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The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside 'The Room,' the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, read by Greg Sestero. Tantor Audio, 10 CDs, 11.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4945-0152-5

Actor Sestero's rich memoir recounts the making of The Room, a film starring the authors that is widely considered one of the worst ever made. The actor describes how he became involved with the film and Tommy Wiseau, its eccentric producer, writer, and director. This behind-the-scenes chronicle makes a great paratext to go along with the film and helps explain how it came to acquire cult classic status. Sestero provides animated and enthusiastic narration. His voice often denotes a bemusing smile as he shares anecdotes about Wiseau. It sounds as if he is smiling throughout the production. He projects strongly and deliberately, making sure every word is properly enunciated. Sestero's imitation of Wiseau's voice can feel odd; the writer/director's accent comes across as a mixture of Russian and French, but Sestero perfectly captures the tone and style of Wiseau's eccentric personality. A Simon & Schuster hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Summer of Letting Go

Gae Polisner, read by Tara Sands. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, six CDs, 7.5 hrs., $29.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-330-3

Francesca Schnell, nicknamed Frankie, is a 15-year-old girl tormented by guilt over the death of her little brother, Simon, who drowned four years earlier when she was supposed to be watching him. Her devastated, withdrawn mother seems to blame her for Simon’s death, and Francesca suspects her father is having an affair. But a babysitting job for a little boy, also called Frankie, offers a path to healing and forgiveness, and Francesca even wonders if he is her brother reincarnated. Sands’s narration is excellent. Her youthful voice is a perfect match for teenage Francesca, and every word is full of heartfelt emotion, particularly when Francesca is upset and her voice trembles. Sands also creates distinctive voices for the other characters: Francesca’s perky best friend, Lisette; Lisette’s deep-voice boyfriend Bradley (whom Francesca has a crush on); Frankie, a bubbly boy; and Frankie’s mom, who has a bright, melodic voice. Teens and lovers of well-written coming-of-age YA fiction will want to give this one a listen. Ages 12–up. An Algonquin Young Readers hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Laini Taylor, read by Khristina Hvam. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 18 hrs., $26 ISBN 978-1-4789-5263-3

A mesmerizing conclusion to this popular fantasy trilogy will leave fans utterly satisfied. A band of angels descends to Earth, and humanity is brought face to face with the chimaera and seraphim universes. Meanwhile, Karou and Akiva, now in control of their respective armies, doggedly pursue their dream of forging an alliance between their enemy races and themselves. The Romeo and Juliet-esque love affair between Karou and Akiva is described in well-balanced tender moments with a backdrop of battles, terror, and various life-threatening situations. The narration is tight and skillful, giving listeners heart-stopping action as well as a deftly paced backstory. Taylor’s often-poetic prose is translated with incredible voice talent, balancing lyricism and brutality with masterful skill. Short musical interludes complement Hvam’s performance and add to the atmosphere of the book as a whole. For new listeners, this isn’t a story that one can jump into, with a multitude of characters introduced in the beginning. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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We Were Liars

E. Lockhart, read by Ariadne Meyers. Listening Library, five CDs, 6.5 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-8041-6839-7

In this noir YA drama, three privileged cousins and a friend meet each summer on a private island, where they confront first love and staggering losses. Reader Meyers does an excellent job with the main character, Cadence, whose dialogue requires the full range of emotions. At the beginning of the story, Cadence seems like a typical sullen teenager trying to find her place in the world and wondering why her boyfriend doesn’t write back to her. As the story continues and grows darker, however, she pieces together her spotty memories of an on-island accident that wrecked her health and distanced her from the family, a whole cast of characters that Meyers also voices. These characters include Cadence’s snobby mother and her two shrill, money-grubbing sisters, who spend the bulk of their summers trying to wheedle themselves into their father’s good graces and substantial inheritance. Where the narration falls short is with the grandfather, who gets a voice that is stereotypically gruff and shaggy, even in his rare tender moments. Ages 12–up. A Delacorte hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Michael Lewis, read by Dylan Baker. S&S Audio, , unabridged, eight CDs, 10 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-44237027-2

Veteran actor Baker brings his distinct patrician manner, with its smooth elocution and precise pronunciation, to the audio edition of Lewis’s investigation into the world of high-frequency stock trading. The book chronicles a new band of marketplace rebels who engaged in a David and Goliath battle with Wall Street to level the playing field for investors. Baker’s polished vocal mannerisms, though characteristic of the stodgy stereotypes of today’s business tycoons, provide an effective contrast with the diverse cast of outlaws in the book. Issues of ethnicity remain at the heart of this tension, as technically gifted Wall St. outsiders from around the globe fuel the movement with their discomfort of the mainstream American financial industry. Baker’s portrayal of Russian immigrant programmer Sergey Aleynikov is especially striking and evocative. Though not quite as dramatic, Baker’s voicing of Irish finance expert Ronan Ryan also leaves an impression upon the listener. A Norton hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren, read by the author. Macmillan Audio, , unabridged, nine CDs, 11 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-42723916-7

