. As Jennifer Mendenhall, she has worked as a stage actor in the Washington, D.C.

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12.5 hours
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Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Clare Corbett, is a fun romp with Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) in the Hollywood hills as her husband, Luke, takes a temporary marketing position with actress Sage Seymour.  Becky is thrilled with the idea of being in Los Angeles, and she suddenly envisions a life of red carpet affairs, movie premiers, and becoming a stylist to the stars.  Becky, Luke, and Minnie are swept up into all things Hollywood, but Luke, naturally, remains the most level-headed.  Despite Becky’s over-shopping issues, which manifest in pre-purchases for stars she either has barely met or never even had any contact with, she’s managed to make some connections and be set on the path of her dreams.

Things get a bit complicated when there is a very public mix-up that fuels and ongoing feud between Sage and her movie-star rival, Lois Kellerton.  However, any potential character arc with Becky has ceased, at least so it seems in this book, and readers are likely to see her return to her old, selfish ways that often got her into too much trouble and places where her own rationalizations sound feeble even to her.  Although she now realizes, at least some of the time, that her rationalizations for purchases and bad behavior are just that, she continues on a path that while amusing, is devastating to those around her, even without her meaning it to be.  She even finds herself wrapped up so tightly in Hollywood’s machinations that she doesn’t think to herself that she should just walk away.

Becky’s head used to be easily turned by the prettiest bobble or the latest fashion, but in this one, her head is turned by attention, as if her husband and daughter do not dote on her constantly.  Her ego is larger than the series at this point, and while readers may want to see what happens after the end of this really open-ended book, they may not want to read more of the same character.  Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Clare Corbett, was fun to listen to and Kinsella is definitely a talent when it comes to writing quips, comebacks, and witty dialogue, but by the seventh book in the series, we want more depth from Becky Bloomwood.  While an entertaining way to spend the afternoon, the series has become a bit stale.

About the Author:

Madeleine Wickham is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels. The Shopaholic novels series focuses on the misadventures of Becky Bloomwood, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The books follows her life from when her credit card debt first become overwhelming (“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic”) to the latest book on being married and having a child (“Shopaholic & Baby”). Throughout the entire series, her obsession with shopping and the complications that imparts on her life are central themes.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 30.75 hours
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11/22/63 by Stephen King, narrated by Craig Wasson, is a time travel novel in which teacher Jake Epping is tasked with the impossible — stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  The local diner owner Al has the cheapest prices in town, but the town continues to speculate that his hamburgers are made from local cats and other pets.  After reading a brilliant essay from a GED student, Epping finds himself embroiled in a secret that is almost too fantastical to be real.  A bubble in the time line has enabled Al to return to 1958 repeatedly and buy the same cheap meat over and over.  Although Epping — who begins to write a novel that’s eerily similar to that of King’s IT set in Derry, N.H. — agrees to check things out and try to determine if Oswald had worked alone in assassinating the president, he finds himself swept up in a life he could be happy in, even though there is no Internet.

Although this book takes on the larger question of how one man could have impacted history had JFK lived and what would have happened had he not been killed and the country forced to mourn alongside his wife and child, King’s talent is in the small town experiences of that time period and the connections that seemed prevalent then that are not as present now.  Epping is skeptical about his task and even as he makes changes to the lives he knows about in the now and some for the better, he’s still not convinced that he can accomplish the bigger task of stopping the assassination.  And like many of us, Epping loses himself in the past — only in his case he literally loses himself.

