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The Island of Doctor Moreau

H.G. Wells, read by a full cast. Mondello, 3 CDs, 3 hrs., $19.95 ISBN 978-1-940650-11-1

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Mondello Publishing provides an updated adaptation of H. G. Wells’s classic novel, positioning the story in the 1950s and in the context of genetic mutation and nuclear power. Through uncontrollable events, Edward Prendick finds himself on an unmarked island with Montgomery, a scientist and aid to the notorious Dr. Moreau. Prendick soon discovers that the island’s wild-life is a bit more human than he’s comfortable with. The full cast of clear and distinctive voice actors includes Matthew Postner as Prendick, Nathalie Boltt as Montgomery, and Andrew McGinn as Moreau. Other actors fill in for secondary characters and humanoid animals, which the production captures well, providing each character with strong vocal cues to help the listener understand what kind of animal it is. The background music and sound effects further enhance the mood and tone of the production. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Marvel: Astonishing X-Men; Gifted

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, read by a full cast. GraphicAudio, , 5 CDs, 5 hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-62851-082-9

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In this audio adaptation of the graphic novel by Whedon and Cassaday, Professor Xavier no longer leads the X-Men, and Cyclops must rally them back together into a world-class team that can overcome a planet that fears them. At his side is the notorious Emma Frost, who adds her own set of challenges to their public image. The stakes get higher when a formula is discovered to remove mutants’ extra abilities, and the X-Men must stop a new enemy from using it on everyone. GraphicAudio assembles their own set of astonishing and gifted actors and actresses in this production. Richard Rohan dominates the third-person narrative passages with a deep and engaging voice that captures the action and emotion, but and allows for more somber and reflective moments. By contrast, Emlyn McFarland narrates the first-person passages as the voice of Kitty Pryde. She provides an inviting and intelligent tone that suits the character. They manage the action scenes effectively, using great sound effects to capture the different mutants’ abilities. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

Graham Joyce, read by Gildart Jackson. Dreamscape Media, , unabridged, 7 CDs, 8.5 hrs., $59.99 ISBN 978-1-62923-809-8

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In Joyce’s poignant, haunting, and humorous coming-of-age novel, British college student David Barwise recalls a very hot, dry summer of 1976, when, at age 19, he spent the months before his sophomore college year working at a fading holiday resort in Skegness, an English town on the North Sea. Employed as a combination social director and general factotum, David makes friends with some of his colorful “odd fish” coworkers, antagonizes others, falls in love with two women, and is disturbed by glimpses of a couple of ghost figures. His paramours are a lovely, whip-smart young dancer named Nikki and a dour but sexy cleaning lady named Terri. Terri’s married to a jealous brute named Colin, who inexplicably takes David under his muscled wing, introducing him to members of the white-supremacist U.K. Front Party, some of whom work at the resort. The ghosts—the bespoke title character and a young boy—have arrived for a reason that takes David awhile to discover. With the eccentrics, love interests, racists, and resort guests, reader Jackson is given the opportunity to display an assortment of vivid accents, among them Colin’s gruff Cockney, the fluty faux Etonian of the resort’s showtime announcer, the tenor singer’s tongue-rippling Italian, the motor-mouthed Mancunian of David’s roommate, and the demanding squawks of the guests’ children. Topping them all is the proper English of David, both as the deep-voiced, mature narrator and the higher-pitched, less-confident “new boy” at the resort. A Doubleday hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Friendship

Emily Gould, read by Amy Rubinate. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 7 CDs, 7.5 hrs., $37.99 ISBN 978-1-4945-0565-3

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Bev and Amy are best friends, but now, at age 30, life has not turned out as either had hoped. Bev’s engagement went sour when she found out her fiancé was cheating on her, and now she’s living in a tiny apartment with roommates, struggling to make ends meet as a temp. Amy was once an influential blogger, but she offended the wrong person and lost her job; now she works for a floundering website aimed at hip Jews called Yidster. They vent to each other and offer support, but when Bev becomes pregnant, their friendship is tested. Reader Rubinate narrates in an expressive voice, at turns snarky and heartfelt, and her quirky, Yiddish-accented voices for the Yidster owners are amusing. Her only flaw is that she sometimes sounds too similar when reading Amy and Bev, so it’s not always immediately obvious which is speaking—a drawback, since so much of the novel is conversations between the two of them. However, she is good at conveying the conflicting emotions of the characters, and the complex mixture of love and irritation that often comes with long-term friendship. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Consumed

David Cronenberg, read by William Hurt. Simon & Schuster Audio, unabridged, 9 CDs, 10 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-7482-9

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Actor Hurt’s intentionally understated narration proves effective in presenting this disturbing first novel by Canadian filmmaker Cronenberg (Cosmopolis). Lovers Naomi Seberg and Nathan Math fancy themselves journalists. They are social-media addicts obsessed with the minutia of technology and their own vapid sensation. Naomi becomes obsessed with the murder and subsequent consumption of French intellectual Célestine Arosteguy by her dapper husband, Aristide. Searching for the truth, Naomi pursues Aristide to Japan, and they become romantically entangled. In France, intermittently faithful Nathan falls for a doomed cancer patient. While Naomi and Nathan are disconnected by geography, they are more intimately connected than either can suspect. Hurt, with his soft, slightly raspy voice, keeps his narration low-key as he reads Cronenberg’s novel with a detached delivery. It is a clear, deliberate, clinical reading that fits perfectly with the novel’s tone. The descriptions are graphic, at times to the extreme, but Hurt’s reading creates a distance that keeps the horror at bay, enough to allow listeners to take in the elaborate, strange, and grotesque world that is recognizably the creation of David Cronenberg. A Scribner hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Broken Monsters

