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Veteran Australian actor Jack Thompson narrates his first audiobook with dazzling success. Listeners will be immediately drawn into the sad but compelling tale of a father who is seeking to recover the bodies of his three sons who were all lost on the same day in the battles of Gallipoli. The clash of cultures—Turkish, British, and Australian, the heartbreaking losses on all sides, and the slow resolution are vividly created. Thompson’s subtle performance expresses the fierce passions of the characters with powerful resonance. The audiobook simply sweeps you up and tangles you in an extraordinary story. The history is enlightening, especially for Americans, who may not know the scope of this WWI tragedy, but the universality is unmistakable. Powerful to the end, this is a listening saga that stays with you. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Caroline Lennon's lilting performance is splendid in this lively look at morality and the Victorians' well-documented obsession with hair. In 1865, the seven Swiney sisters of Harristown, Ireland, are endowed with luxurious, lustrous, overabundant tresses--from golden to raven black--and beautiful voices. To avoid starvation, they become The Swiney Godivas, a vaudeville act. They sing, dance, and perform mini hair-related dramas, and as the pièce de résistance, they let down their hair. Lennon captures the melodic Irish rhythms in both descriptions and dialogue. Each sister's voice is unique--sweet or whiny or fierce. The story is based on the real-life Sutherland sisters of upstate New York, who were also known for their lavish locks. Top-notch listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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At age 64, following multiple attempts, Diana Nyad finally achieved her long-held dream of becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West. It's a testament to her determination that she kept trying even when it seemed like she would never achieve her dream. Hearing her tell her story in her own words adds another dimension to the endeavor, and the listener feels her single-minded dedication to her goal. Her description of the challenging circumstances she overcame early in her life is jarring, and makes her achievements even more impressive. Nyad also gives the listener glimpses of her mind while swimming by singing the songs that help her to maintain her stroke, counting in various languages, and yelping when stung by jellyfish. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Xe Sands navigates smoothly through shifting perceptions and twisted emotions in this smart legal thriller. Sharp, calculating defense attorney Olivia Randall has been asked to defend her former boyfriend, Jack Harris--a man she cruelly betrayed some years ago--against a triple homicide charge. Jack's convoluted alibi and the disturbing circumstances that tie the characters together fuel the novel's suspense. Olivia and Jack are but two of the many characters Sands must hold like prisms to the light, letting each angle cast a different hue to their actions. Sands plays each character straight and consistently, even as one character's perception of another shifts. Her approach intensifies the questions of what is the truth and who is the killer right up until the final minutes. K.W. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ron Butler clearly and passionately recounts the story of U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, a former slave whose law enforcement career negotiated the lawless areas of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories for nearly 32 years. This is not a biography; instead, Burton uses court documents and contemporary newspaper articles to place Reeves's life in the context of Western history. But the presentation is never dry. As he delivers atmospheric narrative and dialogue that often rings true, Butler's skillful pacing and emphasis ramp up the tension and occasional drama of the marshal’s encounters with various criminals. A great pairing of narrator and history. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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How many Supreme Court Justices have been compared to rock stars—complete with their own fan pages and Tumblr homage site? As of this writing, there’s one, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and this audiobook celebrates both her life and her accomplishments. She has staked her claim to be the voice of those who have faced discrimination and ridicule, and she’s left a rich collection of opinions for history. Not bad for a Jewish grandmother who stands less than 5 feet tall. Narrator Andi Arndt’s bright, authoritative voice fits the book’s reverent tone. She uses a conversational style to humanize Ginsburg and moves the story along efficiently. Arndt adds excellent diction and comfortable pacing to make this audiobook a satisfying experience. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Phyllida Nash, an actor of prominence in the UK, has a strong, cultured voice that works well with this engaging history of the first millennium of Roman civilization. Historical details cover a broad range—from the founding of Rome to the broad grants of Roman citizenship and the residents of the empire in the third century CE. Beard’s accounts are comprehensive and refreshingly honest about the relationship between available sources and our understanding of historical events. Her use of Latin is illuminating. Nash has more experience narrating fiction than history and sometimes finds it difficult to find a place to breathe in Beard’s long, erudite sentences. However, her pace and tone are excellent. An excellent performance of an important book. F.C. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri's powerful nonfiction debut illuminates her quest to explore her identity through writing in a new language. Her memoir is written in Italian and translated into English; the production includes both versions. Her beloved Italian, which she began learning after college but never mastered, offers a refuge from the "long clash in my life from studying English and Bengali." She views her "rejection of mother and stepmother" tongues as a completely independent third path. Lahiri's voice, clear and articulate, initially strikes the ear as reserved, even aloof. But that impression fades, especially when she voices the Italian words and phrases that weave through the English translation. In addition to exploring her remarkable love affair with Italian, Lahiri voices striking insights on writing, exile, and the transformative power of language. J.C.G. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Horror and compassion are the emotions that dominate as one listens to this well-researched audiobook. Narrator Bernadette Dunne delivers the author’s examination of a privileged life gone horribly wrong. Rosemary Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy’s eldest daughter; sister to a president, an attorney general, and a senator, was born developmentally disabled. Dunne’s deliberate pace will make listeners’ skin crawl with revulsion at what delaying a birth can do to an otherwise healthy child. The horror doesn’t end there. The decade into which Rosemary was born and the dynamics of her prominent family create more tragedy for her because so little was known about the mentally challenged and their capabilities. Compassion for Rosemary’s strength to survive and her inspiring effect on her brothers and sisters are evident in Dunne’s performance. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The Civil War is finally over. A Confederate soldier returns to Richmond only to find his family’s mansion bullet ridden and just two of the house’s former slaves accounted for. A marvelous duo of newcomers, Mark J. Sullivan and Aaron Jennings, and television veteran Charlie Robinson (“Hart of Dixie”) give their all to this award-winning drama as they connect with the themes in the script—loss, anger, violence, hope, and the search for reinvention. The soldier happens to be Jewish. The time happens to be Passover. But can the story of the faith and deliverance of a shackled people be shared across a racial divide? This L.A. Theatre Works performance offers the sounds of an uncompromising, passionate theatrical experience. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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When Captain Salvador Alvarenga and his young assistant, Ezequiel Cordova, set out from Costa Azul, Mexico, on a fishing expedition, the experienced captain could not possibly have expected the type of journey that lay ahead. Narrator George Newbern does an excellent job delivering the story of Alvarenga's struggle to survive at sea in an open boat for 438 days before finally coming ashore on a remote island many miles away in the South Pacific. Newbern’s consistent pace and varied tone keep the compelling story going, communicating the harrowing aspects of the journey as well as Alvarenga's inspirational will to survive his extended ordeal at sea. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Ruth Reichl makes food sound decadent, luxurious, a pleasure to be savored in both the preparation and the eating. Hearing her will make listeners hungry, or make them want to run to the kitchen to cook something, or both. This is a cookbook as well as a chronicle of Reichl's year after Gourmet magazine folded, as she grieved that loss and tried to figure out what she should do next. Reichl finds comfort in the kitchen, and listeners hear a seasonal collection of recipes (a PDF is included) and anecdotes that lead us through her year. As she reads haiku-like Twitter posts and walks listeners through the recipes, Reichl's New York accent and genuine enthusiasm are welcoming. Her life sounds charmed, and listeners are bound to be, too. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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During the 1930s and ‘40s, L. Ron Hubbard wrote in almost every pulp genre imaginable and wasn’t afraid to mix and match. The story “The Slickers” is a fine example of this experimenting. It combines the easygoing twang of a Western with the hard-boiled rhythms of an urban detective mystery as an Arizona sheriff who travels to New York City doesn’t take kindly to having his wallet stolen and being framed for murder by tough-talking mobsters. Combining state-of-the-art sound effects and music with Golden Age Radio acting styles, ace Galaxy Press narrator R.F. Daley and the cast read all three unabridged short stories in this collection (“The Slickers,” “Murder Afloat,” and “Killer Ape”) with affection, humor, and, especially, a sense of good old-time adventure. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 comic novel about the Apocalypse translates perfectly to radio theater. The full cast of British voices enhances the zany nature of the story, which features witches, witch hunters, prophecies, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and an 11-year-old Antichrist. Standouts include Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap as odd couple Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel), who’d like to avert the end of days because they rather enjoy the comforts of their lives on Earth. Sound effects make the production, which was adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio, a fully immersive experience. Authors Gaiman and Pratchett even make a cameo appearance. It’s all wonderfully silly fun. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This production delivers a riveting tale about the death of Steve Rogers, Captain America, and the rise of a new and untested Captain America. Richard Rohan narrates the main story, and Tara Giordano voices the point of view of his lover, Sharon Carter. The sound effects provide a good amount of scene setting, reducing the need for description, while the musical score sets or foreshadows the mood of each scene. The full cast of narrators provides rich and distinct voices for the many different characters, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Nick Fury. Carter is determined to find out who killed her lover but must also grapple with her own role in his murder. L.E. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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What could be more appropriate for audiobook listeners than a story focused on the ability to hear? A deaf man who was brought up in a dysfunctional hearing family falls in love with a hearing woman raised by deaf parents. They discover that she's slowly losing her hearing and will soon be deaf herself. Narrators Russell Harvard and Susan Pourfar reprise their stage roles in Raine's taut and often comic play. The work examines the difficult choices that the deaf must sometimes make between the world of sound and the world of silence. Harvard, who was born into a third-generation deaf family, brings poignancy, honesty, and depth to the proceedings. Fine contemporary theater. