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The audiobook opens with Miss Beatrice Nash’s arrival in Rye, an English village where she’s to serve as the new Latin teacher. It’s the summer of 1914, but the war brewing on the European continent has yet to disturb life in Rye. Narrator Fiona Hardingham breathes life into a huge cast of characters—from the grieving, determined Miss Nash to a Romani schoolboy. She’s especially adept with accents; the American author who is trying to downplay his heritage sounds appropriately ambiguous, and a Belgian refugee who speaks halting, heavily accented English is convincing. With subtle wit and barely suppressed emotion, Hardingham chronicles Miss Nash’s first year in Rye, which stretches from summer garden parties to England’s entry into WWI. This is storytelling at its finest, with a narration to match. E.C. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Chevalier's story of American frontier life and the trees, both apple and redwood, that influence the lives of a family is delivered by a talented group of narrators. Mark Bramhall, Hillary Huber, Kirby Heyborne, and Cassandra Morris each narrate the perspective of a family member. Bramhall and Huber are wonderfully cast as the warring Goodenough parents, with Heyborne and Morris doing an outstanding job voicing the letters sent between two Goodenough siblings. The one way this narration falls down is in having Bramhall continue to narrate the section of the novel that is from the point of view of the Goodenough son instead of having Heyborne take that role, since he's the one who represents that young man when he is writing letters. Bramhall continues to engage, but the choice is somewhat jarring to the listener. J.L.K. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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It has been decided that Mma Ramotswe, owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, shall take a holiday--even though she doesn't actually wish to take one. Lisette Lecat, who has narrated this series from its beginning, is once again perfect for this story set in Botswana. With a relaxed pace, she sets the charming atmosphere, seeming to savor each of McCall Smith's sentences. As Mma Ramotswe struggles to refrain from meddling in the agency while her colleague Mma Makutsi is in charge, Lecat seems to delight in performing the voices and accents of each character, making each one distinct and memorable. This story is meant for fans of the long-running beloved series--newcomers are advised to enjoy each installment from the beginning. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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There will be no stopping once you start listening to Simon Vance's performance of this riveting new mystery. Christian, a successful novelist and protégé of Erica Hedström, collapses after receiving another in a series of threatening notes. Christian's friend, Magnus, has disappeared, and the police are stymied. After Magnus's body is found, Detective Patrik Hedström and his wife, Erica, investigate, revealing a shocking secret going back decades and winding through the lives of the residents of Fjallbacka. Vance makes the listening smooth, pronouncing the many Scandinavian names and places with professional expertise. He removes all barriers between listener and characters, and as the puzzle grows more intricate, guides us expertly through the dark places just below the surface. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Sara and Amy were pen pals who discussed and traded books over the years. When Sara decides to travel from her home in Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet Amy, her journey ends in disappointment--Amy has passed away. With two months to spend in the backward little town, Sara decides to change the lives of Broken Wheel's citizens with books. Fiona Hardingham, narrating with her charming English accent, takes the main narrative of the audiobook. Though her Iowan and other American accents don't quite ring true, she remains fully engaged with the story and characters. Lorelei King narrates the letters from Amy to Sara in a purely straightforward manner. The dual narration fits well with the story--and the whole thing is sweet, impossible, and romantic. M.M.G. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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In her foreword to this collection, Davis writes, “Her sensitivity to the sounds of the language is always there, and we too savor the rhythms of the syllables or the perfect coincidence of sound and sense.” While meant as a reflection on Lucia Berlin’s writing, the words hold equally true for the narrators of this short story collection. They each (with a special nod to Carol Monda and Hillary Huber) slip easily inside the sidelined and marginalized characters who populate these semiautobiographical stories. Berlin’s writing, both tempered and elastic, provides a perfect springboard, and the narrators use it to full advantage: gracefully leaping, twisting, and—when called for—landing with force on the emotional heart of each story. K.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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The ominous tone of this audiobook draws in the curious listener from the first scene. Three narrators collaborate, stitching together the lives of the characters in a seamless listening experience. Nathalie Buscombe, Katie Scarfe, and Cassandra Campbell maximize the mystery and suspense swirling around an aging house in Cornwall. Tragedy haunts the four Alton children after their mother's untimely death. As the story moves back and forth between two timelines, listeners jump from Lorna in the present as she plans her wedding in a place she vaguely remembers to the young Altons as they grow up at Black Rabbit Hall. Buscombe, Scarfe, and Campbell create artistic portraits of each character, including the gruff masculine ones. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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In this passionate tale of art, love, and war, Xe Sands captures listeners’ attention with authentic-sounding emotion and energy. In 1940, painter Alizée Benoit, who works for the WPA, disappears in New York City, and no one knows what happened to her. Seventy years later, her great-niece tries to find out. Through her verbal depictions, Sands presents a sublime understanding of the characters' feelings and motivations. From the great-niece’s determination to her aunt's desperation, Sands infuses every character with a unique quality. She treats the pre-war period with the same respect, producing an ocean of disconnect between continents—an air of scarcity in the United States, a frenzy of terror in Europe. When the story's Expressionist painters make use of color, texture, and dimension in their work, Sands varies her volume, dialect, and pitch to convey their creativity. The result is a masterful, gripping novel. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Janis Ian and Jean Smart bring exquisite joy, vulnerability, and honesty to their narration of Isabel Miller’s 1969 historical novel about the love between a poor farmer’s daughter, Sarah, and a folk painter, Patience, in nineteenth-century New England. As the two women realize their feelings for each other, the narrators take on a tender tone and slow their pace, allowing their romantic epiphany to unfold. This makes for a touchingly intimate listening experience. Miller’s classic love story, beautiful in its simplicity, is the first winner of the American Library Association’s Stonewall Award, which recognizes “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.” Ian and Smart give Sarah and Patience new life. E.M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Oliver Wyman delivers an amazing performance of Hanya Yanagihara’s (THE PEOPLE IN THE TREES) disturbing new novel. Short-listed for the Mann Booker Prize, A LITTLE LIFE centers on longtime friends Jude, Willem, Malcolm, and JB. Jude, whose unspeakable childhood abuses contribute to his self-destructive tendencies, is the pivotal figure. He’s beautiful and brilliant, and the others circle him as moths to the flame. Willem is a struggling white actor, JB is an African-American painter with a sharp tongue, Malcolm is an unfulfilled biracial architect, and Jude's race is undetermined. We follow the friends from college into their 50s, and Wyman’s subtle vocal changes reflect their disenchantments as they age. Thanks to Wyman’s sensitivity, this introspective examination of male friendship, race, sexuality, and love truly resonates. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Sometimes there’s an echo of Strout’s inimitable Olive Kitteridge in Lucy Barton's mother, and what a gift that is. This story of family, poverty, aspirations, and obstacles is immediately gripping, thanks to the combination of Strout's high-quality prose and Kimberly Farr's nearly flawless performance. When the title character is hospitalized for an extended time, her heretofore estranged mother visits; their conversations provide the backbone for memorable vignettes of the past and the present. Farr captures Lucy’s clear-eyed outlook, which rises above any self-pity or melodrama. The conversations Lucy has with her peppery mother are so believable that one becomes immersed in the production. Some narrative gaps exist—but the same could be said for life itself. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will rejoice that narrator Mark Bramhall returns to narrate Kent Haruf's bittersweet swan song to his beloved town of Holt, Colorado. This short audiobook focuses on the characters Addie Moore and Louis Waters, now in their 70s and living alone, years after their spouses' deaths. Bramhall's soothing cadences and tender tones bring out the full range of emotions experienced by the neighbors as they find a way to mitigate their loneliness while maintaining their dignity and independence. Despite small-town gossip and the reactions of grown children, Addie and Louis want nothing more than to enjoy comfortable companionship through the uncertainties of aging. Bramhall's unhurried performance allows listeners time to absorb the richness of the couple's newfound friendship and the sadness of the roadblocks they're forced to navigate. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jorjeana Marie's wide range of shifting reactions gives a convincing picture of 18-year-old Cody, who learns that her best friend, Meg, has committed suicide. Could there be any situation that provokes a more complex tangle of emotions? Marie provides subtle shadings throughout. Cody's grief and sorrow are tinged with warm memories that suddenly give way to a reproachful tone, then disgust at the town's endless eulogizing and guilt at her own lack of awareness of her friend's pain. While Cody's outward expression seems snarky, listeners are privy to the anger that fuels her search for the person who aided Meg in her suicide as well as her fear of that confrontation, her torment at discovering first love with a boy she holds partially responsible for Meg's death, and her unremitting need to forgive herself. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © 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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Prepare to be charmed! Narrator Bahni Turpin is back to narrate this sequel to THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. A couple of years after two alien species invaded Earth, Gratuity (Tip) Tucci is now 13, and J.Lo, her Boovish friend, longs to visit New Boovworld and reconcile with his fellow Boov. What follows is a madcap outer-space adventure, a political farce, and an endearing story of friendship. Turpin’s enthusiastic narration is genius. She gives voice to humans, aliens, a parrot, and a robot; handles Rex’s wordplay and the Boov’s muddled English; and creates her own sound effects with apparent ease and flair. Turpin's reading enhances everything funny, smart, clever, silly, and subtle about the storytelling. It’s an absolute listening delight. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In this urban fantasy/horror story, Caroline and her adopted siblings have been raised in the “library” for 25 years by a “father” who is at least 600 years old. Each has a separate “catalogue” to master, and the combination of their expertise and talents underlies this original tale. Narrator Hillary Huber infuses the three main narrators with very different but, in each case, engaging manners that contrast with the weird events they find themselves involved in. Huber draws on a vast store of voices and personalities to vividly portray the siblings and the many others who come within their sphere of influence. She maintains a subtle intensity that bursts into moments of explosive energy. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Carl Mørck is a beleaguered cop who still answers phone calls from his mother. Narrator Graeme Malcolm captures the irritable detective's interior life in an edgy, masculine timbre. Malcolm’s deep vocals tinge the story with an ongoing subtext of impending danger. The steady pace of his narration sweeps the listener along as the connections between a gruesome cult and teenage manslaughter are revealed. Malcolm’s confident narration differentiates the many characters Mørck questions during his investigation. Following the plot is easy—the chapters are short, building on one another as they’re infused by Malcolm's intensity. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tavia Gilbert jumps into this novel with both feet, carrying listeners to the end. Romantic suspense prevails as the author creates a whodunnit with a raft of suspects and a red herring or two. Working-class Bailey Browne is swept off her feet by Logan Abbott, a widower who is 10 years older than she and from a very different background. After they marry, he brings her home to his Louisiana horse farm, where she discovers she hardly knows him at all. Gilbert creates distinctive female and male voices. Especially notable is her ability to instill characters’ voices with strong emotion and complete vulnerability in the same paragraph. As her tone of authenticity lends credibility to the plot, the story becomes a delight for listeners. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The author of six books (and perhaps a seventh?), Harriet Wolf had an early life that was characterized by bizarre and varied events. Her story is revealed in a series of alternating monologues that are perfectly suited to audio and expertly delivered by an ensemble of voices. Harriet details her unusual birth, her 13 years at the Maryland Home for Feeble Children, her recognition as a girl genius, and her lifelong love for a fellow inmate. Jodi Carlisle depicts Harriet’s anxious, resentful daughter, Eleanor, while Katie Koster and Christine Lakin offer spot-on portrayals of her granddaughters, agoraphobic/claustrophobic Tilton and prodigal Ruth. But Harriet is the story’s heart. Susan Silo is outstanding as she rasps and whispers her droll asides, skewering characters with choice observations. Part romance, part mystery, this completely engaging and wondrous tale is an audiobook listeners will want to hear again ASAP. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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James Patterson fine-tunes his backstory in this latest Alex Cross audiobook. He sends Alex and his family to his hometown in North Carolina, where trouble is brewing for his cousin, who is accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Narrator Ruben Santiago Hudson infuses Alex with his own blend of passion and vigor to make this presentation his own. As Alex’s search for the real killer sends him deep into his own family’s secrets, Hudson’s voice peels back layers of raw and heartrending emotion. Jefferson Mays provides counterpoint to Hudson’s performance with his skillful creation of the depraved killer. Together, the two narrators anchor the plot with enduring performances and bring Alex home at last. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This mostly epistolary novel tracks the real and imagined friendship of Samuel Clemens (author Mark Twain) and Henry Morton Stanley (African explorer) from their meeting on a Mississippi riverboat before the Civil War through the end of their lives. Clemens, Stanley, and Stanley’s wife— painter Dorothy Tennant—are the main voices, ably performed by the ensemble of narrators. Henry Leyva captures the charming and tragic elder Clemens, and—more remarkably—James Langton, the bull-headed and searching Stanley. The vividly rendered Tennant—read by Polly Lee—matches both for energy and passion. Robert Petkoff ably covers the narration and other major characters. A meditation on Anglo-American imperial culture in the late nineteenth century, the story meanders from Cuba to the Congo. F.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Paul Boehmer delivers a superb performance of Geraldine Brooks’s reimagining of the life of King David. Boehmer’s characters live through his vocal magic. He creates David, his sons, his wives, his enemies, and Natan, the narrator of the tale. A prophecy foretells that David, the shepherd boy, is destined to be king of the Jews. Once David defeats Goliath, his star begins to rise. He’s a fierce soldier, a natural leader who is capable of Old Testament-worthy vindictiveness and uncontrollable rage, yet his music transfixes all who hear it. Boehmer captures every nuance as David overindulges his baseness and carnality. Further, Boehmer's Hebrew pronunciations are splendid. Brooks offers a larger-than-life portrait of a charismatic David who was human yet capable of horrible deeds, and Boehmer captures all those qualities. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Cassandra Campbell's beautifully expressive performance captures the emotional depth of these loosely interlocked essays in which Joyce Carol Oates reflects primarily on her family and childhood and the significant events that influenced her worldview and development as an author. Using a conversational, almost storytelling, style, Campbell creates a welcome intimacy between the listener and Oates's carefully crafted prose. Several pieces involve long lists of food or clothing or other short memories, and Campbell's whispery, melodic voice captures the poetic quality of those sections, completely captivating the listener. The essays embrace a broad emotional spectrum—from the wonderment of obtaining a first library card to the devastation of losing a parent—and present a stark portrait of growing up in rural America in the 1950s. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Given that she absolutely has the skill to do it, the author’s intense, high-pressure performance of this ambitious book is its best possible version because the text is all voice, expressing half-formed thoughts and half-understood impulses in half-formed sentences, and it’s the confusion, anger, yearning, or grief behind the broken language that tells the story. The unnamed narrator is talking in her head to her much-loved, damaged brother. The shattered dialogue, which might have been written as a performance piece, mirrors the inchoate ways the girl responds to devastating events. If the radio dial served up audiobooks instead of music, this one would not be on the easy listening station, but it is rich, original, and haunting, the performance wrenching. You won’t forget it. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Christina Moore is simply spectacular narrating Amy Stewart's story of one of the country's first female deputies. In 1914, Constance Kopp and her sisters want only to stay on the family farm, but when their buggy is hit by a vile man in a car, her attempt to rectify the situation results in the need to physically protect her family. Moore's depiction of Kopp sounds exactly as one would expect for a woman who was willing to wait on a corner with a gun to end a campaign of terror against her family. In addition, Moore provides subtly distinctive voices for the rest of Stewart's characters. Stewart is telling a fascinating story, and Moore makes listening an immersive experience. J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With a voice that can shift from the liquid brown sugar of Barbados to Brooklyn’s assertive nasal tones, Robin Miles offers a pitch-perfect reading of Naomi Jackson’s remarkable first novel. The affecting coming-of-age story introduces us to 16-year-old Dionne and 10-year-old Phaedra in the summer of 1989. When their mother isn’t able to care for them back home in Brooklyn, the girls are sent to their grandmother in Barbados. Miles uses a slight change of pace to signal the scenes of memory set in Brooklyn. And she handles shifts in perspective and tone beautifully—exuberant young Phaedra, self-conscious teen Dionne, and world-wise grandmother, as well as offering believable sound portraits of the men in their lives. What a pleasure. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Set amid the lushness of nineteenth-century St. Thomas, this massive family tale is an appealing audiobook. As the novel imagines the origins of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, the narrators’ performances are skilled and appropriate for each role. While each narrator's voice is distinctive, they share a common intensity, a complete immersion in the lyrical language that is a Hoffman specialty. Gloria Reuben's voice has a simmering, husky quality, while Tina Benko's delivery is more measured and subtle, which is appropriate for that section of the novel. Santino Fontana brings the listener forward in time, his crisp delivery sounding a bit more modern. Even with such scope, this audiobook manages to capture the imagination and transport listeners to another time. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Once again, Philippa Gregory makes historical events personal. Bianca Amato offers an elegant, queenly performance, delivering intimate portraits of fascinating royals. King Henry VIII proposes marriage to young widow Kateryn Parr. Although Kateryn is in love with Thomas Seymour, she realizes she can't refuse the king, who is almost twice her age, grotesquely obese, with a seeping, oozing, foul-smelling leg wound. As the king woos her with kindness, Amato reveals Kateryn's growing fondness for him. She creates an independent, clear-eyed woman, who burns for Seymour but crushes her emotions. Amato is remarkable portraying the last of Henry's queens, a woman who was the first to publish a book, to advocate for a Bible translation in English, and to restore the princesses to their mercurial father's good graces. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Benjamin remembers the summer that changed his life and the lives of his siblings as children in Nigeria, a place of both danger and poetry. Chukwudi Iwuji captures Nigerian speech in slightly accented English. This gives the narrative an authentic sound—as if the listener is hearing the recollections of a friend's past instead of a novel. The story moves forward steadily with Iwuji's consistent pace. He dramatizes many of the older characters with a theatrical quality distinguished by pauses and louder volume. The listener is especially drawn to the playful perspectives of boys nearing the end of their innocence. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This collection is packed with entertaining nuggets, and the narrators are all on target, but the Elmore Leonard stories themselves--most of them early, unpublished works--use styles and techniques that Leonard would later abandon or refine. For example, Will Patton starts the collection with the right mix of cynicism and fatalism in "One, Horizontal," a noir-ish first-person tale with an O. Henry ending, all elements that Leonard later shunned. This formula--great narration and unexpected stylings from Leonard--makes CHARLIE MARTZ an oddity among Elmore Leonard's 40+ audiobooks. The thematic seeds are there--the underestimated man, women and men as partners, the battle against social injustice--but the stories are missing the twinkling dialogue and light pacing of the mature Leonard. Kudos to all the narrators, especially Tish Hicks. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This sequel to THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is a complex weaving of the stories of Kelsea, the current Queen of Tear, and Lily, who was alive in the 21st century when a portion of America crossed over to a pre-technological society at the time of the founding of the Tear. Davina Porter assists the listener in keeping the storylines straight as they gradually converge. Her portrayal of Kelsea is nuanced and inviting. Porter draws on the feisty and passionate nature of the 19-year-old queen, particularly in her sparring with the condescending leaders of the church who, while unduly concerned with prudish morality, contribute little to the well-being of the people. Porter’s engagement with the characters and plot is contagious. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Combining Stephen King's masterful storytelling with humor, bizarre characters, and fireworks, narrator Tim Sample unfurls the story of an escalating rivalry with precision. In the rolling, deliberately paced drawl of a seasoned Mainer, Sample recounts a yearly fireworks competition: Alden McCausland and his mother against the wealthy summering Massimos, from Rhode Island. Jaunty, trumpeted renditions of “America the Beautiful” book-end this performance, its lurching, spirited notes mirroring the lunacy in King’s landscape of dialogue, family history, and mounting desperation. Sample’s sardonic delivery peppers a sordid narrative with moments of flippancy, and by grounding the dialogue and characterizations in specificity, he keeps a tight reign on King's kaleidoscopic sense of detail. An odd, enjoyable summer listen, and an excellent recommendation for non-horror fans who are interested in King’s work. K.S.B. 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Phylicia Rashad gives such a vivid portrayal of the characters in this audiobook that you feel you are in the same room with them, only you’ve turned your head and don’t happen to be seeing them. It’s as if she’s known every one of them personally. Ivoe Williams is a capable and determined daughter of early-twentieth-century Jim Crow Texas. As a young woman, she starts an African-American newspaper, JAM ON THE VINE, in Kansas City, Missouri. Barnett’s writing is gorgeous, and Rashad revels in it. The book is a hymn to personal courage, love, and the fourth estate, and you will admire, remember, and care about these characters long after you finish, thanks in no small part to Rashad’s glorious and heartfelt performance. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Daniel Silva is at the top of his game in this high-tension wire of an audiobook, performed by George Guidall. Silva’s Israeli spymaster, Gabriel Allon, teams with a former English commando named Keller to find Eamon Quinn, a former IRA bomb maker. Not only is Quinn a vicious terrorist for hire, but Allon and Keller also have intensely personal reasons for wanting him stopped. Guidall’s warm, lived-in voice brings so much to the experience, somehow always conveying understanding of and sympathy for the human dimension in the most terrible scenes of mayhem, the most morally ambiguous situations. His attention and pace never falter, and he is wonderful at the accents, including several flavors of Irish, along with Russian, Iranian, and an uncanny Israeli. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Barbara Rosenblat is an outstanding performer. Here she uses varied tones and pitches to reflect four quirky but strong women: Edith, the organized, responsible 64-year-old legal librarian; Kat, Edith's identical twin, who is entirely the opposite in looks, personality, and temperament; Vida Cebu, the landlady, a beautiful and egocentric actress; and Ashley, an 18-year-old homeless Russian immigrant. The horrific plotline, involving a freakish phosphorus mold found growing in the twins' closet, is creative and kind of scary. Rosenblat's delivery is well paced and convincing as she assumes a voice for each character. Listeners will enjoy the way she projects the appealing personalities Ciment has created. S.C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Oscar-winning actress and Southern girl Reese Witherspoon portrays the narrator of the masterpiece TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, who is now an adult called by her full name, Jean Louise, living in New York City. As she describes her return to her hometown for an annual visit, the story features many of the same characters in MOCKINGBIRD, but they’re radically different in outlook. All are portrayed by Witherspoon with perfect pitch and pacing, and the sure hand of a talented actress who is well aware of the region’s racially fraught past. Lee’s new novel draws on the same theme as MOCKINGBIRD—empathy—but as Witherspoon wistfully portrays Atticus, Scout, and others, listeners will need to find new ways of understanding them. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Fred Sanders narrates this smartly written biography with the right balance of gravitas and entertainment value, providing accents for some of the major characters including a convincing South African accent for the story's star. Elon Musk, in case you're not familiar, is a 21st- century Howard Hughes, a captivating entrepreneur who has disrupted entrenched industries that include banking (PayPal), aeronautics (SpaceX), automobiles (Tesla), and energy (Solar City). His life story makes for a riveting tale—he was a bullied teenager who grew up to build electric cars and launch rockets into space (as well as to become the model for Tony Stark, Robert Downey's character in the Iron Man movies). The combination of great narration, well-written and well-researched content, and a bigger-than-life subject propels this nuanced work into the upper atmosphere of audiobook biographies. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Kathleen McInerney creates a vibrant audio version of the interlocked lives, families, and generations in Judy Blume's arresting, sometimes harrowing, new novel. In the early 1950s, Elizabeth, New Jersey, was a cheerful, confident town in the middle of the American Century when a freak series of plane crashes shattered assumptions and lives. Blume recalls the town's shock, grief, and loss of faith in the goodness of life, all of which shape this devastating story without descending to melodrama. Well matched with Blume's narrative control, McInerney's vocal technique is marvelously flexible, distinguishing with easy shifts of tone a 9-year-old girl from a 15-year-old, not to mention men from women, and the midde-aged from the elderly. Together, they make this powerfully imagined, intricately plotted story unforgettable. B.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The stand-up comic and actor shows his intellectual side in this research-based discussion of modern love. Aziz Ansari narrates his extended look at how Americans' marriage habits have changed since the 1960s. Ansari recounts the details of extensive surveys, interviews, and anecdotes in a conversational tone. He maintains a casual approach in explaining women's rights, divorce laws, and the early days of feminism. In true comedic style, he interjects jokes into the reporting and often expresses what the listener may be thinking during anecdotes. Ansari's interest in research may be surprising, but his humor is essential to keeping the listener engaged in this well-covered subject. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Will Patton takes the best Stephen King novel in years and turns it into an audio masterpiece. Patton sets the mood of greed, desperation, and frustration with an astounding delivery that does the work of a half-dozen actors. Switching vocal styles as easily as a chameleon changes color, Patton portrays an elderly author and the man who murders him over his treatment of one of his characters. Patton takes the listener on a journey of intrigue as a teenage boy finds the murdered writer's unpublished works 35 years later—just as the killer is released from prison. Listeners may double-check to see how many narrators are performing this work. But it's just Patton, and he's more than enough. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Crichton's masterpiece of sci-fi, written in a disturbingly plausible way, still haunts the heart and mind 25 years later. Scott Brick brings a chilling calm to the complex story with his deep, even tone and clear enunciation. Unlike the movie, the plot is a slow burn, full of dark twists and turns that Brick magnifies by slowing down his pace during moments of suspense while maintaining a cool, professional inflection. He does a particularly fine portrayal of John Hammond, the creator of the controversial park, giving the character a raspy edge that suits the dark agenda beneath his grandfatherly facade. The dinosaurs await, and one cannot deny the cerebral thrill when Brick brings the listener through the park’s gates. Absolutely riveting. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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R.C. Bray’s deep, gravelly voice works well for Mark Watney’s first-person account of struggling to survive on a desolate Mars after his crew left him behind. Though he finds ingenious ways to prevail despite many things going wrong, he needs to hang on for almost two years before Earth can launch a successful rescue mission. Bray deftly executes the split viewpoints, first person for Mark and third person for those on Earth trying to rescue him. However, a second narrator for the third person would have made more sense because Bray so perfectly captures Watney and listeners spend so much time with him. By the time the point of view switches to Earth, Bray IS Watney, and hearing him as anyone else is distracting. L.E. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Christopher Lane doesn't need to add dramatic effect to this harrowing story of escape from the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. He wisely chooses a serious but straightforward narration that equally projects a strong humanity. Lane's steady, compelling performance serves the story of teenaged Jacob, a German Jew, and Jean-Luc, a French Christian pastor who survive the brutality and horror of the camp and make an escape. Keeping an emotional tone just below the surface, Lane allows listeners to hear of the horrors and grim descriptions without being derailed from Jacob's dedication to his escape, and the hope of success. The historical detail--much of the plot is based on Rudolf Vrba's actual escape--rings true in grim specifics, while the fictionalized interplay of characters enriches the story. Excellent listening. R.F.W. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is a crisply written overview of how our impatient culture and top-down learning paradigms suppress our natural ability to ask imaginative questions. Michael Quinlan’s narration will strike many listeners as calming. Buoyed by his near flawless diction and phrasing, his performance has the confidence of someone in total control of his craft and his connection with his listeners. To support his thesis, the author offers the comments and stories of an assortment of artists, business innovators, and social activists. He shows how good questioning, instead of becoming too comfortable with conventional wisdom, can lead us to novel solutions and rekindle our creative initiative. With its nuanced critique of how public and private institutions discourage curiosity, this audio should be required listening for anyone responsible for igniting change and promoting personal engagement. T.W. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Bronson Pinchot expertly gives voice and personality to almost a dozen familiar characters from fairy tales. In this story princes and princesses are on the run for the alleged murder of Snow White's sister, Briar Rose. It's the latest in a series of books set in this weird fairy-tale world. Pinchot opts to give some of the characters bizarre affectations, like California surfer accents. He's particularly good at making ogres sound like monsters and making the book an enjoyable romp. The Princes Charming, all four of them, are trying to save themselves and their famous wives, including Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, from evil forces who want to rule the 13 kingdoms, where all had previously lived happily ever after. The book is silly and quirky but full of adventure and derring-do. M.S. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Robert Petkoff flexes his considerable vocal talents in this thriller, set mostly in Montana. He’s convincing as bewildered teen Jace Wilson, witness to a murder who is now being hidden from his killers in a wilderness survival program. Petkoff’s characterizations of the murderous Blackwell brothers will send shivers down every listener's spine. The suspense is almost unbearable, and Petkoff's timing never falters as Jace flees through the mountains with fire and the killers at his heels. He finds an ally in fire watcher Hannah Faber. Petkoff draws listeners into this thrilling story of survival and doesn’t let go. C.A.T. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In a perfect marriage of words and voice, narrators Simon Vance and Xe Sands join author Lily King to produce an extraordinary audiobook experience. Inspired by events in the life of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, King has fashioned a haunting novel of love, ambition, and obsession, focused on three anthropologists off-map in New Guinea just before WWII. Delivering the alternating chapters of Mead’s stand-in, American Nell Stone, and Englishman Andrew Bankson, Sands and Vance perform the stupendous feat of creating memorable versions of the same characters. Their performances offer nuanced interpretations of the different personalities and echo, but do not copy, each other’s approach. Also, each uses a unique narrative pace that enhances the listener’s understanding of this unforgettable tale. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © 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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Celebrated actor Alan Cumming is best known for his lilting Scottish accent and his well-trained musical voice. His roles in hit movies, Tony award-winning performance on Broadway in CABARET, and many television roles show how versatile his talent is. Cumming uses all his vocal experience and charm in this searing memoir. His unashamedly honest and emotionally raw remembrance of surviving his abusive father is a must-hear. Intrigue also plays a part in the story as Cumming recounts how he set out to solve a mystery surrounding his grandfather—and found out way more than he bargained for. Delivering stories that are both harrowing and at times hilarious, Cumming reaches through your earphones and doesn’t let go. Make sure you carry a pocket of tissues. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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L.A. Theatre Works delivers a lively and funny full-cast adaptation of Doyle’s best-known Sherlock Holmes tale. Of course, Watson is the main character, and Geoffrey Arend gives him a gentlemanly and wry air that carries the story. Seamus Dever’s mercurial Holmes and James Marsters’s fish-out-of-water Henry Baskerville play off Watson’s steadiness, which generates humor but also illuminates character. The plot revolves around an inheritance, a family’s shame, and a mythic curse. As a dynamic Beryl Stapleton, Sarah Drew makes the character’s manipulations entirely believable. The reactions of the live audience add depth and immediacy to the performances, making for a production that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. A.F. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Elegantly clipped and beautifully precise, Jane Carr’s delivery of this innovative story collection, by the author of the Booker Prize-winning WOLF HALL, is simultaneously hypnotic and engaging. She captures the diverse tales with a unifying reserve that frees the listener to embrace and ponder Mantel’s distinctive style. These are challenging stories in both style and content, so Carr’s accessible voice and delivery are well employed throughout the collection. Somehow Carr maintains a brisk pace, yet her momentum makes the words and images even more lively, more real. Whether focused on issues of family tension or something more fantastical—ghost stories? vampires?—Mantel’s words and Carr’s voice combine to create an enriching listening experience. This collection is an excellent introduction to Mantel’s celebrated work. L.B.F. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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John O'Hara was a master of documenting social relationships, and he had an uncanny ear for capturing American speech of the mid-twentieth century. Here, an assortment of talented narrators—including Jon Hamm, Richard Kind, and Gretchen Mol—give voice to a fine assortment of his New York stories with remarkable finesse across the board. Each narrator handles the rapid-fire shifts in accents with aplomb. A wide array of O'Hara characters is vividly brought to life: faded Hollywood celebrities, New York socialites, past-their-prime businessmen, bartenders, cab drivers, thugs, and Irish maids. This production of some of O'Hara's best stories creates an immersive snapshot of a bygone era in New York. S.N.M. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Comedian Richard Pryor was as screwed up as he was gifted, or perhaps his immense talent was born of his unendurable pain. This work allows listeners to peek into the soul of one of the funniest, and saddest, men who ever lived. Narrator extraordinaire Dion Graham has the ability to become Pryor in all his incarnations: comedian, tortured cocaine addict, loving husband, abusive husband, victim, and tormentor. Graham even imitates Pryor, and mimics Pryor as he mimics the voices of other characters in his act. One thing is for sure, Pryor was best appreciated at a distance because he hurt the ones he loved the most, often physically as well as emotionally. This is the work to hear in order to truly understand the source of Pryor's pained humor and to accept that we may never see anyone like him again. M.S. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jeff Cummings walks a line between dramatic narration and animated lecturing as he guides listeners through this look at the high-tech future. The authors provide listeners with an upbeat, informative discussion of what the economy may look like in the coming "laborless" world. Cummings's approach lightens some of the material as the audiobook veers between a trendy survey and a future policy manual. Technology may not be the white horse that carries us to a happy ending, but, the authors argue, we can still preserve our species with a combination of humanism and technical advances such as self-driving cars, robotics, massive free online courses, and artificial intelligence. R.W.S. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale bring out the beautiful simplicity of this love story about a photographer who shows up in a small town in the Midwest and meets a married woman. As the narrators alternate chapters, both offer performances that reflect the natural development of the love affair that develops. The gentle narration keeps the story focused on themes of self-fulfillment and true love, rather than on issues of morality. O’Hara and Pasquale complement each other’s performance with consistent renditions of Richard’s steady speech, reflecting his contemplative nature, and the foreign-born Francesca’s slight accent and soft voice. The dual narration adds to the effectiveness of this quietly stirring romance. M.F. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will start grinning from the very first words of this production as narrator Dion Graham and author/artist Christopher Myers talk over each other, jockeying to introduce the story. Two young friends hit the basketball court to play a game of H.O.R.S.E. and trade trash talk—an impossible game that quickly moves beyond the court into the realm of the fantastic and all the way into outer space. Graham and Myers sound young and confident as the friends challenge each other to greater and greater feats. Myers's colorful collages offer plenty to look at (there's even an illustrated cameo by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), and the bouncy soundtrack will make listeners want to move to the beat. The entire production is infused with infectious energy and good-natured competitive fun. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Michael Kramer and Kate Reading share the latest in the Stormlight Archive series with well-practiced familiarity. The book is of epic proportions, not only in length (which is formidable) but also in scope and tone. This is a character-driven book, and Kramer’s and Reading’s portrayals will help listeners settle in for the intertwined plotlines as the protagonists carry out their separate but connected stories. Each narrator draws on a deep reserve of voices and accents while maintaining a quick pace. Equally adept with dialogue, rumination, and long narrative passages, they make the hours fly by. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Actress and comedian Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of charm and life lessons, but what’s REALLY fun is how out of the box the audiobook production is. Listeners know they’re getting something special, unique, and a bit absurd right from the start when Poehler claims to be narrating from her own personal audio booth, built at the base of Mt. Rushmore. Poehler sounds consistently warm, funny, and genuine, and it’s only a matter of time before she’ll have you laughing out loud. When she’s joined in “her” studio by Seth Meyers and Mike Schur to reminisce about “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Recreation,” it sounds like we’re overhearing candid (and giggly) conversations between friends. Cameos from Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart (intoning strange haikus), and even Amy’s parents add even more flavor. What a treat. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman fans, rejoice! There are now TWO wonderful versions of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK to listen to. As narrator, Derek Jacobi does the heavy lifting in this full-cast recording, with other cast members voicing characters’ dialogue. It all fits together seamlessly as listeners are swept, entranced and intrigued, into the magical story. Robert Madge sounds perfectly wide-eyed, curious, and boyish voicing Bod, the boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts. Miriam Margolyes’s considerable talents shine as Bod’s nurturing adoptive mother, Mrs. Owens, and as his teacher, Miss Lupescu. And Julian Rhind-Tutt is deliciously grave as Silas, Bod’s mysterious guardian. The cast is uniformly excellent, giving broad or subtle performances as appropriate, and the overall effect is to enhance the sense of the graveyard as a community, and of the dangers lurking outside it. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Oprah Winfrey’s distinctive voice adds sincerity and intimacy to her accounts of “ah-ha” moments in her personal and professional lives. Each inspirational message is presented calmly and expressively, making listeners ponder how it can be applied to their own lives. Winfrey’s warm, familiar voice makes each personal story powerful and entertaining. Her narration adds authenticity to the underlying teachings on the importance of spirit and love. Every lesson is presented with affection and touches the listener with its significance. D.Z. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Set in tsarist Russia, this story combines historical fiction and folklore and is told by a self-proclaimed “unreliable scribe” who writes from within a tower prison. Narrator Michael Page creates two girls—an earnest and believable Elena and a youthful, cultured Ekaterina—one peasant, the other privileged, yet so alike that their lives are exchanged with little notice. Great Aunt Sophia is haughty and imperious, while her mirror character, Baba Yaga the witch, is a capricious mix of lunacy, joy, and menace. Page especially shines as the story’s narrator. The character may be unreliable, but we believe his aged and patrician voice and hang on to his every measured word as he challenges us to ponder the nature of fate. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A terrific performance by Jim Frangione makes Lehane’s novel featuring Joe Coughlin (THE GIVEN DAY, 2008; LIVE BY NIGHT, 2012) much more than a simple crime thriller. Characters are a nasty, murderous lot, but Frangione turns them, if not sympathetic, into something more than two-dimensional thugs with an appetite for blood. Coughlin, now a widower and fiercely devoted to his son, learns that someone’s put a hit out on him. Using his connections to Cuba and Tampa’s 1942 gangster hierarchy, he tries to find out who’s behind the contract. Frangione’s delivery of Lehane’s no-nonsense dialogue is as sharp and piercing as machine-gun fire. “Gangster ethics” may seem like an oxymoron, but Frangione turns Coughlin’s uncertainties into a moving exploration of a flawed man’s life. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook is expansive in its narrative voices as well as its narrative scope. The story begins in 1950s California and goes on to span decades with the Blair family, a realistically flawed group. One quickly comes to care about the characters, who live vividly in one’s imagination, thanks to Packer’s gift with words. Cotter Smith et al. are expressive narrators as the novel’s point of view shifts from chapter to chapter. As each narrator portrays one of the Blair siblings, their individual voices blend beautifully with those of the surrounding chapters, creating a true familial effect. The strong quality in each voice not only provides aural unity but also propels the listener forward. Flawlessly paced and produced, this is an outstanding listen. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison narrates a melancholy story of interconnected characters who remain impacted by their difficult childhood experiences. Taking her time with her delivery, Morrison keeps to a pace and tone that suggest aging wisdom and lack of judgment--even as some of her characters act out their anxieties and impulsivity. She differentiates characters by changing her vocal tone and resonance--as when Queen says to the uniquely beautiful Bride, "You look like something a raccoon found and refused to eat." Such a telling line in the unraveling messiness of childhood traumas! T.E.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Justine Eyre transports listeners to the mid-twentieth-century Scottish Highlands in Gruen's story of love and monsters. Maddie Hyde follows her husband and his best friend from Philadelphia to Scotland to prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster and regain the favor of Maddie's father-in-law. Eyre does a wonderful job with the multitude of voices and accents in the story, deftly switching between American and Scottish accents and subtly denoting character traits from personality to educational level. Gruen develops her characters, particularly Maddie, incredibly well over the course of the story, and Eyre's skillful narration ensures that listeners engage with Maddie on her journey of self-discovery. J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Helen Macdonald has written a spectacular memoir full of wildness and grief, recounting her training of a goshawk in the wake of her father’s unexpected death. She is also a marvelous narrator, evoking the open spaces of her Cambridge fields, the natural violence of a goshawk’s existence, and her crippling fear of mingling with society when she is so bereft. It is all there in her voice, along with a crisp English accent that is such a pleasure to listen to. Macdonald intertwines her training of Mabel, the goshawk, with the miserable failure of T.H. White to tame a goshawk long before he penned THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, which made him famous. She slightly lowers her voice to distinguish White’s story from her own journey out of sorrowful madness into a hopeful future. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With his raspy voice, Danny Aiello brings the Manhattan of his childhood to life. His memoir is filled with the people who influenced him—from Mob enforcers to his wife, his children, and his incredible mother. His heart and soul are present in his performance as he leads his listeners from his days as a shop steward for the Greyhound Bus Company to his steadily rising star in Hollywood. On a sad note, he describes the pain of losing his son Danny, Jr., with tears in his voice. Throughout this gem, Aiello’s integrity, grit, and, yes, polish come through loud and clear. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Will Patton’s narration of Burke's novel is notable for its energy. Mostly set in mid-twentieth-century Texas, the story starts with 16-year-old Weldon Holland's chance meeting with Bonnie and Clyde in 1934. It then moves to his heroism in the Battle of the Bulge, during which he saves his sergeant and his future love, Rosita, a Spanish prisoner of war. After the war he returns to Texas, where he gets into the oil business. Holland is a complex character listeners won’t want to miss, and Patton's Texas accents are superb. The story becomes a bit unbelievable toward the end as Holland goes on the run, but all the major characters in the story—including Rosita and Holland's former commander—have demons that Patton ably brings out. This book and Patton's reading are outstanding. A.L.H. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Alexandra Fuller's beautifully accented voice, as rich and nuanced as her writing, makes her the perfect narrator for her intimate memoir detailing the dissolution of her marriage. Longing for stability, Fuller initially embraced her American husband's pragmatic outlook and settled existence as the ideal counterpoint to her unconventional African upbringing, which she wrote about in DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT. Reminiscing about the excitement, if not outright terror, of a childhood lived on the edge of the jungle under the benign neglect of eccentric parents, Fuller reluctantly accepts that this very predictability is the primary reason the marriage ultimately failed. The loss and regret this brings come through clearly as does her early joy and optimism. Fuller's gifted performance lets listeners share this deeply personal journey through sadness to trust in a happier future. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Dion Graham's character range is on display in Pelecanos's first collection of stories. The diversity of characters runs the gamut. And while Graham doesn't nail every accent in the collection, he thoroughly grasps the element that connects all of the characters: struggle. Whether it's conflict on the street over drugs or identity conflict, family strife at home or an internal battle with right and wrong, Graham pulls listeners in, helping them empathize with the characters. Graham also exhibits flexibility adjusting to Pelecanos's storytelling styles, like the screenplay dialogue in the title novella. Graham delivers atmosphere, dark humor, and genuine humanity in a great listening experience. J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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As events escalate toward the momentous sinking of the British passenger liner LUSITANIA by a German U-boat during WWI, this comprehensive history reads almost like a novel, and that’s exactly how Scott Brick narrates it. He adds emphasis where needed, goes quieter when appropriate, and varies his pacing effectively. His narration doesn’t get in the way of the writing—it enhances it. And during the sometimes dry and lengthy history sections early in the work, he carries listeners along. In print, readers might be tempted to skim or even skip these passages, but Brick makes them easy to listen to. R.G.