Lauren Beukes, read by Christine Lakin et al. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, 11 CDs, 13.5 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-1-4789-3010-5

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The multiple narrators of Buekes’s enthralling and totally creepy novel present a complex but ultimately satisfying listening experience. Detroit detective Gabriella Versado is investigating the murder of a young boy, whose torso was found fused to the bottom half of a deer. As more bizarre murders appear, Versado begins a dark, obsessive odyssey that will drag her, her colleagues, and her daughter to the very limits of their physical endurance and their sanity, as she chases one of the most horrifying killers in recent fiction. The five readers of this story do a sensational job of bringing this book to life, and their pacing and characterizations are spot on, offering more of a dramatic rendering than a straightforward reading. Their combined skills and talent help bring genuine chills and suspense to this genre-bending thriller, especially during the heart-stopping final minutes. A L, B/Mulholland hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Laws of Murder: A Charles Lenox Mystery

Charles Finch, read by James Langton. Macmillan Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-4365-2

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Book eight in Finch’s series featuring Charles Lennox (after An Old Betrayal) finds the Victorian gentleman-turned-detective and his associates—Lord John Dallington, Polly Strickland Buchanan, and the French detective LeMaire—the target of slanderous attack by a powerful rival detective agency taking scurrilous steps to wipe them out, including publishing false criticisms of Lennox by Scotland Yard detective Jenkins, a man thought to be his friend. Still, when Jenkins is murdered, Lennox is quick to investigate, ignoring the deadly threats against him. Reader Langton’s crisp, well-born delivery matches the charm and pervading upper-class Victorian gentility of Finch’s text perfectly. His skillful verbal portrait of Lennox presents an open-minded gent whose self-confidence begins to falter when his new business gets off to a rocky start, though he reasserts himself once he is on the hunt for a vicious murderer. His pal and protégé, John Dallington, speaks with a voice that’s a bit dithery but good-natured. Polly is as precise and clear-spoken as she is dedicated. LeMaire sounds more French than François Hollande. And there is a long list of vocally well-developed characters, from Lennox’s frozen-tongued manservant to a curiously antagonistic mother superior at a convent of cloistered nuns. A Minotaur hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Forgers

Bradford Morrow, read by R.C. Bray. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $29.95 ISBN 978-1-62231-470-6

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The macabre mutilation-murder of a rare book dealer at his beachfront cottage in Montauk, Long Island, kicks off this sly, artfully limned crime novel. Will, the narrator, has a shady past that threatens to catch up with him. He begins receiving letters that were seemingly written by long dead authors but are really from someone with a vendetta against him and knowledge of the murder. Reader Bray finds appropriate voices and attitudes for the relatively small cast of characters—including Will’s girlfriend, Meghan, bereft after her brother’s death; Atticus Moore, the New England–accented avuncular book dealer; and Will’s blackmailer, whose overdone civility, in the course of a short conversation, quickly gives way to cold fury. But Bray’s strongest contribution is his rendering of Will, through a performance that adds dimension to the purposefully undefined narrator. Bray presents Will as urbane but with a touch of raffishness, someone whose dispassionate view of the world is just short of sociopathy. It’s a striking example of how audio can successfully embrace and enhance an author’s intent. A Mysterious Press hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Afterworlds

Scott Westerfeld, read by Heather Lind and Sheetal Seth. Simon & Schuster Audio, unabridged, 12 CDs, 14 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-7246-7

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This novel is really two books in one, told in alternating chapters. The first is a realistic fiction piece about Darcy, an 18-year-old whose novel is being published. She puts off college, moves to New York, deals with the stress of deadlines and rewrites, feels the excitement of seeing her book in print, and falls in love for the first time, with another YA writer, named Imogen. The other book is Darcy's actual novel, told in full: the paranormal tale of Lizzie, who survives a terrorist attack by pretending to be dead. She can subsequently see ghosts and visit the "afterworld," where she becomes romantically involved with spirit guide Yamaraj. Each book has a different narrator, which is helpful for keeping the two stories separate, and both narrators are excellent. Lind conveys Darcy's youthful excitement, her passion for writing, her insecurity, and her naïveté, as well as voicing jaded and British Imogen, Darcy's Indian-accented parents, and numerous other characters. Seth is equally adept at Lizzie, searching for the truth and trying to do what's right, as well as creating believable voices for Lizzie's anxious mother, her curious best friend, a child ghost, and Indian-accented Yamaraj. This intriguing and creative audiobook will have listeners invested in both stories, rooting for both protagonists and eager to find out what happens to them. Ages 14–up. A Simon Pulse hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

Walter Mischel, read by Alan Alda. Brilliance Audio, unabridged, 7 CDs, 8 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-1-46924906-3

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In addition to his many stage and screen accomplishments, veteran actor Alda—aka Hawkeye from M*A*S*H—has often undertaken broadcast media projects exploring and advocating scientific research. So Alda is a natural fit as narrator for the new title from noted Columbia University psychologist Mischel, whose groundbreaking research into children's ability to resist marshmallows and other temptations paved the way for new approaches to delaying gratification. Alda's smooth and conversational delivery accentuates his natural likability. He delivers Mischel's behavioral terminology in a relaxed manner that renders the material approachable for a broad audience. It is worth noting that most of the content is straight-on exposition of results and analyses related to Mischel's theories, so Alda's opportunities to demonstrate his acting chops are relatively rare. One notable example is his turn as Sesame Street's beloved Cookie Monster character, who in recent years—thanks to a creative overhaul based on Mischel's school of thought—has begun to practice moderation in his on-air snacking. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/19/2014 | Details & Permalink

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