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Johnny Heller tells the story of the man who wrote the jokes that made the whole world laugh. Jon Macks wrote literally hundreds of thousands of jokes for Jay Leno in the decades he worked for him, and each joke has a story. Heller confidently tells the story of Macks and his life in the late-night bubble with the skill of a comedian. The jokes are funny enough, but Heller makes them sound even better. His behind-the-scenes accounts are priceless. Macks doesn’t talk exclusively about himself and Leno—he also compares and contrasts all the late-night impresarios from Steve Allen to Seth Meyers and has a ton of fascinating anecdotes. This is an audiobook you can't stop listening to. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Fajer Al-Kaisi's performance of this fascinating and disturbing book is crisp and beautifully articulated. The sun-blasted Algerian world of Camus's classic novel THE STRANGER, and of this mirror image of it, could be distancing. Al-Kaisi makes it intimate, bringing you inside the mind of Harun, whose brother Musa was the nameless Arab shot on a beach by Camus's Meursault. Harun is a loveless and solipsistic old man recalling how his life has been gutted by the murder of his brother (or by his obsession with it). The voice Al-Kaisi gives him is weirdly cool and exactly right, thoughtful and methodical as he details his plight, not particularly expecting sympathy or understanding. This audio production makes a striking novel of ideas a rich and human experience. B.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Hey, you! Yes, you—with the earbuds. Want to know how your music got to you? And why it costs so little? Download this audiobook and listen. It’s a fascinating story of the criminals—um, forward thinkers— who took down the record companies by pirating music and giving it away for free. Then they got busted. No worries though—you’re legal. Anyway, you’d think that a book that explains such an earth-shattering economic change could get some professional narration. Author Stephen Witt does what author-narrators do best, and that’s to bring passion and unassailable subject knowledge to their performances. But Witt also brings the word-dropping, uneven pacing, and too-fast reading pitfalls that new narrators exhibit. He improves as the book moves along, and it’s still worth a listen, but a more experienced storyteller would have been a better choice. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A hard-luck Korean War veteran gets a second chance when he’s hired to lead a timid scientist and his beautiful wife on a search for a rare jewel on one of the most fearsome islands in the world. What could go wrong? Beau L’Amour has pulled out all the stops in adapting an unfinished 1950s short story by his father into a sweeping film-like audio production. The music is evocative of classic 1940s film scores, and the lush and detailed sounds of rushing streams and ever-present jungle critters practically surround the listener. Seasoned professionals abound in the cast, making this a fine adventure. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This engrossing production brings together five audio documentaries teens recorded about their own lives in the mid-90s juxtaposed with recordings that revisit those same people, now adults in their early 30s. Individual voices explore and humanize issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy. As a teen, Amanda’s assertiveness and self-assurance shine through when she tries to talk to her parents about her bisexuality, and it’s no surprise that those qualities are still present in the loving conversation she has with them as an adult. Juan is full of calm determination as he talks about his life as an undocumented immigrant, both as a teen in a struggling family and an adult who has come into his own. A.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Between 1942 and 1979, award-winning author John Creasey wrote 34 Dr. Palfrey novels. Narrator Alex Hyde-White does a splendid job with Palfrey’s first outing, and series fans will welcome the chance to hear their favorite characters come to life on audio. Several European countries are experiencing a concerted effort by German spies to undermine their resolve to remain neutral. Palfrey and his associates must uncover the nest of agents of the Third Reich and thwart their mission. Hyde-White’s understated yet spot-on performance offers a full complement of voices that flesh out Palfrey, the members of the "Rescue Squad," and other assorted personalities including Nazi and British agents. Fans of intelligent spy fiction will find great satisfaction listening to Hyde-White’s top-notch interpretation of Creasey’s classic mystery. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Levine’s book for young writers ages 8 and up includes instruction on novel writing, poetry, blogging, and publishing. Narrator Heather Henderson does a superb job of capturing the enthusiasm of the text—a job made easier by Levine's conversational tone. Henderson’s pacing allows listeners to absorb the author's pointers on creating memorable characters, creatures, and worlds. However, the audio version may be more inspirational than practical as frequent prompts for the listener to stop and write make this a poor choice for listeners on the go. Nonetheless, the combination of Levine's engaging writing and Henderson's pitch-perfect narration ensures that even a listener in transit will glean useful tips and the inspiration to continue the writer's quest. L.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With a charming sense of humor and an appealing accent, Andy Miller recounts a twelve-month return to the joys of reading. His voice is engaging, and his performance lively and capable. There are many moments of laugh-out-loud wit and other moments of thought-provoking reflection. In between those, however, the pace is slow. Miller's love of footnotes does not lend itself to the audio format—a startling "ding" indicates each note, some of which seem gratuitous—and he can get bogged down in minutiae. Happily, once Miller gets into the actual experience of reading, the audiobook takes wing. Bibliophiles will enjoy meandering through the titles and adding their own as they immerse themselves in Miller's delightful performance. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Thor, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and other mighty heroes of the Marvel Universe are pitted against Dr. Doom, Molecule Man, Ultron, and other mighty villains in a battle to the finish in an alien world. It takes 41 GraphicAudio actors to bring the story vividly to life, as dozens of characters are involved in the complex plot. Lots of sound effects as well as internal and external dialogue make listeners feel they’re part of the story. The only misstep, and it's a big one, is that Dr. Doom sounds like Dracula. Special kudos go to the actor who portrays the Hulk, who is facing the prospect of losing his mind. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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It's the early eighteenth century, and "Black Sam" Bellamy has gone to sea, signing on with some of the roughest privateers in New England to make his fortune and win the hand of the fairest maiden in Boston. In this full-cast narration, character accents abound from around the globe and across the centuries: Irish, Jamaican, Cockney, upper-crust British, a William-Shatneresque delivery for the narrator, and good, clean 1950s Hollywood voices for the star-crossed lovers. All the vocal performances are over-the-top, but so is this oddly entertaining story. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Character actors Lou Ferguson and Francis Guinan create a riveting dark atmosphere as they portray a black night watchman and a retired Afrikaner soldier who have a chance meeting at a Johannesburg amusement park on a lonely New Year's Eve. Recorded live at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the L.A. Theatre Works production secures the rapt silence of the audience as the two men compare and one-up each other with stories of their sordid and violent pasts. Written in 1993 on the eve of South Africa's first fully integrated elections, Fugard's play leaves the listener with a sense of hope--a hope that, in this rare historic case, came to fruition. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Alyssa Bresnahan brings an evocative sepia tone to this beautiful memoir about the lives of a real pioneer family. Sanora Babb was 7 in the early 1900s when her family left its comfortable life in Oklahoma for an insect-infested dugout on the dry plains of eastern Colorado. The following years brought drought, crop failure, sickness, anxiety, and surprising joy, for Sanora found much to love in the wildness of the West. Bresnahan’s thoughtful pacing and the slightly roughened edge she gives her clear, warm voice perfectly conjure wide skies and strong winds, and echo the considered speech of people who don’t talk much. And when they do talk, she offers telling portraits of everyone from child to grandfather. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The English seem to have a special way of talking with God. In David Hare's highly acclaimed play, four men--an inner-city rector, a curate, a bishop, and a lowly cleric--question their personal faith and resolve as they run up against the established hierarchy in this 1990 post-Thatcher-era examination of the Church of England. The perfectly voiced British actors Martin Jarvis, OBE, and Jared Harris ("Mad Men") lead an outstanding ensemble in giving a lively, theatrical feel to this solid adaptation. Audio drama is at its best when projecting aural intimacy and intensity. When these characters take on such hot-button issues as gay marriage, women in the priesthood, and abortion, the play seems as relevant as it did during the time it was written. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Derek Perkins skillfully narrates Asbridge’s history of the exemplary twelfth-century knight William Marshall, whose story survives in a single, long-lost chronicle. Marshall rode and fought with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons—Henry, Richard the Lionheart, and John—and his career paralleled the emerging codes of valor and chivalry. Perkins’s voice has something of the medieval in it, and he easily fills the contours of a narrative that ranges from the manufacture of knight’s armor to its bloody use on the field of battle. Here is Arthurian legend at its core—and one of the year’s true sleepers. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This riveting family history explores the eloquent story of the author’s great great grandmother, Julia Schuster Stabb (1844-1896)—as well as the topics of frontier life in Santa Fe and German Jews in the U.S. in the nineteenth century. Narrator Xe Sands exquisitely captures the author’s earnest interest in Julia and her family. Sands's clear voice and refreshing cadences add an authenticity that listeners will find engaging. Julia's Santa Fe home, now La Posada de Santa Fe Resort, is said to be haunted, and Nordhaus explores this phenomenon in terms of “unfinished business.” Overall, Sands’s presentation is smooth and straightforward. Her narration and the fascinating story itself will entertain listeners of all ages. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tom Pile effectively channels the WikiLeaks founder’s confidence, force, and acerbity. What listeners THINK of what Assange has to say will most likely depend upon the opinions they bring to this audiobook in the first place, but Pile does his job as narrator faultlessly. Assange published this transcript of a meeting between himself and Google chairman Eric Schmidt ostensibly to prove that his views and words were misrepresented in Schmidt’s book, THE NEW DIGITAL AGE. Assange precedes the transcript with an hour-long commentary shaped to support his argument that Google and Schmidt are complicit with the U.S. State Department in foreign affairs activities. This is a work that is sure to intrigue those interested in the collision between geopolitics, free speech, and the digital world. K.W. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Cory Doctorow's broadside against copyrights is well suited for the audiobook format. The short chapters move quickly, the musical cues maintain momentum, and Wil Wheaton's persuasive narration pilots the whole production with a confident forward motion. Doctorow’s thesis—that fame trumps talent, people want free stuff, and individual copying is a benign form of expression—is clearly and convincingly conveyed. Creators have to give up on worrying about piracy and rely on fans to supplement their income. Alas, moments after Wheaton’s compelling narration ends, a reminder is heard that Blackstone Audio (which owns the audio copyright) does not tolerate the type of unauthorized copying and distribution that the author espouses. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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For anyone who’s ever loved the movie THE PRINCESS BRIDE, Cary Elwes’s memoir of filming it is a must-listen. Elwes, who played Westley, the swashbuckling farm boy/pirate, was a young, up-and-coming actor when he was cast for the role. The movie was only a modest success in theaters but has since become a beloved, oft-quoted classic. Recollections by director Rob Reiner and cast members Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, and others are interspersed, some read by the actors and the rest performed by Danny Burstein. But it’s Elwes’s reminiscences and behind-the-scenes stories—and his impressions of the other actors—that are the stars here. His posh British accent and clear admiration for his fellow actors and the movie itself make for a charming listen. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Terry Pratchett has long been the worldwide bestselling author of the unique and laugh-out-loud Discworld fantasies, and in 2009 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his services to literature. But few listeners may know that he started out as a newspaperman. Michael Fenton Stevens narrates this expansive collection of Pratchett’s essays, opinion pieces, and speeches with a journalist’s ear for getting the facts just so and keeping the remarks wry and pithy. Fenton is especially adept at reflecting Pratchett’s righteous indignation and gallows humor, which are aimed squarely at his battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and his fight for more research and understanding about the disease. As Neil Gaiman points out in his foreword, which he narrates himself,“Seriousness is not the opposite of humor.” For Pratchett, humor is found in the details and in the fury of hard work. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Drawing from historic events and written especially for audio by two-time Emmy Award winner Charles Olivier, this stellar production transports the listener behind British lines on the Western Front during the first Christmas of WWII, when, of all things, German and English soldiers declared an unofficial truce to bury their dead, sing carols, and give thanks. The cast’s excellent naturalistic acting and superb dialogue bring out the human side of a conflict in which the enemy lay entrenched only a few hundred yards away. Spot-on sound effects and motion-picture-style original music create sonic depth and atmosphere. Riveting, touching, and timeless, this production is destined to become a family favorite at Christmas for years to come. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In the 1920s and ‘30s, Blanchet took her five children on a series of summer adventures through the straits and islands of coastal British Columbia in a small boat. Narrator Heather Anne Henderson delivers this collection of her stories as if they’re soothing and upbeat bedtime tales. In dreamlike, timeless style, the book describes the extraordinary landscapes, animals, and people the family encountered. Blanchet offers a kind of nature writing now almost forgotten; free of scientific explanation or environmental agenda, it’s simply personal and sensory. Henderson’s rendition generally meshes with Blanchet’s style. She has a clear and well-paced delivery, and she’s taken the time to master the crazy quilt of First Nation names appended to the magnificent landscape through which Blanchet sailed. A delight. F.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Grammar texts may be the ultimate challenge for the audiobook, but Arthur Morey’s fine rendering of cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker’s guide to writing in the 21st century proves the exception. The Harvard professor focuses on the rationale of grammar rather than its arsenal of rules and exceptions. His prose is conversational and engaging, and Morey easily matches his tone and rhythms, so that one often forgets it’s a narrator one is hearing, and not the author himself—the ultimate test of a satisfactory audio experience for this reviewer. Whether heard one time for its general principles, or again and again as a learning tool, this accessible, keenly observed, and, in fact, witty and entertaining discourse on how we use our language will be an unexpected pleasure for many. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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JD Jackson offers a solid, easy-on-the-ears narration of this reexamination of the Underground Railroad. Jackson takes an almost professorial-sounding approach in his tone and cadence. But he’s by no means pedantic. He varies both the pitch of his voice and the pacing to fit the material as well as adds emotion where appropriate. For direct quotes, he pauses just before he reads the quotation, giving the listener clear audible cues about the content. He wisely doesn't try to give speakers unique vocal characterizations as the quotations often are too short for such a technique to be effective. This book is more scholarly than action filled, and Jackson's reading makes it easy to follow. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The good cops are two-timing the grifters and bad cops in this homage to the golden age of 1940s detective and sci-fi radio. Ducking wonderfully silly tough-guy dialogue and achingly bad puns, Patricia Tallman (“Babylon 5”) leads an enthusiastic cast on an interstellar search of the Sacred Plate of Marange. Anytime the word “marange” is used, things can’t be too serious. Tying the whole goofy plot together are state-of-the-art sound effects of spaceship interiors, crowded bars, and dripping cavern walls. Angelo Panetta’s musical soundtrack is punchy and vibrant throughout, especially when Tallman, as the sexy Jeannie Richmond, sings the blues. Atmospheric, entertaining, and technically dazzling. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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While waiting to see the action-packed Avengers sequel on the big screen next summer, listeners can enjoy this full-cast performance from GraphicAudio. With a musical score and sound effects, the production puts listeners in the middle of the action and adventure. The story focuses on a time when the Avengers have called it quits, but Iron Man, Captain America, and some of the unlikeliest of Marvel superheroes, such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Luke Cage, band together to create a new team that is ready to protect Earth from increasingly deranged villains. The cast overall does a solid job with their respective roles, and, as usual, Richard Rohan commands the narrative and keeps listeners’ attention throughout. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Two narrators tell a story that spans four generations and a little known chapter in American history. Told in two parts, the book recounts the fictionalized story of the real-life Cow Tom, who was born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before the age of 10, and who eventually became the first black chief of the Creek tribe. The other part of the story involves his granddaughter, Rose, who continues his battle for civil rights. JD Jackson, telling Tom’s story, and Bahni Turpin, relating Rose’s, both deliver exquisite performances that immerse the listener in the characters. Jackson’s careful diction adds emotional power to his portrayal of Cow Tom. Turpin paces Rose’s story in a way that highlights the struggles and triumphs of an amazing, resilient family. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Much as Peter Schoeffer, former scribe turned apprentice to Johann Gutenberg, renders words beautifully on vellum in this historical novel, narrator Robert Petkoff delivers crisp lines, sweeping strokes, light flourishes, or dramatic touches as he narrates. Nothing in author Alix Christie’s text stirs without doing likewise in Petkoff’s delivery, strengthening each scene in the listener’s mind. The effects are neither forced nor overdone. As Petkoff interprets the text, his narration decidedly contributes to the enjoyment of this novel, which tells the story of the invention of printing and the social and political context out of which it arose. K.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An unflinching 360-degree look at slavery, this historical novel is brought to life by Bahni Turpin's deft performance. She gives equal treatment to the wide-ranging cast of characters—slaves and masters—who live at Fair Oaks plantation. Turpin's lush tones bring out the personal ruminations of the female characters—from the slave Maddie to the high-born Mistress Anne. Her rendition of dialect is easy on the ear, serving to make the slave characters more realistic. The overall effect of Turpin’s variations in tone, pitch, and cadence is that of a dramatic reading or a one-act play. Lovers of historical fiction and the audio format in general will not be disappointed. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Antonia Hodgson’s historical thriller is a fascinating look at the conditions of the notorious eighteenth-century debtor’s prison, the Marshalsea. Narrator John Lee brings the characters to life, differentiating their voices and imbuing them with vivid personalities. Tom Hawkins finds himself imprisoned in the Marshalsea, sleeping in a room whose last occupant either killed himself or was brutally murdered. The story has nearly endless twists and turns, although Hodgson brings everything together for an immensely satisfying ending. Between Hodgson’s plotting and Lee’s narration, this is an exciting and atmospheric listening experience. J.L.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Diary entries, letters, and telegrams take listeners into the world of painter Vanessa Stephen (later Bell). Emilia Fox's portrayal of Vanessa is layered and intimate as she and her siblings gather the friends (Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, et al.) who will become the Bloomsbury Group. Fox is subtle and engrossing as Vanessa navigates love and loss as well as relationships with her family—especially her sister, the brilliant, tempestuous, troubled writer Virginia Woolf. Fox handles the bulk of the narrative, while the other actors read correspondence among her coterie; Julian Rhind-Tutt particularly stands out as an appealingly flamboyant Strachey. The plot veers occasionally into soap opera, but the portraits are so believable and their world of art and literature so lovingly drawn that fiction and history are indistinguishable. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator John Lee’s deep voice and rhythmic intonation are perfect for this beautiful novel, set amid the harsh landscape of a town with no future, a victim of the two-decade ban on cod fishing off eastern Canada. Moses Sweetland is a 70-year-old crusty inhabitant of the tiny Newfoundland settlement of Sweetland—named for his ancestors. The government has decided to move everyone to the mainland, but Sweetland refuses to go for reasons that are revealed throughout the audiobook. Lee renders Sweetland’s laconic and stubborn nature as well as his special relationship with his autistic great-nephew, Jesse. Lee’s slightly toneless performance of Jesse captures the boy’s deep well of affection but lack of emotional maturity. SWEETLAND is a spectacular meld of story and performance. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With her steady grasp of history, Philippa Gregory concludes her Cousins’ War series, re-creating the life of Margaret Pole (1473-1541), a York cousin. Thanks to Bianca Amato’s artistry, the ill-fated stories of Margaret and the House of Tudor brim with life. When Katherine of Aragon marries Arthur, Prince of Wales, Margaret becomes Katherine’s confidante and witness to the couple’s happiness. Amato inhabits every swirling intrigue as Katherine, suddenly widowed, needs Margaret’s silence so she can keep a deathbed promise to Arthur and marry his younger brother, Henry. Once they’re wed, Margaret becomes chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine in Henry VIII’s court. Amato’s lovely voice and vocal flexibility create an aura of romance and mystery while sharply defining Margaret’s plight and the king’s mercurial nature. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Comedian, author (DAD IS FAT), and narrator Jim Gaffigan gives an applause-worthy performance of his book, which explores food and his love affair with it. His observations about food are entertaining; he says crustaceans are the bugs of the sea, for example. And his delivery is outstanding. With a slight Southern accent and strong timing, he brings out the ironic hilarity associated with national and international menus and food practices. Gaffigan’s informal narration style fits his affable-sounding personality. He’ll have the listener hooked on his humor before the appetizers arrive, and his serious contemplations will also provide the listener with some food for thought. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This genre-defying gem of an audiobook is an exhilarating reminder of the power of literature to make us think, feel, and strive. With THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, BABBITT, and THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER as her touchstones, Nafisi (who wrote READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN) argues the centrality of literature to democracy and decries its diminution in educational policy and public thought. Nafisi’s rich, undulating voice introduces her own premise. Narrator Mozhan Marno’s clarion voice carries that message to its conclusion. Literature lovers and librarians will naturally be drawn to Nafisi’s message, but, as she herself notes, those who would benefit most are exactly those least likely to listen. Forgo your earbuds and see whom you can evangelize by playing this inspiring audiobook out loud. K.