Warren, a rising star in progressive political circles who parlayed her decades of work as a legal scholar with a focus on consumer rights into a successful run for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, offers a fiery stump-speech style of delivery, in keeping with her populist persona. Even though she downplays her celebrity status and confesses to having serious stage fright during her initial national media appearances, Warren possesses a graceful ease in the recording booth. Her narration conveys the poise of an accomplished attorney and Harvard professor and the humble frankness of her working-class roots. Warren’s colloquialisms—e.g., “hurrican’ ”—seem to flow naturally, without any hint of affectation. She doesn’t shy away from a tone of righteous anger, particularly when it comes to lobbying by the banking industry. Nor is Warren afraid raise her voice as she names the leaders with whom she has butted heads. But she also makes a point to temper that emotion with touches of humility and humor. A Metropolitan hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

Timothy F. Geithner, read by the author. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 15 CDs, 18 hrs. 23 min., $50 ISBN 978-0-80416551-8

Geithner, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, confesses early on in his memoir that a lack of natural public speaking gifts presented a challenge in his rise to power in government. In delivering the audio edition, Geithner presses along in a manner that projects competence and a generally relaxed manner, even though his delivery lacks passionate inflection. One gets the sense that the respected financial expert is indeed telling us his story as opposed to simply reading printed pages; it’s just that Geithner’s style of conversation reflects his cerebral and technocratic nature. In the later sections of the recording, Geithner does project a bit of intensity when defending the record of the Obama administration with regard to the state of the U.S. economy, though the tone is not so much that of a rabid true believer as a numbers expert frustrated by the ignorance voiced by critics. (May)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty

Diane Keaton, read by the author. Random House Audio, , unabridged, four CDs, 5 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-8041-6585-3

Keaton describes her physical imperfections and aging woes in this candid, and occasionally tedious, collection of observations and insights. The veteran actress covers the many aspects of female beauty with a still-youthful voice that is as familiar, lyrical, and charmingly awkward as that of her on-screen persona. She admires pioneering comediennes Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, reflects on her relationships with Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, and Al Pacino, and discusses her much-talked-about personal style, her real estate purchases, and her children. Some anecdotes from Keaton’s childhood are written in a diarylike style, and she has much to say about her parents, choking with emotion at one point. Keaton sounds confident as she imparts the accumulated wisdom of 67 years, but her introspection periodically segues into stream-of-consciousness patter and oversharing about her children. This is a mixed bag of advice for women and intimate celebrity gossip from an iconic woman admired for her independence and individuality. A Random House hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Until You’re Mine

Samantha Hayes, read by Claire Corbett. Random House Audio, , unabridged, download exclusive, $22.50 ISBN 978-0-8041-9196-8

This suspenseful tale is beautifully executed in a lovely British lilt. A very pregnant Claudia Morgan-Brown hires Zoe Harper as a nanny to help care for her four-year-old twins while her husband James is away on military duty. Claudia seems content with Zoe, but feels mounting unease about her new employee. Meanwhile, grisly attacks on pregnant women have Claudia worried as well, and the reader soon learns that Zoe has plans of her own for the family. Pieces of the puzzle slowly come together, illustrating connections that will leave readers thrilled yet unsettled. Claire Corbett is an incredibly skilled reader who distinguishes between characters nicely, showing the increasing desperation of both Claudia and Zoe. While some of the narrative sections lag a bit, including recollections of the characters’ pasts, the dialogue is well paced and pushes the story forward to a jaw-dropping climax. A Crown hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Transcriptionist

Amy Rowland, read by Xe Sands. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, four CDs, 5 hrs., $26.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-341-9

Sands beautifully captures the odd life of the haunted lead character in Rowland’s novel. Lena is something of an anomaly: she is a transcriptionist for the Record, a major New York newspaper. Her job is to transcribe bits of information phoned in by reporters to be used in upcoming stories. A chance encounter with a woman who later commits suicide causes Lena to becomes intrigued by and gradually obsessed with the woman. Sands gives a quiet, subdued performance that beautifully captures the complex, lonely protagonist. She keeps her characterizations to a minimum. It’s a subtle performance that pulls the listener solidly into Lena’s world. Sands’s performance, like Lena, is mesmerizing in its seeming simplicity. Listeners will discover that these still waters do, indeed, run deep. An Algonquin hardcover. (May)

Reviewed on 07/25/2014 | Details & Permalink

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