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is a winner, a case in which the audiobook is far superior to the written version. No one but Martin Short himself could tell his story in such a funny and poignant way. The star of “Saturday Night Live,” “SCTV,” Broadway, and a host of television shows and movies, including “Three Amigos,” tells the fascinating story of his rise from obscurity to what he would call “semi-fame” in just a decade or three. Short is everybody's best friend, a creative artist who has now added another notch to his belt—audiobooks. He tells the story of his life, frequently allowing his characters, such as Ed Grimly and Jiminy Glick, to take over. He talks lovingly about the love of his life, his wife, Nancy, whose death almost shattered him. This is one not to miss. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Edith Pearlman, the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award winner for BINOCULAR VISION, offers another collection of painfully succinct observations of the ordinary events and people who find themselves under her microscope. Pearlman’s economy of language creates imagistic prose that feels like poetry. It’s especially effective on audio, thanks to Suzanne Toren’s artistry. Toren pulls listeners into the unusual lives of a pedicurist who is an excellent listener, a big-hearted antique dealer, Louie-the-vegetable-man—who is “not composed of fruit or vegetables”—and a family with an anthropomorphic plant. She creates credible, complicated characters—from Somali refugees in Boston to a stowaway on a cruise ship. The cast is large and memorable, the stories piercing and perceptive, and Toren’s performance puts a unique stamp on each remarkable piece. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Emma Fielding’s performance of this gloriously entertaining novel makes for pure delight. The heroine, Barbara from Blackpool, starts life with a strong Lancashire accent. Starstruck, naïve, and beautiful, with a va-va-voom figure, she moves to London in the swinging ‘60’s, convinced she can become the next Lucille Ball. What could possibly go wrong? We know very well: everything. But Hornby’s brief here is that sometimes nice and talented people deserve what they want, and get it. What a concept! Fielding’s performance is so polished and lively and sympathetic that you barely notice what dazzling technique is on display. Indeed, when she voices the male characters, you lose track of the fact that it’s a woman doing it. This production is well-nigh irresistible. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In Lisa Genova's novel, a professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard is at the height of her career when she begins to have moments of disorientation. The obvious explanation that she is suffering from symptoms of menopause doesn't satisfy Alice as both her condition and a sense of foreboding increase until she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. The author reads her intense account of the rapid progression of the disease. She does not have the same level of skill as a narrator that she does as a writer. Nonetheless, she communicates the growing sense of detachment and confusion that Alice feels and brings the listener into the realm of Alice's narrowing existence. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine

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A circus of fictional and historical characters—including “Gelignite Jack” Murray and radio rock star Jack Davey—compete in a 10,000-mile road rally around the perimeter of Australia called the Redex Trial. Narrator Humphrey Bower races with them as they battle each other and an assortment of shady occurrences wrought by villains and bad luck. Rally racing and rally drivers share equally in the story, and the Australian Bower shines at depicting both. He deftly portrays both men and women, as well as delivers the subtle shadings of various Australian regional accents, and American accents when needed. The listener races right along with the characters, finding it nearly impossible to push “pause” for insignificant items like work or sleep. R.L.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Not every author is also a talented narrator, but Neil Gaiman is succeeding at mastering the art. It's a pleasure to listen to him deliver his new collection of short stories. He's clearly enjoying himself, and listeners will be carried along with his good cheer. Gaiman's stories are almost always spooky, odd, and disquieting, and he narrates with tense concern, calm bravado, or quiet menace, as called for. He creates terrific Scottish and American accents and softens his tones for female characters, in particular performing convincingly as an elderly woman. The only quibble with this audiobook is its widely varying volume. When Gaiman drops his voice, it becomes so quiet that it can be hard to hear in a car--listening with headphones is best. G.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Three talented narrators handle Hawkins’s debut psychological thriller, giving identifiable voices and personalities to the characters Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel’s life is spinning out of control. She imagines the perfect life of “Jess and Jason,” people she sees from a train window on her daily commute. She actively believes in the fantasy, and when she observes something shocking, she determines to intervene. The three narrators alternate chapters, offering differing interpretations of events as seen by Rachel, who drinks excessively and is subject to alcoholic blackouts; Megan, who is having an extramarital affair; and Anna, who is married to Rachel’s ex-husband. When Megan disappears and the police investigate, listeners must decide how much of what the women report is reliable. Top-notch narration makes this perfect for audio. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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McEwan is a novelist for “thinking readers,” and Lindsay Duncan could be considered a narrator for “thinking listeners.” This audiobook, then, features a suitable match. Duncan lends her voice to Fiona, a skilled, committed London High Court judge whose dedication to her work earns her wide respect. At home, however, Fiona’s marriage is disintegrating, and she’s left feeling unmoored and fraught with self-doubt. Duncan’s voice has a maturity and pragmatism that suit Fiona’s characterization. Even as Fiona copes with difficult cases involving children and returns home to an empty house, Duncan remains steady and never maudlin. One can fully imagine Fiona retaining her dignity in the presence of these personal and professional storms, and so Duncan succeeds in this high-quality audiobook. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Robert Petkoff delivers this important essay on how traditional medicine falls short in treating the aged. His changes in pacing and intensity do more than keep the narrative interesting; they convey an emotional tone that moves in perfect sync with the pathos throughout the book. Most doctors and care administrators, Gawande says, want to fix biological problems and usually overlook the boredom, loneliness, and helplessness that make the end-of-life experience so difficult. Citing research on innovative approaches to geriatric care, he shares inspiring stories of caregivers who are breaking free of medical models and bringing life—and better health outcomes—to the way people live their final years. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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One hot August day in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. This appealing audiobook describes the historical events leading up to and following the speech, which has affected the lives of millions since that time. Peter Marinker uses many voices to enliven this history set piece. Listeners will be surprised to learn that critics gave King’s speech a lukewarm reception, and most who heard it live didn’t think it was one of his better speeches either. Marinker’s “you-are-there” approach to the material will mesmerize both Baby Boomers and those hearing about this event for the first time. He makes this small gem come alive for listeners of all ages. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This sublime melding of author and narrator voices is one of those novels you want to tell everyone about. Written by award-winning Irish author Colm Tóibín, NORA WEBSTER is the deceptively simple story of a young widow in a small Irish town in the 1970s as she comes to grips with her unlooked-for new life. Fiona Shaw’s lovely narration is both reserved and accessible. She manages the narrative pace in a telling waltz with the plot. And her character voices are instructively chosen. Nora, for instance, audibly expands as the first grief leaves her. The other characters, including a stammering son, shrill colleague, aged nuns, and well-meaning neighbors, are also fine miniature portraits. What a magical listening experience. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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By the end of this final audiobook in Follett's engrossing trilogy of the twentieth century, listeners will have just one question: Is there anything narrator John Lee can't do? Lee deftly delivers the array of accents needed for this novel featuring five interconnected families who witness the major political, social, and cultural events of the last 70 years. Not only does Lee create a distinctive voice for each of the many characters, whether German, Russian, British, or American, he also believably renders the speech of historical figures, such as JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. Lee's exceptional performance is rounded out by a keen sense of pacing and emotion, whether he's delivering a tender love scene or conveying the horrors of a race riot. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If you don’t know Liane Moriarty’s vastly entertaining novels, this impeccable audio production is the perfect place to start. I have a crush on the way Caroline Lee pronounces a long “o”; it can have about four syllables in it, to marvelous effect. Moriarty’s multilayered tale is set in a middle school community in a Sydney beachfront suburb, and to hear it in Lee’s down-under accent adds a flavor of Oz you’d miss on the page. Moriarty does social comedy about truly serious matters—here it’s bullying, from kindergarten playground to spousal battering—and her tonal control is masterful. Lee’s unusual vocal timbre coupled with outstanding acting makes this a listening experience you can’t tear yourself away from. What a delight. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This latest anthology from the International Thriller Writers is a feast for both fans of the genre and audiobooks in general. Twenty-two of the form's most prominent authors pair their best-known lead characters to create 11 unique short stories showcasing the strengths of each. The impressive cast of accomplished narrators will be familiar to audio buffs, and the broad range of accents and vocal quality they bring to the performances lets each of their distinctive personalities shine. David Baldacci's introductions add helpful insight and background on the authors and their alter egos. Whether listeners proceed through the selections as they’re presented or dip in to choose favorites as from a box of assorted treats, this satisfying collection should not be missed. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jacqueline Woodson’s linked poems weave scenes of political change while growing up amid the Civil Rights movement and scenes of personal upheaval upon moving from her grandparents’ peaceful South Carolina home to Brooklyn. Her voice is wistful and dreamy as she savors rich sensory memories like crickets, “who seem to know their song is our lullaby,” and sitting beside her beloved grandfather on “a front porch swing thirsty for oil.” She gives poignant last lines graceful emphases: “Will we always have to choose between home and home?” she ends one, letting its loneliness echo and linger. Her narration is a testament to the emotional power of words and how, even as a child, she knew she possessed that power. ”Stories are like air to me,” Woodson says. “I breathe them in and breathe them out, again and again.” S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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As the new voice of Harry Bosch in this nineteenth volume of the series, Titus Welliver brings some formidable skills to the narration. His deep, resonant voice fits the atmosphere and the vocalization of Bosch, and his pacing makes the story accessible even for new listeners. A slightly raised pitch makes the female voices pleasant and believable, as do the subtle Mexican accents he gives several characters. Bosch and rookie detective Lucia Soto, who work in the Open Unsolved Unit, investigate what was believed to be a random shooting 10 years earlier while also taking on a case from Soto’s childhood. This police procedural, as delivered by Welliver, will pull listeners deeply into the two cases. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley’s newest novel, a sublime paean to the American Midwest and its people, is enhanced by the clarity and subtle “gee-whiz” quality of Lorelei King’s narration. The story is a panoramic sweep of 30 years in an Iowa farm family. From the end of 1918 to the early 1950s, Rosanna and Walter Langdon and their children experience joys, sorrows, and challenges that define them—and our growing nation. King ably exploits Smiley’s narrative, which tells the story from differing viewpoints, to explore character through varying pace and speaking styles. She also changes her tone and roughens some character voices to increase our sense of the passing of time and a way of life. Well done. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dick Hill is a terrific narrator whose resonant voice reminds listeners of every strong male in literature. Here Jack Reacher is joining an international manhunt for a rogue sniper who has the fate of the world in his hands. Reacher travels in his usual style by bus from San Francisco to Portland and finally to Seattle, where he finds a pay phone to start his new adventure. Hill adds to the drama by finding well-suited and unique voices for the many operatives involved in stopping the sniper, including Casey Nice, who teams up with Reacher as they travel to Paris and London. As Hill amplifies the plot twists by using volume and pace to increase the story's tension, his evocative presentation, along with Child's savvy hero, creates a bodacious audio experience. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, joins forces with Rosenberg, currently adviser to Google’s CEO, in this rather surface-deep yet fascinating examination of the lessons learned and the evolving management philosophies of the international Internet giant they helped build. Google, all of 16 years old, is estimated to be worth $300 billion. Rosenberg provides a workmanlike reading of both the foreword and the introduction. The heavy lifting is done by Holter Graham, who provides a masterful yet intimate narration that will engage the listener. Graham earns the greatest of all plaudits: He becomes transparent in recounting an absorbing story, which is no small feat in a volume that, as told by a lesser narrator, might sound like a dry business management primer. W.A.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In a work this personal and important, it’s vital to utilize a reader who engages the listener and renders an authentic interpretation of the writer, both physically and emotionally. Neela Vaswani does this admirably. She sounds like Westerners would imagine Malala Yousafzai, now slightly older than when we first heard of her, would sound. Malala is the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban when she spoke out in favor of girls going to school. Vaswani’s Indian accent is far from overpowering, and her diction is crisp and easy on the ear. Her cadence also adds to the realism of the reading. While the book is aimed at young adults, adult listeners should find equal pleasure in this book. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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On a detailed journey through a life, it helps to have a good traveling companion. Andrew Garman uses the perfect tone as he narrates this multilayered biography of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. It would be easy to adopt a clinical tone, especially during the military portions, but Garman keeps the tone conversational, adding appropriate emotion to his voice. He varies the pacing nicely to keep long passages from bogging down. The author breaks Sherman's life into three areas--military, personal, and political. He was a postwar champion of Manifest Destiny. The book's structure aids the listener in following the narrative. A fascinating life combined with a skillful reading makes for an enjoyable listening experience. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is at it again, and her zany exploits give narrator Lorelei King a run for her money. From a homeless man with a pack of feral Chihuahuas to a three-foot-tall accountant who’s been cooking the books for a shady car dealer, King delivers screwball dialogue and madcap antics as smoothly and naturally as, well, a used car salesman delivers his shtick. King is especially strong in her portrayal of Plum’s sidekick, Lula. For her, King’s timing and dialect ooze attitude and conjure images of dramatic eye and neck rolls. While security expert Ranger’s “babe” is a little more stalker-creepy than dark and sexy, the overall production is light, fun, and sure to produce laughs (and likely some groans). J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An addictive thriller from Daniel Silva performed by George Guidall is surely one of the greatest of guilty pleasures. Silva’s art restorer-spymaster, Gabriel Allon, is a grand creation: equal parts brain, conscience, nerve, and heart. Guidall’s appealing gravelly voice brings Allon to vivid life; he’s as good at women as men, he’s a master of accents, and he never drops a stitch. Pacing and attention to detail are flawless here, and if you’re a sucker for intrigue in the international art market, Silva will have you at the first track. When his tale of a stolen Caravaggio morphs into a high-tech plot to steal back billions of ill-gotten euros from a corrupt Syrian dictator, the momentum achieves warp speed. Hang onto your hat. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Finty Williams wisely sidesteps the sensationalistic tone that would be easy to bring to this novel about an intelligent, young Hungry (zombie) named Melanie in postapocalyptic England. Williams's performance stresses the 10-year-old's coming-of-age story as the way she looks at herself morphs from an intelligent book-loving student to a monster who could destroy the people she loves. Avoiding vocal stereotypes, Williams makes it clear that Melanie is a child, full of wonder and curiosity. When the narrative switches to an adult point of view, Williams injects her performance with toughness, cynicism, or optimism, depending on the character. This zombie story is about self-discovery and finding humanity in unexpected places. And Williams's performance is pitch-perfect. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Daniel Gerroll dials in Furst's atmospheric Paris wrapped in the ominous events of impending war, as well as the determined normality of its citizens. The story revolves around the cause of procuring and delivering arms for the Spanish Republic. With Gerroll's elegant suggestions of accents and varied speech patterns, the characters are clear to listeners and come alive in rich layers. Christián Ferrar, an attorney with a prestigious firm with international connections, has a useful cover that allows him access and influence as he aids the Spanish cause during 1938. As spies, generals, police officers, and merchant seamen come onstage, listeners benefit from Gerroll's knowledge and experience with Furst's other works. A sophisticated performance—outstanding in all respects. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This is a wonderful listen! Once again, talented narrator Robert Glenister brings detective Cormoran Strike from the printed page to full life in this second crime novel by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. Glenister captures the likable but flawed Strike with a voice as gritty and heavily accented as London's North End. Yet he transitions easily to more refined accents and softer tones to convincingly portray all the memorable characters in this mystery featuring London's cutthroat publishing world. Just as the author can create a scene with a few perfectly chosen words, Glenister gives each character a distinct voice by merely varying tone and pace. Fans of Rowling's previous works and listeners who simply like a good mystery will be hoping Rowling and Glenister continue their partnership. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The long awaited eighth installment in the enormously popular Outlander series is narrated with grace and zeal by Davina Porter. Beloved Claire Randall Fraser was introduced in the first novel as a British WWII nurse who disappeared in a Scottish stone circle and traveled back in time to the same spot in 1743. Now she’s in the American Colonies in 1778. Believing her beloved Highlander husband, Jamie, to be dead, Claire agrees to marry Lord John Grey for political protection. Porter portrays the wide cast with impressive range. Even in the most complex conversations, the listener can clearly discern which character is speaking. Porter’s most outstanding depiction is that of Claire herself—a woman who is deeply passionate and intelligent. Often her voice carries undertones of bubbling laughter or suppressed derision. Simply enchanting. N.M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A lovely voice, sincere characterizations, and an engrossing story make this an exceptional listen. Narrator Amy Lynn Stewart delivers a tender interpretation of literary giant Harper Lee (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) and her extraordinary older sister, Alice. Author Marja Mills, a journalist for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, sought to find out why, after great acclaim, Harper Lee dropped out of the literary spotlight and never wrote another book. She traveled to Monroeville, Alabama, but really didn’t expect to get an interview. To her amazement, Alice, an 89-year-old working attorney, welcomed her. It wasn’t long before their “off-the-record” friendship began. Eventually, both Lees asked Mills to relate their reminiscences “to set the record straight.” Stewart expertly differentiates between the sisters in this compelling biographical memoir. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An author used to writing for the ear teamed up with a veteran narrator makes this portrait of astronaut Neil Armstrong a rewarding audio experience. Jay Barbree covered the space program for NBC. His writing style is accessible and easy to follow and evokes plenty of mental images. Michael Prichard is his usual solid self, not adding false emotion to a story that is filled with excitement. At the same time, he varies his tone and pacing to keep the narrative flowing. The author spent years getting to know the usually reserved Armstrong, so he amassed a bounty of personal quotations, which are used effectively throughout the text. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman is a master of suspense in this story of a boy who is seeking to identify his special talent. Gaiman's varying tempos make his narration sound like a musical score. As young Chu starts his day in conversation with his father, Gaiman's delivery is steady and gentle, his voice exuding the father's love for his son as well as mystery regarding Chu's individual abilities. In the classroom, Gaiman's pace and volume quicken as the teacher inquires about the talents and interests of the students. At the end of the day, Gaiman's delivery slows and quiets as Chu answers age-old school-day questions from his parents and goes off to bed. As the story develops, Chu's special talent will become fully clear to young listeners. A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Kathleen Early is no stranger to Karin Slaughter’s work. With each subsequent book she narrates, her ease with Slaughter’s worlds seems to deepen. In this most recent release, an array of Southern women pulls Early’s strengths front and center. She enriches the atmosphere and characters through subtle variations in accents, tone, and intensity. With insightful precision, she interprets rookie officer Kate Murphy’s growing confidence, veteran cop Gail Patterson’s spunky attitude, even strung-out prostitute Violet’s abject terror. Early depicts the male roles with an equal strength and emphasizes Slaughter’s sharp humor. COP TOWN is a celebration of pioneering women in law enforcement, and Early is hosting the party. J.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Richard Burnip, a British actor and historian, is ideally suited to narrate this long and informative book. His cadence makes the words come alive and conveys the meaning of the narrative much more completely than the printed page alone. His voice rises and falls when the text needs emphasis, for example, and his pace is ideal for comprehension. This book is a study of how the actions of various people around the globe—from leaders of nations, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, to hapless officials in various ministries—coalesced to push the world into WWI. Attitudes, missteps, egos, blunders, fanaticism, racism, idealism—they’re all here. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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There’s something familiar and comfortable about Zach Appelman’s performance in this beautifully crafted audiobook. His clear, confident tone also features subtle warmth. His voice animates the story of Marie-Laure, a French girl, and Werner, a German boy, and their experiences during the period of WWII. The novel itself keeps to a brisk pace as it shifts back and forth between the main characters. Surprisingly, the pace makes for a story that is easily followed and immediately engaging. Details and images are elegant in their simplicity, and the dramatic history is tempered by humanity—thanks to both a skilled author and a masterful narrator. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Pam Ward perfectly reflects the literary voice of author Lynn Sherr in this in-depth examination of the life of Sally Ride, America's first female astronaut. Ward’s animated voice and varied pace suit the narrative, particularly the passages about Ride’s personal life. Because Sherr and Ride were longtime friends, the text comes off like an extended conversation, and Ward picks up that tone nicely. Vocally, she imparts both the author’s feelings and Ride’s. Pausing before direct quotations, she gives the listener a clear indication of what’s to follow. While she doesn’t try to give other speakers distinctive voices, it’s clear from slight changes that someone other than Sherr or Ride is talking. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Orlagh Cassidy excels in her portrayal of the two main characters in this novel. One is Iris Crane, a WWI nurse who is attempting to bring home her young brother, who enlisted though he was underage. The other is Iris’s granddaughter, Grace, a doctor in 1970s Australia who is attempting to balance family responsibilities and the practice of medicine. Aided in no small part by Cassidy’s performance, this is the rare dual-time-period novel in which both stories are equally compelling. Cassidy gives distinct personalities to each woman with her vocal inflections, completely pulling the listener into the story. The novel is full of beautifully wrought emotion, which Cassidy conveys perfectly. J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An outstanding audio production enhances an outstanding text. Early race car driver and WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker was a genuine American hero, a rough, uneducated youth whose legendary grit, mechanical ingenuity, and fighting spirit exemplified “the right stuff” before it had its name. His is an action story, one of history’s best, and biographer Ross delivers it with all its thrills and danger, and no glorification. As narrator, Edward Herrmann is, as always, matchless. His sustaining voice maintains the tension of the action, while giving weight and purpose to the rich technical and historical background Ross fills in along the way. This is a biography many people will enjoy, sure to be one of the most popular and honored titles of the year. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This novel, the basis for the popular film and TV series, is particularly difficult to narrate because so many listeners have seen Hooker’s characters and have a preconceived sense of how each should sound. Narrator Johnny Heller overcomes these obstacles easily, and his performance is terrific. Heller’s voice is somewhat low, and his style a bit dry; both are a good fit for the gruff and unrefined characters who give MASH its charm. In particular, Heller brings Hawkeye, Radar, and the other members of the 4077th to life without concern for their prior iterations and without overpowering the material. Whether listeners are new to MASH or loyal fans, the result is worth hearing. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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First surprise--it's a novel! Audiobook listeners enamored with former New York Times restaurant critic and food editor Ruth Reichl's nonfiction works are in for a treat. Her fiction debut features delectable descriptions of foods and spices, embedded in the story of Billie Breslin's discerning palate. Narrator Julia Whelan gamely matches Billie's culinary adventures with a hearty range of voices and a myriad of accents to match the diversity of New York City, where Billie lands a job with an iconic food magazine. Her culinary explorations delve into ethnic-ingredient sourcing, ancestral recipes, chef and restaurateur encounters, artisanal purveyors of amazing tastes, and a cache of old letters linked to a legendary chef. A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this arresting audiobook, which carries the authority of memoir while providing the insights and satisfactions of fiction, a young Nigerian doctor returns to Lagos after an absence of 15 years, wondering if he might live there again. But life in the West has changed him more than he had realized; the level of larceny and corruption considered commonplace shocks him, even though it’s not really a surprise. The ambiguity of the book’s genre leaves narrator Peter Jay Fernandez with subtle choices. Is he creating drama or delivering reportage? He hits it exactly right, presenting each sentence with careful attention, as if each one is illuminating his experience of the world, as it is for the protagonist. And so also for the reader. A fascinating listen. B.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A swell of urgent stringed music introduces a lovely narration by Claire Danes of award-winning author Michael Cunningham’s latest novel. Danes’s melodious voice melds a story that spins from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale quotation to New York’s Central Park, where Barrett Meeks sees something wondrous in the night sky. As Barrett, his brother, and their friends and lovers navigate life’s messy, joyous, sad, funny, odd meanderings, we remember the vision in the sky and question with them what, if anything, it meant. Narrating with clarity and a touch of gentleness, Danes voices characters who sound typically American, while also infusing them with a wonderment that subtly signals Cunningham’s transcendent examination of love, fate, and the meaning of it all. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Coralie Sardie, the daughter of the founder of a Coney Island freak show, collides with dashing photographer and Russian immigrant Eddie Cohen. Choosing a cast of three to voice both the youthful and the slightly older Coralie, as well as the great love of her life, highlights the poignancy of their encounter and the depth of their relationship. Youthful, shy Coralie, portrayed by Grace Gummer, is audibly filled with wonder, while her mature self, portrayed by Judith Light, has a resigned tone. Zach Appelman portrays Eddie as both passionate and worldly. New York City and the Hudson River around 1910 serve as vivid backdrops for the couple's passion. A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With the careful phrasing and emphatic pacing of a poet, Angelou offers her meditations on life to the many daughters she's never had—yet considers to be her extended family. Angelou's voice is deep and distinctive, yet familiar sounding, and her wide-ranging, often autobiographical reflections on life provide much food for thought. Listening, one imagines her picking her way, serenely, across a sometimes-stony but often unexpectedly delightful road. Whether she's reminiscing about family, race, intercultural embarrassment, or losing loved ones, Angelou is thoughtful but not preachy, wise but never heavy-handed. This collection of essays cuts across the genre, defying easy categorization. Part poem, part memoir (there's even a little song tucked in), the production, unified by Angelou's marvelously distinctive and original voice, is wholly delightful. J.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2009 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine

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For Steinhauer's newest international spy thriller, Edoardo Ballerini gives the auditory impression of a multicast production. As the setting moves throughout Eastern Europe and North Africa, Ballerini guides the listener along with graceful changes in accents. And as the plot alternates perspectives—telling the same story over from different characters' viewpoints—Ballerini keeps the audience from losing track with a distinctive voice and tone for each person. He’s so good that it’s hard to believe it’s just one narrator. Ballerini's pacing exudes an atmosphere of deception, darkness, and despair, reflective of both the characters and setting. A powerful and captivating performance of a powerful and captivating story. J.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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What fun to be back in 1950s Los Angeles with Philip Marlowe as imagined by Benjamin Black, aka acclaimed Irish author John Banville. Dennis Boutsikaris narrates with marvelous aplomb. In this new take on Raymond Chandler’s iconic P.I., he meets a cool blonde and acquires a dangerous case. She walks in one hot summer day and asks Marlowe to find her vanished boyfriend. Marlowe agrees to look and meets a whole lot of trouble along the way. Boutsikaris nails the cool but inviting tone, the clipped tempo, the razor and the velvet of such a tale. He differentiates between characters without overacting, and does a more than passable female—shades of Lauren Bacall, in fact. This is a perfect weekend listen. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jim Frangione's soft voice and storyteller's cadence have an edge that hints at the creepiness and evil found in the basement cells of Death Row, where the worst of the inmates, including the unnamed chronicler of THE ENCHANTED, reside. As the prisoner reveals the horrible truths of life within the stone-walled institution, Frangione maintains the dreamlike quality of his performance, building listeners' sympathy even as they are appalled by what they learn. In this world, no one—convicts, guards, priest, warden, or legal investigator—is free of suffering, and life on the outside offers no safe haven. Although the subject matter of this debut novel is sometimes disturbing, the deeper questions of humanity, redemption, and family linger long after Frangione's masterful reading has ended. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Actor Rob Lowe is comfortable, confiding, and charming in this follow-up to his well-received 2011 autobiography, STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS. With his pleasant voice and conversational delivery style, Lowe shares stories about his creative successes and failures, his marriage, fatherhood, and his own personal growth. There's some showbiz name-dropping, a smattering of impressions of fellow actors and friends (including Lowe's “Bigfoot shriek,” which he employed to scare his boys on a camping trip), and plenty of examples of both privilege and humility. Listeners will be engaged, and a gasp-worthy revelation in the last 20 minutes demonstrates clearly just how much Lowe has succeeded in making us care. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nickolas Butler’s novel features the small town of Little Wing and an ensemble of four friends who grew up there. These characters are brought to life by a talented group of narrators, including Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, and Maggie Hoffman. The friends’ reunion, as portrayed in individual chapters by Shepherd, Fliakos, and Hoffman, grabs the listener by the ears and doesn’t let go as old emotional buttons get pushed and new conflicts are explored. Fliakos and Shepherd ably handle the sometimes plaintive voices of the male characters, while Hoffman carries most of the emotional weight with her redolent vocal talents and astonishing emotional connection to her female character, Beth. There’s no question that all the narrators connect with the characters’ emotional journeys. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With Richard Rohan delivering the narrative, this full-cast production takes listeners right into the battles of the Ultimates, a contemporary revision of Marvel’s Avengers. When people from the future arrive warning of an evil organization set to rule the world, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, and other Ultimate members must figure out how to save the future while trying to determine if those from the future can be trusted. Each of the iconic Avengers sounds believable in his or her role. Sound effects and a musical score also help deliver an enhanced experience during tense scenes such as battles, arguments, and moments when characters reflect on their personal obstacles. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Thanks to Oliver Wyman’s extraordinary performance, this novel should be savored in audio. Matthew Quick’s feel-good storytelling (THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) is made even better by Wyman’s eager, youthful exuberance as the story of Bartholomew Neil unfolds. Bartholomew is 38 years old, lives with his mother, and is a true innocent. When his mother dies, Bartholomew is bereft. His mother was obsessed with Richard Gere, and, in a series of letters to the actor, “to remedy the gaps in our collective knowledge of each other,” Bartholomew reveals his bizarre life. Wyman is simply amazing. He delivers gravelly voices and voices as delicate as spiders’ webs. He rants and roars, and he’s touching and tender in this sweet, quirky coming-of-age story. One can only pity the poor print reader. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In 1970, President Jimmy Carter traded American grain in exchange for the immigration of Soviet Jews. Enter young Igor Shteyngart and his family. Jonathan Todd Ross had to meet quite a challenge while narrating Shteyngart’s memoir filled with humor, sarcasm, self-deprecation, and personal triumphs—and succeed he does in representing the author with pizzazz. Ross tells how an immigrant family came to America, plunging a little asthmatic boy into a harsh world of unacceptance by his classmates and sometimes himself. Shteyngart had to dig within himself to find a place in the world, despite his mother’s disappointment in his choices—she referred to him lovingly as “Failurchka,” or “little failure.” Todd Ross captures the victory Shteyngart eventually achieved when his literary voice found its rightful place in the universe after an uphill journey through uncertainty and epic self-doubt. B.J.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Linda Emond’s performance is masterful in Lippman’s compelling stand-alone novel about a missing man and the women in his life. In order to avoid prison, shady gambler Felix Brewer conveniently disappears, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, and a mistress. Ten years later, the mistress disappears. Lippman has penned a complex story of deception, secrets, betrayals, and murder, and Emond is subtle and convincing delivering it. Emond’s slow reveal of each new piece of the puzzle builds a solid picture of Brewer’s life, and she is especially strong when focusing on the intimate recollections of the women. Emond’s narration proves as addicting as Lippman’s engrossing story. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ann Marie Lee's raspy yet melodic voice is an excellent match for Lawhon's fictional solution to a sensational real-life unsolved crime. On August 6, 1930, New York City Judge Joseph Crater got into a cab and was never seen again. Lee's consistent and distinct vocalizations, complete with a variety of accents and dialects, guide listeners through this absorbing story of the three eponymous women and what they may have known about the judge's disappearance. Lee's careful use of emphasis and drama leaves it up to listeners to decide whom to trust while they decipher the clues and spot the red herrings. The waning days of the Roaring Twenties, with their speakeasies, Mob bosses, and Tammany Hall, are brought to life in this character-driven mystery. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Katherine Kellgren shines in this third book of a trilogy that is perfect for fans of “Downton Abbey.” The cast of characters spans social classes and countries, and Kellgren is consistently spot-on with her accents and voices. More than simply differentiating between voices, Kellgren fully inhabits the multitude of characters, infusing them with such emotions as to make crystal clear their hopes, dreams, and ambitions. Weldon is at the top of her game as well, resolving the trilogy with a strong novel that balances a complex plot of its own with a dramatic and satisfying conclusion to the story as a whole. J.L.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Kate Udall makes James Scott’s disturbing debut novel choice listening. In northern New York in the late nineteenth century, Elspeth Howell and her 12-year-old son, Caleb, set out to find the men who brutally murdered their family. While the two are motivated by revenge, this textured story offers much more. Udall’s performance slowly peels away carefully concealed secrets whose revelations leave no one unscathed. Udall captures the characters’ moral wretchedness in an unforgiving world, the rage and pent-up emotions of mother and son, and the human capacity for cruelty. Not for the squeamish due to some explicit raw descriptions, Scott’s controlled prose and Udall’s understated narration make this an experience that will stay with you long after you remove your earbuds. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This remarkable audio history begins with Nelson Mandela's voice proclaiming on a crackly recording his five immortal words:"I am prepared to die." The words were uttered when he gave a four-hour speech testifying at his own trial in 1964. Throughout this compelling history, Desmond Tutu is accompanied by multiple voices and newsreels in support of Mandela's life story. Music such as Miriam Makeba's “Make Us One” and “Beware, Verwored” (one of South Africa’s prime ministers) is sprinkled throughout. Sound effects like doors closing at Robben Island or prisoners doing hard labor at the quarry personalize the story. President de Klerk's announcement of Mandela's freedom and Mandela's inauguration as president conclude this look at a unique history. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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HRC