11/22/63 by Stephen King is chock full of side stories, deeply sketched characters, and small town nuance.  Although there are a number of characters, readers can follow along from time line to time line because the “past harmonizes,” and readers are likely to be swept up into the story with little issue.  King is a master storyteller, which is a statement that I probably have beaten into your heads by now, so don’t miss out on his books any longer.  They’re an investment worth making.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. (Photo Credit: Denver Post)

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public library
Audiobook, 12+ hours
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Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King is another example of how good King’s story-telling is.  Rather than rely on paranormal or other elements to craft this story, King has created a murder mystery that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.  But he never compromises his dynamic characters in favor of a fast-paced plot.  When someone runs down a bunch of people at a job fair on a rainy morning in a Mercedes and disappears, it seems as though the police will never find him.  Along with a series of other open cases, ex-cop Bill Hodges realizes just how much his job had become all there was in his life.  Now, watching horrible television talk shows and fingering his father’s gun, Hodges continues to fall into and out of deep thoughts, until Mr. Mercedes reaches out.  Will Patton always does a great job narrating King’s novels, and this narration is no exception — his voice is easy to follow as the main characters and changes enough that you can gauge who is speaking.  Patton also takes the time to act out these scenes and dialogue so that readers will feel as though they are in the room with the characters as they track Mr. Mercedes down.

Mr. Mercedes has more than just mommy issues, as he’s guilt-ridden but also homicidal.  He’s beaten down by his measly existence, yet revels in its anonymity.  His plots against others were initially random and unplanned, but as he’s progressed, he’s come to realize that the best medicine for him and his needs requires careful planning and due diligence.  Hodges, on the other hand, is mourning the loss of his work as a cop, but the communication he receives “under the blue umbrella” spurs him into detective mode and he cannot stop himself.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King was very well told and readers will enjoy this other side of King’s writing — the less paranormal and more normal side.  He creates dynamic and flawed characters who are taken on an unexpected journey, and for the most party they survive that journey and blossom into better versions of themselves.  Another engrossing read from a master storyteller.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. (Photo Credit: Denver Post)

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 17.5 hours
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Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is just as good as I remembered it.  Author Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine to write out the horrors of his childhood in a house on a hill.  Reading this, you’ll note nods to the great horror stories, including Dracula, but here it is not just about the vampires in the shadows, it’s about the shadows that lurk in the small town among the people.  From the Catholic priest, Father Callahan, who is not seen as fit enough to replace the previous one to the townspeople who are easily sucked into the plots of Straker and Barlow.  The consummate storyteller, King uses his main character to dig into the recesses of the town and uncover not only the mysteries of the haunted house on the hill, but the darkness beneath the quaint little town’s aesthetics.

Along the way there is love and friendship, but these things are tested in only ways that the supernatural and Stephen King can test them.  These are the horror books of my childhood, and I still love them, even on audio.  I love that vampires are what they are meant to be — blood-sucking evildoers.  I love that small towns have darkness in them, including those greedy people who will sell you down the river for a pretty penny.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is that creepy novel that you’ll want to stop reading but can’t put down, and when the lights go out, you’ll be trembling beneath the covers and peering over the edge at every shadow as your mind works overtime.  I cannot recommend this one enough.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. (Photo Credit: Denver Post)

Revival by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 11 cds
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Revival by Stephen King, narrated by David Morse, is more subtle in its horror than previous novels, but King’s gift for weaving a complex story with dynamic characters shines through.  Jamie Morton is a young boy in a small New England town who is wowed by the new minister, Charles Jacobs.  Like any new, young couple who enters a small town, the Jacobs’ turn heads, with the young ladies fawning over the minister and the young lads gazing at his wife.  When tragedy strikes, Jacobs shocks the small town with a final anti-religion speech that sends him packing, but even Morton cannot forget the minister’s passion or secret obsession with electricity.

Morton, however, has his own path ahead, and much of it is spent in a drug-induced haze of rock n’ roll clubs and motels as a guitar player.  While he feels like an amateur, he has enough talent to take him from band to band and earns enough money to keep his habit up.  Morse does an excellent job with the narration, and he’s sufficiently creepy.  What I found wonderful were the nods that King places to previous novels, such as Mr. Electrico in Joyland, inside Revival to provide a little extra umph to the idea of reviving or living again.