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator William Roberts evokes just the right amount of tension and terror to reflect the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft. Roberts delivers these stories in a subtly coarse voice that is well suited to horror, keeping listeners solidly engaged. Throughout the macabre tales, Roberts captures characters’ voices expertly—from Derby’s maniacal ravings in “The Thing on the Doorstep” to the narrator’s downward-spiraling lucidity in “The Rats in the Walls.” The scurrying sounds of rodents add further ambiance to the latter story. During scenes of heightened excitement Roberts speaks with energy, and when depicting sinister settings, his low, even tone that fills the listener with trepidation. This chilling listen is best enjoyed after dark. A.K.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dost thou jest? The space opera STAR WARS performed as if written by the Bard himself? Yea, verily, and it is good. It’s amazing how easily and naturally the STAR WARS epic is translated into the Shakespearian tongue and how expertly the full cast, including Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, January LaVoy, and others, delivers the work. The characterizations are so spot-on, the delivery so outstanding that the listener quickly accepts the premise. Luke Skywalker works perfectly as a futuristic Hamlet, Obi-Wan echoes Prospero, and Darth Vader makes a compelling Macbeth. The performance is joyful and even musical as the story set in the future uses the beautiful language of the past. The audiobook is also short enough that the listener will not tire of the experiment. M.S. 2014 Audies Finalist, Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The exceptional Martin Jarvis projects sad intensity as an aloof yet emotionally wounded classics teacher who is being forced into retirement after 18 years at a (not so) posh English boarding school. His young wife, played with calculating verve by Kate Steele, has once again cheated on him. The haughty headmaster, a perfectly cast Ian Ogilvy, wants him out a day early. Only an unexpected gift from a student seems like a ray of hope, and even that may not be what it seems. In this performance recorded before a live audience, the entire cast digs deep to discover how subtle comments and the most everyday experiences can drive a man to the brink. A modern classic (1948) that paved the way for the works of Stoppard and Pinter. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Golden Voice George Guidall will hook listeners with his performance of this novel. The story of Kevin Kearney’s family takes place on a ranch in the Tularosa Basin of southeastern New Mexico from 1920 through WWII. From prosperous times with plentiful rain through the period of the Dust Bowl, the Depression, and the war, the Kearney family ranch survives. Guidall’s voice imbues each character with his or her own accent and intonation. He moves flawlessly between Hispanic, Texan, and Boston accents, from male to female, and back again. As characters age, Guidall’s portrayal evolves, usually becoming grittier. Overall, his reading brings every scene to life as this twentieth-century history of the American West unfolds. M.B.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Never have the dead seemed so alive than in this full-cast dramatization. The strange world of Nekropolis is home to supernatural beings and oddities that defy explanation. Matt Richter has become the resident private eye due to his experience as a cop in a former life and his need to make money to pay for the maintenance of his decaying body. Little does he realize that his work will lead him to the home of a Dark Lord on the most important night of the year. This solid audio production includes a range of colorful characters, all expertly portrayed, and sound effects that add both humor and horror to the story. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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For two years, Augusta, an artist, and Owen, a writer, have lived in near isolation in an old farmhouse to pursue their work and rebuild their marriage. From the first sentence, when listeners learn that Owen is dead, to the final minutes, when the last pieces fall into place, narrator Cassandra Campbell's silky voice wraps smoothly around the story. Feelings of pain, regret, love, and loss prevail as Augusta recalls not only the last few months of her husband's life but also past betrayals, family responsibilities, and more recent disruptions to their daily routine. Campbell's understated characterizations and consistent accents keep the conversations clear, and her pacing builds the emotional tension. Her expressive reading of the complexities of a modern marriage is outstanding. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners are treated to an impressive scope of space information—from details about each planet to an overview of space exploration and the scientists who have contributed to our understanding of the solar system. While one could listen to this recording straight through, it also merits listening to chapter by chapter. Ruth Sillers is an unobtrusive narrator who lets the information speak for itself and is clearly unbiased in her presentation of the space race. Her melodious voice, leisurely pacing, and distinctive elocution make for easy listening. Given Sillers’s lively sense of wonder, the listener can’t help but be impressed by the vastness of the universe and our newfound knowledge of it. A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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E. Forbes Smiley is an almost larger-than-life character. Fusty, genuinely captivated by old maps, and cavalier about his spending, he cynically steals maps from libraries and museums for the money. Narrator Sean Runnette wholly grasps Smiley’s contradictions and quirks with a narration that is accessible and charming. For the complicated history of some of the maps, Runnette slightly slows his pace to ease listening digestion. He’s more conversational when recounting Smiley’s financial overextension as he bounces checks and lives a grander lifestyle than he can afford. Perhaps most fitting of all is Runnette’s hint of (deserved) incredulousness at the lax security of the institutions that Smiley steals from. It really shouldn’t be so easy to steal such rare and valuable things. A.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The best part about this audiobook is that it requires no apology to fans of the comic book on which it is based. The GraphicAudio production is faithful to the original story. Richard Rohan, as narrator Iron Man, will make fans of the Iron Man and Avengers films happy with his spot-on characterization of Tony Stark, the wisecracking, womanizing reformed alcoholic who undergoes a metamorphosis that changes his armor forever. He’s ably assisted by a talented full cast that turns the comic pages into a feast for the ears. The explosions, sirens, computer voices, and other sound effects sound real. Dialogue is so crisp and true to character that this feels more like a movie than an audiobook. Now where have we heard that line? M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners are in for a fun audio presentation of Hubbard’s story from the Golden Age. Newsman Jimmy Vance is hard at work on a story when a beautiful dame shows up in his office. Her father has gone missing in the seas off Shanghai aboard the steamship SHANUNG, and Jimmy jumps at the chance to help her—and get the scoop! The audio production is excellent, adding much interest to the story with fitting sound effects, music, and perfect voice casting. The main narrator, Kelly Ward, keeps to a fast pace that adds to the excitement. There’s plenty of danger, intrigue, and some graphic fight scenes. An interesting plot and a little romance make this an entertaining listen. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Colleen Delany is at the helm of this full-cast dramatization, complete with sound effects and musical score. Ezekiel is on a mission to redeem his much maligned grandfather, whose invention, the Boneshaker, supposedly wreaked havoc on Seattle, making parts of it nearly inhabitable. The teenager’s mother isn’t nearly as convinced that Ezekiel is on the right path but is not about to lose her son. Delany captures the range of moods throughout the story and shifts smoothly between the action and dialogue. The cast provides unique and quirky voices to the other characters in this steampunk-inspired world. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The British may go to the seaside, but Tim Winton believes that Australians are shaped by the coast—the “verandah” at the edge of the continent with the desert behind. David Tredinnick burnishes this lovely homage to the beaches of the wild West Coast to an exquisite pearl. Winton spent childhood summers in a coastal shack frolicking and fishing in the mornings and reading in the afternoons when he was driven indoors by the famous Fremantle Doctor wind. Tredinnick’s gentle tone and languid timing capture that summer idleness and familial intimacy. LAND’S EDGE is not all sand in the sun—Tredinnick also expresses the awe of knowing oblivion is only a wave away or of touching a dolphin. A delicate and stunning audio experience. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Authors are not always the best readers of their work, but Billy Collins is the closest we have to a superstar American poet whose voice and readings are familiar from “A Prairie Home Companion.” His dry, almost flat, delivery plays against and strengthens the humor that infuses even his most serious poems. He emphasizes the line breaks (as too many poets fail to do) without disrupting the syntax. Hearing the author's own ideas of how these poems should sound helps us to understand his intentions, as well as Collins's (much underrated) use of imagery. Listeners may find themselves pausing between poems to give themselves a chance to think about each one before starting the next. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Bronson Pinchot delivers this memoir with a wistful tone and dramatic timing. When the author was 3, his sociopathic Mexican-American mother reinvented herself as Running Deer Skyhorse, a Native American, and she bestowed the same fake heritage and surname on her son. Adding to the chaos of the author's childhood was a rotating crew of stepdads, his mother's phone-sex career, and a grandma who was an ex-gang-member. As others have shown, unstable, abusive childhoods sometimes make for darkly comic memoirs. Pinchot exploits this incongruity, adding pathos to the early sections of the audiobook and a shell-shocked weariness to the final sad third. The result is an engaging memoir built on an emotional roller coaster of missed opportunities. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners are transported to Venice at the time of Shakespeare to follow the adventures and misadventures of the fool Pocket. He and his sidekicks, Drool and Jeff, become entwined in the intrigues of Venetian society—and a selection of characters and plots from the quill of William Shakespeare. Narrator Euan Morton is the perfect choice for recounting this bawdy tale. He infuses it with a sprinkling of the spirit of the Carry On movies of old, an approach that offsets the ribald and earthy language of many of the characters, not the least Pocket. Morton’s characterizations bring the full cast of this fantastical tale to life and ensure that it's never difficult to follow as it flows along at a lively pace. K.J.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners have been lucky—George Guidall has delivered all the installments in Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. When the Wyoming sheriff is called in to investigate the suicide of cold case reviewer Gerald Holman, he ends up on the trail of three missing women. Time is against him (he must get to his daughter's side for the birth of his first grandchild) as are the elements (deep snowfall) and even a herd of buffalo—and that doesn’t include all the people who are shooting at him. The regulars from previous books are all here—Dog, Vic, Henry Standing Bear, and Lucian—and Guidall is completely comfortable with all of their voices. Series followers will greet them as old friends, but new listeners may be better off starting with earlier titles as Johnson doesn't waste words recapping who’s who. C.A.