King really has a handle on childhood and growing up in small towns, and the many superstitions that can be spread about among teens and their parents.  Rumors often spread like wildfire, and in many ways, when those of us leave those small towns, we try to reinvent ourselves like Jacobs’ does.  But the difference is that his obsession with revival becomes the only focus of his life, and in the process of pursuing the truth of life and death, he ruins the lives of others, drags Morton into the darkest of places, and ultimately, leads to a truth that can never be unseen.  Revival by Stephen King, narrated by David Morse, is well told, and though slow in some places, weaves an incredible story that will have readers questioning reality and their faith.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King. (Photo Credit: Denver Post)

Longbourn by Jo Baker (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 13.5 hrs.
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Longbourn by Jo Baker, narrated by Emma Fielding, is a look at the servants behind the scenes of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Sarah is an orphaned, hard-working housemaid in the Bennet household at Longbourn, but even as she keeps within the confines of her role, she begins to wish for something more.  Baker clearly delineates the roles of the household servants, and depicts the realities of that life with a frankness that cannot be ignored.  While readers may be cheering Sarah on in her dreams of something more, they also realize that dreaming for too much can become a devastating blow when it does not come to pass.  With the arrival of a new footman, Sarah finds herself torn between her feelings for him and that of Ptolemy Bingley, a mulatto servant of the Bingley family.  What readers will find here is that the servants interactions with the main characters of Austen’s work reinforce their flaws for the most part, which is to be expected when writing from the perspective of those in the lower class.

Fielding is a great narrator and does really well with the prose that closely mirrors that of Austen, ensuring that readers get wrapped up in the story.  The only drawback in this story is Ptolemy because he is a character who is under-developed and whose back story becomes a mere catalyst for Sarah’s evolution beyond her current status in the household.  It is almost as if he could have been someone that was talked about among the servants, rather than actually met by Sarah, as she’s only superficially tempted by him and what he represents tangentially.

It is almost as if the naive housemaid believes Ptolemy represents a greater freedom than he actually does, especially given that he was a former slave on a plantation owned by the Bingleys.  To another point, would the Bingleys actually have been plantation owners?  Perhaps not, given that most newly rich families earned their money in business dealings, not that plantation ownership could not be a business dealing.  This part of the story is not fully fleshed out, leaving readers with a very superficial view of his life and current situation.

Austen’s main story is not disrupted by Baker’s novel in any major way, with the girls being married off and some more favorably than others.  What’s strong here is the steady hand of Mrs. Hill and her ability to not only see past her own misfortunes but to also offer hope within her sage advice to Sarah.  Longbourn by Jo Baker, narrated by Emma Fielding, is engaging and captivating, while never putting window dressing on the lives of servants.

About the Author:

Jo Baker was born in Lancashire. She was educated at Oxford and at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed a PhD on the work of the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. Her first novel, Offcomer, was published by William Heinemann in 2001. Her second book, The Mermaid’s Child, is was published in August 2004. Jo Baker has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. From 2001-2003 she was the Artistic Director of the Belfast Literary Festival. She lives in Belfast with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their son Daniel. The Telling is her third novel.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 18 hrs
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Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is a sequel to The Shining, starring Dan Torrance who was just a young boy in the first book.  In this novel, we learn about the life Dan led after the infamous events at the Overlook Hotel.  Dan has struggle most of his adult life against addiction to alcohol, like his father, but in many ways, the alcohol became a way for him to hide from his gifts.  As he copes with his addiction, he finds solace in that he can help those leaving this world for the next go peacefully.  Eventually, he becomes known as Doctor Sleep in a small New Hampshire town at a nursing home.