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook is a great way to learn about Greek mythology for the first time or as a refresher. Bernard Evslin’s writing style and Todd Haberkorn’s narration are perfectly matched, and the result is straightforward, bare-bones, dryly humorous, and mysterious. Haberkorn’s subtle characterizations capture the essence of each Greek god—from the all-powerful Zeus to the seductive Aphrodite—as they play their wicked games with the each other and with humans. Some of the stories feature terrible acts, yet Haberkorn’s voice holds just enough wry humor to reflect the gods’ capricious ways. Audio is a great way to hear the pronunciation of the Greek names while learning how these stories and characters have influenced Western culture. M.M.G. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Fans of gunslinging Westerns are sure to enjoy this well-produced audio program. Two short stories are made even more exciting with fitting music and realistic sound effects. The perfectly cast character voices make the heroes, villains, cowhands, rowdy townsfolk, and sassy women come to life. These stories, published in the 1930s, sound more like timeless classics than some of Hubbard’s other Golden-Age offerings. “King of the Gunmen” finds ace gunslinger Kit Gordon on the right side of the law, helping to bring peace to a town in conflict. “The No-Gun Gunhawk” features the son of a legendary gunman who refuses to carry firearms. The fast-paced stories and high-quality production make this a captivating audio experience. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Although written nearly a century ago, McCulley’s romantic pulp adventure remains engaging and entertaining. Even though the identity of the masked vigilante is no surprise to contemporary listeners, one can’t help but be thrilled at the ironic twists the story takes. Narrator Armando Duran breathes life into the character of Don Diego Vega: by day an effete aristocrat, by night a dashing defender of the poor. Duran draws on his stage experience, his ethnic memory, and his joyful vigor as he tells the story of Señor Zorro’s courtship with Lolita Pulido while bloodying the noses of corrupt government officers. This adaptation of the classic story is delightful from start to climactic finish. S.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Since 1994, Tim Russell has been the “Prairie Home Companion” go-to guy when Garrison Keillor calls for an extra mobster, a stumbling Swede, a crusty cowboy, or a dead-on impression of Fred Rogers, Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Stewart (just to mention a few). Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Russell has a comically elastic voice that delivers the radio show’s smart, gentle satire of all things Midwestern. Chosen from the past 19 years of live performances, this “best-of” collection plays like a vintage comedy album, with plenty of 2-4 minute bits showing off Russell’s voice talents and quick wit. Examples include the wonderful Guy Noir skits, numerous commercial satires, and listeners’ odds-on favorite, the Ketchup Advisory Board. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Just look at Winston Churchill, and you know that the British leader enjoyed his meals. Not surprisingly, as recounted in Stelzer’s entertaining book, the former prime minister considered meals to be an opportunity for diplomacy and political gamesmanship. He used those moments to charm and, at times, disarm friends and foes, and viewed each moment as a way of accomplishing goals that might not be realized through traditional means. Narrated by Davina Porter, the book is charming and provides insight into Churchill through a new lens. Stelzer’s detailed research blends well with Porter’s light and breezy performance. Porter clearly enjoys the material, conveying it with the same alacrity that Churchill likely felt when eating. D.J.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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O’Rourke blends the poetic with the pedantic in this look at the Baby Boomer generation—the good, the bad, the depressing, and the amusing. Dick Hill's deep and crackling voice fits perfectly with O'Rourke's sardonic prose as he explores the birth, rise, and retirement of Boomers over the last half-century. As Hill captures O’Rourke’s self-mocking portrait of the self-righteous and self-centered Boomers, it’s clear his performance trumps reading the book in print. His tone and emphasis nail every punch line. At the same time, Hill’s timbre, with its hints of age, fits perfectly with the content. Listeners will find themselves laughing at line after line. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Neil Shah portrays recent college grad Anjan Sundaram, who leaves the promise of a prestigious job with Goldman Sachs and the beauty of America—which had, in his words, become “cloying”—and opts to travel to the Congo. With the goal of becoming a journalist, he stumbles into a position as a stringer for the Associated Press. Shah is an outstanding narrator who adds a healthy dose of personality to each of the characters as well as accents where appropriate. As Sundaram becomes immersed in local life while staying with a Congolese family in Kinshasa and faces perilous situations while reporting from dangerous conflict zones, Shah adeptly brings us into his new world. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nicola Barber's rich English accent captivates from the opening lines of Worth's second memoir of life in London's slums just after WWII. Listeners familiar with the popular PBS series of the same name will recognize people and events--and with plenty of extra detail, this audiobook offers wide appeal to newcomers as well. Barber delivers all the author's compassion, frustration, and humor in a genuine, convincing manner. She effectively differentiates characters through shifts in diction and tone, a highlight being her delivery of the Cockney speech unique to this area. There's less about midwifery here than in the televised version,but this is still a moving and memorable account of a special time and place. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, and the other Avengers reprise their blockbuster movie as they once again battle the alien Chitauri, who are launching a guerrilla attack on Earth. GraphicAudio lives up to its rep with this "movie in your mind" as the Avengers, here called "The Ultimates," battle the shape-shifting aliens. The actors give distinctive voices to each character, making them sound similar to the original movie actors--right down to a Robert Downey, Jr., soundalike. The only downside is the voices of the aliens, an annoying mix of several voices that is hard to understand. Otherwise, the dialogue is natural and well suited to the characters, and the sound effects of booms, crashes, and bangs are jarringly real. M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Talented narrators Nigel Anthony and Paul Rhys work well together in rendering this fascinating look at one of the greatest composers in history. They use their prodigious vocal talents and experience to pull back the curtain on the strained relationship between Mozart and his father and his early success as a composer and performer for the royals of Europe. Using an authoritative tone, they deliver the facts, and the more emotional and evocative passages are presented with increasing tension and excitement. Musical passages add to the listening experience, rounding out this fascinating and fulfilling study. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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De Haven’s novel recounts the life of Superman in the 1930s as he evolves from Clark Kent into the Man of Steel. A full-cast dramatization of this novel fits perfectly as the story is set during the Golden Age of radio when Superman’s adventures were popularized. De Haven’s characterization of the superhero is younger and more innocent than contemporary audiences are familiar with. As usual, GraphicAudio goes full throttle with sound effects and musical score to capture the time and place of the novel. Richard Rohan delivers the narrative, and Joel David Santner, as Superman, and Laura C. Harris, as Lois Lane, steal the show with great performances that capture the essence of each character. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Former President Jimmy Carter's call to action concerns the struggles faced by women around the world. Carter's narration in his signature Georgia drawl is slightly indistinct, which can make it a bit difficult to understand at times, but hearing his ideas in his own voice gives an additional dimension and authority to the work. Carter touches on discriminatory practices that have subjugated women, violence and abuse directed at women, and how religious texts are used to legitimize practices that keep women on a level unequal to that of men. His timely call for equal rights and opportunity for women is sure to raise consciousness on this global issue. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With his velvety voice and flawless phrasing in high gear, John Pruden’s performance conveys militaristic certitude but never slips into dogmatism or condescension. It’s the good kind of certitude, which serves as a constant reminder of how much mental and physical discipline it takes to be a Navy Seal. The book’s emphasis is on the mental side—achieving clarity about what the U.S. stands for and what we’re willing to do in tough situations. An ex-military trainer of Seals, Divine is at once conversational, provocative, and inspiring. With concrete advice and powerful metaphors that can be used by all leaders, competitors, and artists, this is an invigorating reminder of the choices we have regarding our values, passion, purpose, and mental routines. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In his sixtieth year, Jon Katz fell in love. The only thing standing between him and his soul mate, Maria, was Frieda, a fearsome rottweiler-shepherd mix. Tom Stechschulte's deep rumble conveys the exuberance of Katz's dedicated pursuit of both their hearts. One hears a familiar mix of animal observation and personal biography, but it’s more urgent and intimate than in other works. Echoing Katz's resolution to act on love, Stechschulte generates emotional momentum with his sensitive narration. Sympathetic in tone, his voice conjures a smile in moments of joy or a hug in moments of sadness, both of which he captures well. His performance embraces the complexity of relationships and the all-consuming nature of love. A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Mia Barron’s tone, enunciation, and phrasing are a good fit for the assertive writing that makes this book so interesting. McArdle says that failures can open doors to creative breakthroughs as long as those who fail have the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learned and continue to move forward with their ideas. “We should stop spending so much energy trying to avoid failure or engineering it away,” she says. The sardonic edge to some of Barron’s performance mostly serves to forward these arguments but periodically makes the author’s message sound confrontational. With enlightening insights about the way we accept or punish failure and engaging human stories, this is a fast moving must-hear audio for anyone interested in the psychology of risk-taking. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The GQ correspondent, blogger, and author of MEN WITH BALLS narrates this hipster-father memoir at such a fast clip that it sounds forced—not like anybody’s natural speech. His words and phrases are understandable and his voice resonant, but his pacing, along with his nonstop efforts to sound dramatic or funny, makes the author’s venting and observations sound adolescent. To be fair, this is humor and storytelling that is probably aimed at young fathers still adjusting to adulthood; it’s riddled with ribald language and impatience with almost everything. For other listeners, Magery eventually serves up enough insights on family life to make this memoir redemptive, if not always pleasant to hear. T.W. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Shortly after Lewis and Clark’s journey, John Jacob Astor launched his visionary quest to establish a permanent American colony on the Pacific coast. ASTORIA is the breathtaking true story of two traveling parties who went there—one by sea around Cape Horn, and one overland by canoe, horseback, and on foot. Michael Kramer narrates Stark’s superb account at a crisp pace. Through Kramer’s voice, the listener can imagine bawdy Scottish fur trappers negotiating with Native American leaders and the lively songs of the French-Canadian canoe masters who were capable of paddling for 15 hours straight. Kramer gravely describes the incomprehensible horrors of being lost in a mountain snowstorm for a month and the anxiety of sailors trapped on a capsizing ship controlled by a madman. An epic chronicle. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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From the opening lines of this audio, which offers eye-opening principles and advice abstracted from the career of Muppet creator Jim Henson, narrator Mary Robinette Kowal’s engagement with this enlightening book is compelling. It’s comforting to begin an audio in the hands of someone with such natural enthusiasm, and whose bubbly tone ebbs and flows in perfect harmony with the author’s insights and advice. Henson’s approach to his art was nuanced and determined. A courageous pioneer in the early days of TV, he learned to be shrewd and protective of his art as his creative empire expanded to movies and licensed products. Though some of Stevens’s principles seem abstract at first, colorful anecdotes about Henson’s dealings make them sound as intuitive as they are invaluable for the serious artist. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Anytime an author sets out to write a definitive biography, expect many layers to be peeled back from the subject’s life. Ben Bradlee, Jr., does that admirably in this exhaustive book about one of baseball’s greatest hitters. Narrator Dave Mallow keeps a steady pace while maintaining a consistent tone for the listener. The author aims to paint a picture of Williams’s life off the field, since “The Kid’s" on-the-field accolades are well documented. Mallow resists the temptation to imitate voices for the women in Williams’s world, but he brings to life the angry quotes and commentary that capture the ballplayer’s bitterness toward many people, especially sportswriters. In the end, the listener is left with a well-told story about an imperfect man. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Varty is the scion of the extraordinary family that established the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa and pioneered ecotourism across Africa. Here he offers a personal account of growing up in extraordinary circumstances, overcoming daunting obstacles, and finding his place in the world. Varty mixes stories from his African game park—lions in the bush, elephants in the back garden, and baboons in luxury bedrooms—with observations from his search for mystical enlightenment in settings that range from Indian ashrams to sweat lodges in Arizona. The author’s narration lacks the polish others might bring to it. However, it is redeemed entirely by his intense conviction and his charming South African accent. Don’t miss hearing about Nelson Mandela’s visits to Londolozi. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook soberly examines the prospect of having a missile that could destroy half your state move into your neighborhood. Narrator Susan Boyce presents the history of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), weapons capable of destroying the world, which were hidden in plain sight in thousands of communities in the U.S. during the Cold War. Boyce's journalistic performance enhances this powerful, and important, book about a bizarre chapter of American life—how everyday Americans learned to live with a supersonic missile as a neighbor. Unless you knew where to look, there was little to indicate that a warhead was hidden underground, but the neighbors always knew. The Cold War is now something for the history books, but these are the stories of people who lived it. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Part history and part travelogue, this book about the world’s greatest railroads unspools like a leisurely train trip. And with narrator Grover Gardner as the conductor, it’s a most pleasant journey. His pace and tone exactly match the material—from authoritative and deliberate in the historical sections to relaxed and conversational in the more personal portions. His facility with accents (especially Irish) gives character to many of the direct quotations. The author uses trips on famous rail lines as the structure for a deeper exploration of the history and social impact of railroads, and Gardner delivers an engaging reading. The literary odyssey takes the listener from England to Siberia to India and even to the cutting edge of transportation. It’s a fun trip made more enjoyable by a capable narrator. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The lure of treasure on a sunken ship has inspired generations of adventurers almost as much as writers who tell the tale. Hubbard's story from the 1930s comes from the golden age of pulp fiction when macho heroes, deceitful villains, and pretty girls were standard fare. Add a Spanish galleon loaded with gold and jewels, and the stage is set for a race to recover the bounty. The multiple voices of this full-cast audio theater bring lively portraits of the deep-sea divers, greedy rivals, and a mysterious dame who first appears in a soaking wet wedding dress. The soundscape is bold and skillful. Entertaining listening for all ages. Sit back and be swept up in this grand adventure—colorful and raucous as a shipboard parrot. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Laurence Maslon produced “Superheroes,” an eighty-year history of comics for PBS, which spun off into a great coffee table book and this audiobook. Of the three, the audiobook suffers for its lack of art. What's a book about comics without pictures? Still, it's a good overview of the comic book industry for the non-comic reader and a refresher for the comic enthusiast, though this is well-trod soil. Maslon performs his own work, which slightly diminishes its impact. He's an efficient narrator but lacks the skill to achieve a memorable performance. He charts the creation of the first comic superhero, Superman, who fathered generations of spandex-clad adventurers, and touches upon dozens of others, including Captain America, Batman, and Spider-Man, and, from more recent times, Spawn and the Walking Dead. M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Greenspan provides a fascinating critical review of how economics as a field can be improved using current technology and the knowledge afforded to humans in the last 40 years. The complex conversation is rendered accessible through the skillful voice of Malcolm Hillgartner. Economics is a challenging subject for most, and though Greenspan attempts to make it accessible, it really is Hillgartner who balances his use of emphasis and pace to help listeners following the nuanced elements of the material. His grasp of Greenspan’s prose and conversational tone will be appreciated. It also helps that Hillgartner has a deep, reverberating voice that draws listeners’ attention. L.E. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Mike Chamberlain narrates this work by primatologist Robert M. Sapolsky, who went to Kenya to study baboons. Chamberlain’s lively, bemused tone communicates Sapolsky's down-to-earth approach and sense of humor. Sapolsky's writing is eminently approachable for the layperson, and the listener soon begins to feel acquainted with the various baboons in the troop and to see certain similarities between their behavior and those of the human world. Sapolsky describes the interrelations in the troop and the challenges the creatures face. He also recounts his dealings with local officials and the Masai, sprinkling in a bit of his own personal life as well. Through the amusing moments and the trials and tribulations, Chamberlain's energetic narration provides a great complement to the author's quirky personality. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Wow, Carl Hiaasen is my hero, and narrator Arte Johnson is not far behind! In his “other life,” novelist Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. This new audiobook, which cherry-picks some of his most blistering columns, is one of those rare works you won't be able to stop listening to. Johnson, the former "Laugh-In" regular who gave voice to the works of fellow Floridian Dave Barry, performs Hiaasen's columns with just the right touches of anger, sarcasm, and, thankfully, some humor for relief. Johnson gives voice to Hiaasen's outrage at a corrupt state in which politicians can't do enough for big business, at the expense of people and animals. Johnson's anger over the live burial of hundreds of turtles is just as strong as the story about oil companies abusing the Gulf. Hiaasen found the right guy to deliver his message. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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"It is a river of stories and a river of myth," Alan Sklar's deep voice intones early in Schneider's voluminous essay on the Mississippi River. Sklar's voice gives the writing a sense of poetry and authority, keeping the narrative going through myriad topics. Schneider's work includes a lot of research and quite a bit of personal observation from his own camping and visiting. He takes in everything from early Spanish and French explorers to the effects of fertilizer runoff today. Schneider loves the way words sound, thus giving Sklar a rhythmic narrative to work with. It's lengthy, as is the river, but listeners will enjoy the way the words flow. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The sea is often considered the last untamed frontier on this big blue planet we call home. In a bright, sometimes breathless, voice, Eliza Foss captures all the emotional depth of this true story of one woman taking on the Pacific alone—in an attempt to replicate Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 route by primitive boat from South America to Polynesia. With hushed tones, Foss describes magical moments that Fontenoy encounters, such as a mighty whale eyeing her tiny rowboat, Océor, before diving deep underneath it. During a sequence in which a vicious storm nearly ends the voyage, Foss adds a raw vitality to her voice that makes one ache for Fontenoy. In a fleeting four hours, Foss makes one believe that truly anything is possible, if there is the strength, courage, and determination to make it so. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners enter the world of the Lupi (werewolves), where magic is as viable a commodity as cash and dragons are beloved, if feared, creatures who spread the magic around. Pregnant FBI Agent Cynna Weaver finds herself the most valued person in two worlds as she journeys to a magical land to find a mysterious medallion. In the process, she meets her long lost father, who was kidnapped when she was a child. Colleen Delany and a full cast re-create these worlds and its denizens with actors' skill. All are uniformly excellent as they use voices and sound effects to bring listeners into this strange land. Background noise and eerie music add to the atmosphere of otherworldliness. It’s a pleasure to get lost in this world. M.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Longshore’s novel is a fictionalized account of Anne Boleyn's early years in Henry VIII’s court, before she became queen. The story drops the listener right into the middle of Tudor England, complete with courtly intrigue and gossip. Bellair gives emotion to the drama and intrigue of the courtiers’ competition for popularity with the king, which required sophistication and knowing whom to trust. She also creates a sympathetic character in Anne Boleyn, who starts off as an outsider and eventually becomes a strong, independent woman whose voice demands that she be heard. Bellair gives listeners a treat with her accents and portrayal of emotions in this well-voiced drama. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Booker Prize-winning author Thomas Keneally’s latest novel, based on the journals of Australian nurses during WWI, focuses not on the battles but on the wounded “diggers” (Australian troops) and the medics who tended them. Sisters Sally and Naomi Durance, volunteer nurses, are first stationed on a hospital ship anchored off Gallipoli. Narrator Jane Nolan keeps a tight grip on the emotional material as the nurses deal with young men, some with limbs blown apart, others riddled with shrapnel, infections, and gangrene. Nolan handles the horrific details with controlled passion, investing the many characters and subplots with truthfulness. She’s especially strong delivering the chaos that results when the ship is torpedoed and later when the nurses are sent to the bloodbath that was the Western Front. Top-notch listening. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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RED