Meanwhile, Abra Stone, a gifted twelve-year-old girl, has caught the eye of the members of the True Knot who are human and not-human.  The True Knot seems to be an unstoppable force that are sucking the life force out of those with special gifts, but they haven’t yet met their match.  This novel is a slow builder, but in true King style, the characters are varied and dynamic.  Blending not only the supernatural with small town creepiness, King creates an atmosphere that is at once familiar and other worldly.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King is an adventure and otherworldly with interesting characters, but there were times during the audio that my mind wandered.  The narrator, Will Patton, does a great job of creating voices that are nuanced enough to be separate entities in the performance.  I enjoyed the audio performance, but felt as though Dan’s flaws lost their impact along they way — does that mean his character evolved or that they were forgotten? — and Abra has gone from a scared Shiner to a formidable foe awfully quickly.  There are some story arcs that are quickly wrapped up and others that seem glossed over, leaving readers to fill in the gaps.  However, in terms of a sequel, written so many years after the first book, King has created a book that could be read wholly on its own, but is richer if readers have read the first book.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Hope to Die by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hrs
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Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, wraps up the search for Marcus Sunday, leading Cross from D.C. to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Orleans.  Det. Alex Cross has hit his lowest point, effectively having lost everything that matters to him most — his family.  Sunday has found exactly the weakest point in Cross’ character, and he seeks to exploit it to prove his own theories that the perfect detective does not exist.  Patterson is at his best with these latest two novels — Cross My Heart and Hope to Die — because Alex Cross is tested beyond anything ever before.  As he is emotionally low, he has to wrestle with the moral dilemma before him — give in to the murderous demands of a kidnapper or lose his family forever.

Cross has to take a backseat for a while as Sunday keeps tabs on his suffering remotely, but even that doesn’t last for too long.  Concussed Alex Cross is soon on the road with his foster daughter, seeking answers to the mystery of Sunday and his desire to see Cross and his family suffer.  The audio books are the best way to listen to this series because they are thrilling productions with music and sound effects, and actors who do not merely read the books but act them out.

Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will leave readers of the series on the edge of their seats.  Will the entire Cross family survive this ordeal and if they do, how will it change them?  Patterson has taken this series to the next level and gotten back to the roots of what has made this series an enduring hit.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, Read by Henry Rollins

Source: Audible
Audio, 7 hrs
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The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, read by Henry Rollins, examines rock and roll history in a unique way, threading together not only U.S. history and the British invasion, but also the influences and changes that occur when new artists take on old songs and make them new.  The artists breathe new life into these songs based on their own experiences and influences, and while the songwriters are often in the background and not praised as much for their work writing them, they provide the backbone that sets these No. 1 hits on their paths to greatness.  Each chapter of the book is broken up to discuss a particular song, but Marcus’ writing style often seems like he’s just producing a name-dropping litany, rather than fleshing out the history of those songs.

The songs he selected were Shake Some Action; Transmission; In the Still of the Nite; All I Could Do Was Cry; Crying, Waiting, Hoping; Instrumental Break; Money (That’s What I Want) Money Changes Everything; This Magic Moment; Guitar Drag; and To Know Him Is To Love Him.  While the Beatles could not be ignored given their wide-ranging influence on rock and roll, Marcus does select songs and singers who were not necessarily as big, including Joy Division and others in Motown and other genres.  Rollins does a great job at pacing his reading of this book, but readers will still hear the run-on sentences and the excessive use of commas, as well as the tangential stream-of-conscious discussion that is all Marcus.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, read by Henry Rollins, is an experimental thesis that the genesis of music is the interplay of chords, song, voice, and other factors, but it also strives to demonstrate how music from all genres influences not only what is produced today, but what has been produced previously.  While many would say that there is nothing new in music, Marcus would disagree — as he does in the interview with Rollins — saying that each artist places their own flavor and influence on a song, making it into something new.  The possibilities are endless.  While readers can appreciate Marcus’ musical knowledge and experience, as well as his tracking of history, the execution of this book bogs down the pacing and will leaver readers’ minds wandering.  An experience that, perhaps, could have been improved by some audio snippets of the songs he discusses.

About the Author:

Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train (1975), Lipstick Traces (1989), The Shape of Things to Come (2006), When that Rough God Goes Riding and Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus (both 2010), and other books. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America (2009). In recent years he has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, Minnesota, NYU, and the New School in New York. He lives in Oakland, California.