When the first sound effects punctuate the silence, listeners know they have joined a live audience to experience this L.A. Theatre Works staged reading. Ken, a young assistant to Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko, is starting his first day in Rothko's New York studio. Jonathan Groff skillfully projects Ken's hesitancy as he tries to suss out his new job, and his bigger-than-life employer. Alfred Molina, as Rothko, IS bigger than life. He's huge, in voice and temper, and conveys Rothko's immense intellect and artistic vision. Listeners are immediately drawn into the power of this drama, and the script teaches and engages. The sense of being part of the live audience in wait for the next explosion of activity is palpable. A terrific example of the success of listener engagement in recorded plays. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and journalist Nora Ephron died last year. She is missed. Two of her most notable collections are a welcome addition to audio. Kathe Mazur captures Ephron’s wry humor, biting wit, and clear-eyed look at the world between 1972-74. In the CRAZY SALAD selection “Miami,” Ephron reveals shocking rivalries among feminists and betrayals by the McGovern camp at the Miami convention. “A Few Words About Breasts,” possibly her most famous piece, explores the miseries of being a flat-chested teenaged girl. “Baking Off” is her hilarious take on the Pillsbury Bake-Off. She is fearless in taking on the media in SCRIBBLE, SCRIBBLE, handling “People Magazine,” “Bob Haldeman and CBS,” and many more with her signature irreverent humor. Mazur’s narration makes these terrific essays resonate. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Anyone interested in both history and the space program will enjoy this collection of news reports, interviews, and recollections from an era that saw wondrous scientific advances contrasted with the Cold War fear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would use space exploration as an excuse to rain bombs down on each other. NPR reporter Joe Palca narrates as you would expect a reporter to. His voice is friendly, accessible, and informative, and he paces himself so that we can follow his reports. This is not just Palca’s gig, though, as the stories also feature other NPR on-air personalities, American citizens with an interest in space, astronauts from John Glenn to Sally Ride, rocket scientists, and even Nikita Krushchev’s son Sergei, who reminisces about the night that Sputnik launched in 1957. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In tones of pride and individualism, actor Michael Puttonen delivers this fascinating biography of one of the nation’s premier masters of covert operations. As a young army recruit, William Colby served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), working with French and Norwegian resistance groups during WWII. He was intelligent, brash, and deadly effective. Little could he have known that he’d finish his public career 30 years later as director of the CIA in the era of Watergate and the fall of Vietnam. Colby was one of the chief architects of U.S. policy in Indochina. His dedication and patriotism never waned, nor did his inability to re-evaluate a “deteriorating situation.” The listener can hear that in Puttonen’s reading as well. B.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When a contemporary writer attempts to write in the style of an older and much loved author, it’s hard not to listen with critical faculties sharpened. P.G. Wodehouse’s books have been done often in audio to marvellous effect, so not only is Sebastian Faulks on trial but narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt must also prove himself against some very tough competition. Happily, for Jeeves & Wooster fans, this is a winning combination. Rhind-Tutt enthuses, confuses, and expostulates with a gusto worthy of any of his predecessors in this convoluted story of thwarted romances, misunderstandings, and tricky social mores set against the classic country house backdrop so beloved by Wodehouse and his doting listeners. Treat yourself and pass many happy hours with a silly smile on your face. C.A.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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GraphicAudio delivers another high-octane DC Comics audio adventure with this dramatization of Hickman’s novel. The story switches back and forth between Batman’s present life and the life of Thomas Wayne, Batman’s father. Batman has been sent down a path that reveals clues to his parents’ past, which could destroy Batman’s identity in profound ways. With a full cast, sound effects, and a musical score, the production keeps listeners engaged for its entirety. Richard Rohan delivers the story’s narrative, and, as in many other productions, his deep voice and engaging delivery add to the intensity of the experience. The musical selections capture the scenes well, and the sound effects align perfectly with the action. L.E. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Nicholas Boulton’s elegant British accent brings out the best in this historical romance. Boulton has a natural, easy way with the voices of the women—from the high-class ladies to the hideous hags, and especially the main character, Leda Etoile (The Star). Boulton perfectly portrays the impoverished but refined young woman who finds herself unemployed and in a compromising situation. Boulton is equally adept with the men’s voices, especially that of Samuel Gerard (The Shadow), a mysterious gentleman trained in the martial arts. Boulton also impresses with the myriad accents the author throws at him—English, American, Japanese, French, even Hawaiian. Boulton captures every character and emotion with his winning narration. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Smart jazz. Smooth voices. And a curse that could have something to do with “headhunting”—like hiring executives, or “headhunting” like, you know, shrinking heads and eating brains. In their first full-length adventure, private eyes Phineas Sparks and Taylor Dixon, voiced with easy charm by Daryl Edwards and Karen Evans Kandel, take on a case that leads from Wall Street to a lost world of mystical, and perhaps deadly, primitive art. There’s no independent producer quite like the ZBS Foundation in the audiobook industry. They blend superior stereo quality and original music with gentle humor and insightful acting and writing. So, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and listen right through to the last second of this aural feast. The “ah-ha” ending sounds just as extraordinary as the rest of the production. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This warm collection of Christmas stories—some familiar, some refreshingly new—is an idyllic way to launch the holiday season. These magical tales are enchantingly rendered by a variety of talented performers. The grown-up tales by L.M. Montgomery, O. Henry, Willa Cather, Hans Christian Andersen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Bret Harte, and Anthony Trollope will either bring tears to your eyes or get you in the mood to begin vigorously decking the halls with boughs of holly. The narrators convey tones of compassion, longing, and generosity, contrasted with fervent rejoicing. Some stories are appropriate for children while others are a bit dark, but all bring into sharp relief the season's celebratory essence of sharing and love. A.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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John Curless does a masterful job with the accents and personalities in this rich Yorkshire stew of a thriller. Aector McAvoy, of the Serious and Organized Crime Squad, is Scottish. Most of his police colleagues are Yorkshiremen and women, but Aector’s wife was born a “traveler” and still has ties to the gypsy community. Some of the “gyps” are mixed up in a heroin gang war that Aector is trying to stop, and someone has murdered a sexual adventurer during an assignation, probably some posh swinger he met on the Internet. Curless renders all the narrative material in standard UK English so that the variously accented voices sparkle when characters speak, and the relentless Northern cadences don’t wear you out. It’s beautiful acting. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Marguerite Gavin's sexy voice and tremendous acting talent combine in this rich book about friendship, love, and food to form a near "perfect pairing." Longtime estranged friends Charlotte and Nicole have been separated by secrets for 10 long years. When the opportunity to coauthor a cookbook of Maine island recipes brings them back together, the secrets can't be kept, and character and friendship are tested. Gavin uses tonal differences to differentiate between the various characters. Although her accents are somewhat uneven, they don’t detract from an enjoyable listening experience. A.C.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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With the help of a handsome, mysterious stranger, Jade MacGregor survives a bloody late-night attack while touring a tomb in a Scottish graveyard. A year later similar attacks have started again, and Jade is sure she caught a glimpse of that stranger, now in her hometown of New Orleans. Narrator Tanya Eby does not disappoint as she adeptly portrays each character with aplomb. Her Scots accents are believable and interesting, and she delivers sinister and evil tones convincingly. The story and Eby's performance will scare the pants right off you. Another good listen from an author at the top of her game. A.C.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Mystery author David Rosenfelt and his wife, Debbie, decide to move from their home in Southern California to Maine, a big trip in itself—and one complicated further by the question of how to move the couple's 25 rescue dogs along with them. Jeff Steitzer's deep, pleasant voice is enjoyable to listen to, and he aptly portrays the couple's fervent devotion to the task of rescuing dogs from shelters. His pacing and intonation help to keep the listener in the story of how the couple came to amass so many dogs, the varied personalities of their canine family members, and the way they managed to transfer their household cross-country via recreational vehicles and a team of fellow dog enthusiasts. Listeners who are dog lovers will be inspired. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This well-researched novel—part romance, part cultural history—is not to be missed. Suzanne Cypress does an excellent job as the narrator of a story told from the perspective of a male protagonist. Every night Esma Sultan, a powerful Ottoman princess, seduces a Christian soldier and then has him drowned in the Bosporus in the morning by the only man she loves—her drowning guard. Cypress’s vocal dexterity switches between male and female characters with seamless precision. Her pronunciation of Arabic words is perfect, and her variations in pitch, tone, and diction bring to life a cast of characters of various religions and nationalities. Suspenseful, dramatic, and vivid, this is the kind of book you hope for in an audio title. M.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Dino Marnika gives a powerful performance in this sweeping saga of romance, treachery, and triumph in 1830s Australia. Lovely and aristocratic Isabel de Rolland must save her family from financial ruin by marrying Marmaduke Gamble, the handsome son of the second-richest man in New South Wales—but who she feels is “beneath” her. Marnika excels at every accent and character—from English aristocrat to Australian men and women of every social strata, from Indian servant to Irish "bolter." Each voice is distinct and flawless. This engaging story is beautifully brought to life in just the kind of audio experience the listener hopes for each time the earphones go on. A.C.P © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Moira Quirk’s mastery of the Darkest London series continues with this third installment. When Poppy Lane’s husband, Winston, is attacked by a werewolf and he learns his wife is a member of the secret Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals, their marriage is nearly destroyed. However, with a fearsome dark power threatening, there’s no choice but for Poppy and Win to unite—and hope their love will be strong enough to save them. Moira Quirk’s expertise with this imaginative paranormal series is evident as she brings each scene to vibrant life and provides a distinct voice for each character. She skillfully conveys the tension between Win and Poppy, making each of their encounters moving and exciting. This is an immersive story to be savored. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Tavia Gilbert is an ideal narrator for Frost’s steamy, engrossing stories, and she brings her usual wit and emotion to this second Night Prince novel. Though they’ve survived hell together, Leila can feel her vampire lover, Vlad, growing more distant by the day, and her psychic powers seem to be fading as well. Striking out on her own again seems like the best way to overcome her breaking heart, until a ruthless killer threatens to shatter any hope of happiness. Though Vlad’s accent occasionally sounds too harsh, Gilbert’s consistency with the characters and their unique traits is admirable, and the emotional depth in her delivery brings all the nuances of these stirring figures to life. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This candid memoir by a Navy SEAL medic is given a vigorous reading by Fred Berman. Beginning with his rough childhood and adolescence, Donald pulls no punches in describing his loving but dysfunctional home environment and how joining the Marines gave him a place to belong. Later, he transferred to the Navy to become a medic, and from there he underwent SEAL training. He recounts combat operations, for which he was highly decorated, and describes how he dealt with the PTSD that nearly destroyed him and his family. Berman has a quick, sometimes staccato delivery but is always understandable. His use of different voices for the dialogue is believable and effective. Most important, his overall performance winsomely conveys the author’s humility. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Amy McFadden taps her outstanding comedic talent to become Amy Gallup, a 62-year-old novelist and writing instructor from California whose trip and fall while trying to plant a Norfolk pine results in one calamitous and transformative event after another. McFadden performs Willett's witty satire with humor and irony. Yet she’s savvy enough to emphasize the tender over the sardonic. Events after Gallup's fall and mild concussion conspire to forge amazing adventures and life changes—from the ridiculous to the profound. The before and after become a plausible dichotomy that both author and performer achieve beautifully. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Baldwin’s first novel, published in 1953, centers around Harlem Pentecostal preacher Gabriel Grimes—his life, family, and congregation. Narrator Adam Lazarre-White does a commendable job portraying the large cast over a long span of time beginning in 1935 in the South and then moving North. Since point of view and time continually shift, his narration helps listeners remain focused. Baldwin's rich description, perhaps the best part of his writing, is enhanced by this thoughtful delivery. Lazarre-White's outstanding characters are high-spirited Florence and mild though determined Elizabeth, who take on the fanatical Gabriel. The novel is a painful, though vitally important, look at black life in a less familiar era by a distinguished African-American author. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Sean Runnette's deep voice may sound more Goliath than David; nonetheless, his smooth delivery makes him a great narrator for this audiobook. He easily maintains listeners' attention with his gentle but firm voice as he navigates the text seamlessly, providing key emphasis to Mele's major points. In the tradition of Chris Anderson's THE LONG TAIL, Mele coherently makes a case for how the Internet and, more importantly, the switch to digital are making it increasingly easier for everyone, individuals and small businesses, to become makers and creators. As the power of the digital is unleashed, oversized companies will have less leverage. L.E. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Happiness is a mystery writer with a wild sense of humor and a narrator who knows how to deliver it. This charming mystery delivers a surprise—and a good one at that. Narrator Adam Verner raises the bar even higher. His first-person chatty protagonist is glib and brisk. Newark reporter Carter Ross investigates the supposed suicide of a decorated cop and learns that much more is going on. In fact, the suicide might really have been murder, and the irrepressible Ross is determined to find out. Verner is at his finest when portraying the reporter, especially when he brings out Brad Parks's humor. Verner is also adept at switching from reporters' chatter to the voice of a deep-voiced, six-foot-eight African-American cop. The fourth in the Carter Ross series is a sleeper that listeners should not pass up. A.L.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In 2012, author Philip Caputo hitched an Airstream to his truck and set off to discover what exactly holds America together, especially during these times of political polarization. Narrator Pete Larkin's casual, personal sound is perfect for this captivating account of the ultimate road trip, covering 16,000 miles from the southernmost tip of Key West to the northern shore of Alaska. Larkin embraces the story, animating each experience with the appropriate emotion, such as the author’s frustration with his trailer's plumbing and his awe at seeing wild buffalo. Larkin’s ease with a variety of regional accents helps listeners visualize the people Caputo talked with along the way. Armchair travelers AND wanderers will be fascinated by this travel memoir. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Accessibility and balance make this an outstanding study of the complexities of adolescent bullying. Sharing the stories of three teenagers and looking at a variety of enabling factors and corrective responses, Bazelon says that simply punishing offenders seldom works, though legal action against schools has improved institutional responses to bullying. Rebecca Lowman’s exceptional performance brings off the tricky combination of relaxed youthful appeal and intellectual maturity. She’s also effective at delivering the narratives that dominate this multifaceted presentation, which includes advice for victims and parents. Lowman’s approach partners seamlessly with the author’s apparent mission: to encourage activism by exposing the fascinating interplay among destructive instincts, individual frailties, organizational resistance, social media, and the power of legal action to change culture. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A hearty narration by Nicholas Boulton brings out the serious and farcical elements of this engaging mystery romance. Boulton’s portrayal of suave Ransom Falcon is spot-on. His deep and resonant voice gives the duke an alluring blend of chivalry, roguish sensitivity, and campiness that convey suspense and humor as he helps war-torn England by taking a genius inventor under his wing. Boulton’s intonations capture the female inventor’s feisty independence and naïveté, which make for droll exchanges with the debonair duke. A convincing range of French, Scots, and English accents contributes to the distinct voices of the supporting characters, whose personalities and wit are expertly delivered, further adding to the charm of this delightful performance. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Baseball fans have all heard stories of the game’s greatest moments. But this collection of radio calls—classic broadcasting from different eras—is a must-listen. Sportscaster Bob Costas is his usual steady self as he introduces these timeless broadcasting snippets. Some are famous—such as Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956 and Bobby Thomson’s shot heard ‘round the world in 1951—while others are trivial but engaging moments from various periods of time. In the static-free digital world of today, it’s refreshing to hear some authentic roughness as Red Barber, Mel Allen, and others describe exciting moments of baseball lore. Many of these unfiltered sounds come from a time before television, when radio delivered immediately and newspapers were devoured hot off the presses. M.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Orlagh Cassidy's interpretation of this charming story about friendship, loyalty, and self-discovery is near perfect. Listeners don’t have to be familiar with “Downton Abbey” to enjoy this contemporary novel about how three very different women form a lasting friendship that helps them through a time of change and growth. Cassidy’s soothing, expressive voice enchants from the opening minutes, and her consistent, spot-on characterizations of both men and women keep one engaged to the last second. Her manipulation of pacing and tone transports listeners smoothly from the laugh-out-loud scenes to the more sober moments in the characters' lives. She masterfully transitions between the Southern and British accents, and her rendition of one woman's poor attempt at a Cockney accent is delightful. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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It’s 1899, and the world is changing. The most immediately noticeable change for the Earl of Dilberne is that his Jewish solicitor is brazen enough to barge in unannounced before breakfast and doesn’t even feel the need to come in through the servants’ entrance. With a tony accent and wry humor, Katherine Kellgren narrates this story of an upper-class family on the verge of losing the life its members have always known. Kellgren differentiates well between family members, servants, and the young American woman whose fortune may very well save the Dilberne estate. Written by the author of “Upstairs, Downstairs,” HABITS OF THE HOUSE will delight fans of “Downton Abbey” and those who enjoy dry wit coupled with excellent narration. J.L.K. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Listeners interested in remote places of the world will enjoy this modern-day analysis on why some civilizations develop technology while others do not. Narrator Jay Snyder is a reasonable choice for this volume, which is grounded in anthropology, cultural analysis, and history. He manages capably the intricate sentences that explain the details of life for tribal people from New Guinea to Brazil. The explanations are dense, technical, and profound—fascinating for those who want to learn more about these societies at the edge of modernization. Snyder’s tone is warm and personable. The listener can imagine him as an engaging professor; his rich baritone lends the detailed text an approachable quality it would lack with a drier reading. M.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Enter the exotic world of Siam (Thailand) as seen through the words of Anna Leanowens, who teaches the children and wives of the King of Siam S.S.P.P. Maha Mongkut. Anne Flosnik narrates this charming story full of vignettes about the various characters in the harem, the palace, and nestled along the river in Bangkok. Flosnik flawlessly delivers the complicated Asian names. Switching seamlessly from narration to dialogue, she draws the listener into the story of Anna’s life, now immortalized in the play and movie THE KING AND I. Flosnik’s narration is magical and musical as her soft voice rises and falls with the varied emotions expressed by Anna as her amazing experience is depicted. Take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with this story of love, laughter, and life in a foreign land. M.B.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Michelle Obama's familiar warm voice is the first one listeners hear in this family-friendly story of the White House kitchen garden. It's part history lesson, part tie-in to the First Lady's “Let's Move!” initiative, and it includes everything from behind-the-scenes anecdotes about life in the White House to instructions for starting a vegetable garden at home. Testimonials from contributors such as local farmer Jim Crawford and beekeeper Charlie Brandts are appealing and sincere, and hearing a fifth-grader read his essay about his day at the garden will make listeners' hearts grow three sizes. The abridgment mostly works—listeners won't know what they're missing—but it's a shame none of the photographs from the hardcover edition were included. The true value of AMERICAN GROWN, though, is the springboard it provides for conversations with kids about where our food comes from. J.M.D. 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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With an introduction by the fabulous Rachel Maddow and a narration by the incomparable Frances McDormand, listeners can settle into a time capsule journey to the ‘70s via Armistead Maupin’s TALES OF THE CITY. Yes, it’s dated. But so what? The period is expertly rendered by McDormand’s breathing wit, marijuana smoke, and indisputable life into Maupin’s charming collection of outlandish eccentrics living and thriving at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco’s Russian Hill district. Begun as a newspaper serial, very like Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Road series, Maupin’s book adds a distinctly American sparkle to life in the big city. McDormand is wonderfully green as Midwesterner Mary Ann awakens to her new world and its denizens—from her pot-smoking landlady, Mrs. Madrigal, to supermarket singles’ nights. Delicious listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This debut historical novel by celebrated actress Kondazian explores the inner struggles of Charlotte (Charley) Parkhurst who, thanks to the strange circumstances of her life, chooses to live as a man in California in mid-1850s. Robin Weigert is able to portray Charlotte as both a man and a woman with very slight changes in her voice. She clearly defines the interesting set of characters in Charlotte’s life with changes in pitch, tone, and regional accents. In addition to Charlotte’s inner struggles and gender switches, the story hints of other women in the Old West who could not be self-reliant, respected, and independent as females. This ambitious plot, well performed, is based on a true story. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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An example of pulp fiction at its finest! Larger-than-life hero Brent Calloway must fight for his life when his true identity is revealed aboard a cargo ship. The hard-boiled tones of the narrator are perfect for the genre. And you can almost smell the alcohol on the deep, throaty growls of infamous villain Spike O'Brien. In contrast, Calloway's tone is cool, calm, and collected—just like his personality. The use of sound effects is appropriate, adding to the overall listening experience without distracting from the voice talents: Waves lap against the ship, gunshots ring out, punches crack, and helpless women squeal for aid. The production also includes the short story "Grounded." M.D. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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