It looks like the 2016 presidential election season just might have begun with this new audiobook about the main (so far) Democratic hopeful. There are copious details about Hillary’s run in 2008, her decision to accept her rival’s offer to be secretary of state, and her judgments on the key foreign and domestic policy issues of the day. Narrator Kimberly Farr captures the book’s spirit, reading with an assured, deliberate style that underscores Clinton’s powerful personality and highlights her managerial strategy. Farr is effective when describing both Clinton’s successes and failures, enunciating every word and varying her tone to keep the book moving. There are even times when Farr winks at us, slyly ending a sentence with a pause or rise in her voice. It’s a long book, but worth the investment in time. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Carrington MacDuffie’s rich voice is a perfect match for Quindlen’s exquisite story about 60-year-old Rebecca Winter, a once famous photographer who moves to a remote country cottage, hoping to find herself. MacDuffie captures Rebecca’s melancholy at leaving her decadent New York City lifestyle behind, her strength as she discovers how being alone can heal, and her dry humor as she accepts the situations and people that come her way—including a roofer named Jim Bates and a stray dog named Jack. The story is both touching and humorous as complex themes are balanced by a sweet love story. MacDuffie’s natural style and subtle character voices add even more charm to the story, keeping the listener engaged from start to finish. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dion Graham skillfully balances his presentation of this harrowing novel by the author of the bestselling memoir A LONG WAY GONE. The story is set in modern-day Sierra Leone after the civil war. Graham's lyrical delivery illustrates Beah's claim that he brings his country's oral tradition to his writing. The written and spoken word are both beautiful and horrifying as the elderly Mama Kadie and Pa Moiwa, along with others, return home to find their town destroyed, the only signs of its former residents the human bones scattered about. The villagers hope for closure by cleaning, dignifying, and burying what are probably their families’ and neighbors' remains. However, they still believe tomorrow will bring the possibility of a better future. As Beah aptly notes, "Is it the end or maybe the beginning of another story? Every story is a birth." S.G.B. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Archie Panjabi is an excellent choice to deliver this memoir of the Pakistani girl who stood up to the Taliban. Her voice is youthful, lilting, and buoyant, invoking the key qualities of the now well-known young woman who, at the age of 15, was shot three times in the face by the Taliban because she actively advocated education for girls. Panjabi narrates with vigor; rapid sentences and warm tones evoke Malala's persona. The listener has the feeling of being told this story by Malala herself rather than by an actor, which is the best type of audiobook. Those who want to hear more about Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Swat Valley, or the family behind this courageous young person will not be disappointed. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye are well matched in talent; their performances of Kidd's dual-viewpoint story of Sarah Grimké and her handmaid, Handful, complement each other perfectly. Both Lamia and Oduye adopt an accent and rhythm that befit the social status of their characters, modifying their voices subtly as the two protagonists grow from innocent girls to world-weary middle-aged women. Lamia keys in on Grimké's frustrations and victories in her fight for both abolition and women's rights, making it easy for listeners to sympathize with Grimké's difficult choices. Oduye's interpretation of Handful's personality, including her pride as a skilled seamstress and her yearning for freedom and self-identity, helps listeners connect emotionally to the slave. Together the narrators have created a stellar audiobook. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Singer-songwriter Janis Ian delivers both story and song in award-winning musician Miriam Therese Winter’s memoir. Each chapter moves from Winter’s personal experience to the spiritual lesson she learned from it, which is eventually expressed in her music. Ian renders Winter’s story in a lilting and engaging tone. As Winter describes working with refugees in Cambodia and starving children in Ethiopia, Ian helps listeners feel everything she felt. While the author’s impact on the poor is clear, it’s her music that helped many more determine their own life pathways. Ian uses her crystalline vocal talents and evocative guitar playing to take this engaging story to a level rarely experienced through audio. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This story focuses on honor and duty, not the sorcery and superpowers that are featured in the new movie of the same name. Narrator David Shih expertly brings to life this ancient Japanese tale, based on real-life events. The dignity of his presentation is the perfect way to honor the story of a band of samurai who avenge their master, who was put to death for wounding a corrupt court official who insulted him. They kill the court official, knowing it means their own deaths but never faltering. Through Shih's interpretation, the listener can hear the determination and even the occasional misgivings of the characters as they plot their revenge. Shih’s performance of the noble warriors is flawless, as is his depiction of the women who work in the pleasure houses but long for more. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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What do the New Jersey Mob, Bingo, and giraffes have in common? Stephanie Plum and crew. Narrator Lorelei King performs the latest zany antics of Stephanie, Lula, and Connie, along with some sizzling smooches from Morelli and the ever hot Ranger. As Plum goes after the bail-jumping Uncle Sunny, a mobster who is Morelli’s godfather, King’s performance kicks into high gear, switching accents from Jersey to Italian without a hitch. Sleuthing for Stephanie includes a little black dress, funerals, and Bingo. And the giraffe? He’s the comic relief in this silly mystery flawlessly delivered by King with a different voice for each character—except the giraffe. Combine King’s vocal acting with Stephanie’s adventures, and you laugh through the whole audiobook. M.B.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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James McBride’s witty, imaginative take on history has a hero as inventive as Huckleberry Finn and as comical as Little Big Man. After a church fire in the 1960s, a notebook is discovered. It turns out to be the remembrances of Henry Shackleford, a young slave who is mistaken for and passes as a girl in order to survive in Kansas in 1857. Michael Boatman gives an amazing performance as 10-year-old Henry/Henrietta recounts his time with abolitionist John Brown. Boatman takes us on a wild ride, giving an authentic ring to such real characters as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. He masterfully delivers McBride’s wonderful wordplay—from Henry’s wisecracking attitude to John Brown’s Bible-quoting orations. A great story. A great narration. Listening at its finest. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This latest Jack Reacher thriller is a winner from the get-go. Although actor Tom Cruise played Reacher in a recent movie, narrator Dick Hill is the REAL Jack Reacher to many listeners. This book is likely one of Child's best, though in many ways it’s different from the rest because this time Reacher is forcibly recommissioned in the army and charged with several crimes. After he breaks Major Susan Turner out of the brig, the pair set off to make things right. Hill seems to know there's something special about this book because he continues to pump up the action, and he’s exuberant in his characterizations. You can appreciate Hill's artistry as he changes Reacher's voice while Reacher is cruising in a top-down Corvette. A.L.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Cassandra Campbell is matchless in this third segment of the Valentine Roncalli series, which is packed with family antics, laughs—and, most importantly, a wedding, as Valentine finally marries her Italian fiancé, Gianluca Vecchiarelli. Campbell's delivery will make listeners feel as if Valentine is a precious friend—and they’ll want to know everything about her. The rest of the Roncalli family and friends, particularly Dutch, Valentine’s delightful father, are also true to life. Listeners feel privy to their thoughts, arguments, joys, and sorrows. The vignettes about their Italian-American family life and love of mother Italy add to the intimacy. Most enjoyable—Campbell is keenly adept at delivering both the subtle and direct humor that Trigiani sprinkles throughout this fine book. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Few audio productions this year are likely to match, or deserve as much praise as, this history of the Progressive Era and the presidential friendship that shaped, and was destroyed by, its politics. Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of our most popular and esteemed historians, and her gifts have never been better illustrated than in her shaping of that noisy and pontificate age into a manageable narrative—one that makes even the childhood and young manhood of William Howard Taft compelling listening. Edward Herrmann is simply her most simpatico reader. As in his reading of NO ORDINARY TIME, his steady, unflagging delivery is perfectly attuned to her narrative voice and, without mimicry, to the broad array of voices, personalities, and events that highlight this rich personal and social drama. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Eggers’s novel begins with an almost giddy tone, re-created perfectly by narrator Dion Graham. Pulling every tool from his kit, Graham describes the inner workings of the world’s largest Internet company as it develops a new identity operating system that will allow even easier access by users across different platforms. Graham gives Mae Holland the trill of a scratch-off winner who can’t believe her luck when a friend helps her secure a position at the Circle. But—as the listener hears in Graham’s increasingly horrified tone—this Google-like utopia quickly becomes a dystopia when Mae realizes what the Circle really has in mind. Listeners will be reminded of Orwell’s 1984. R.O. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Gladwell has long proven to be a capable narrator of his own books, and this production reflects his continued success. The work posits that personal obstacles may not always be detrimental—that they can, in fact, help some people outperform others. Gladwell steeps his research in interconnected anecdotes that require a good deal of storytelling, a structure that works well for audio. His vocal delivery commands the attention of listeners through tone, pacing, and well-placed pauses. At times, his delivery feels so natural and conversational that listeners can almost feel his presence in the room. L.E. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Jonathan Lethem is a literary chameleon, working here in something like a Philip Roth mode, unspooling a sometimes raunchy, often biting portrait of a New York counterculture family. Mark Bramhall is dazzling performing this mosaic of indelible oppositional characters. Rose Zimmer, Ashkenazy Communist from Queens and Jewish mother from hell? You’ll never forget her. Nor Rose’s German-Jewish husband, her black cop lover, daughter Miriam’s diatribe to the father who abandoned her, or Rose’s grandson, Sergius, who finds himself fecklessly enamored with (surprise) the Occupy movement. As Lethem moves back and forth in time, from pre-McCarthy proletarian dreams to ‘60s Greenwich Village (Dave Van Ronk makes an appearance) to Zuccotti Park, Bramhall delivers specific, convincing, vivid personalities and keeps Lethem’s intricate machinery running swiftly and irresistibly. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb’s new novel, Annie Oh falls in love with her Manhattan-based art dealer, Vivica, setting off a stick of emotional dynamite that blasts apart long-held secrets, a twenty-seven-year marriage, and her relationship with her three children. The all-star cast bringing the audiobook to life is led by the maestro George Guidall and the author. Also narrating the intricate and emotional work are Maggi-Meg Reed, Tavia Gilbert, Richard Ferrone, Edoardo Ballerini, Cynthia Darlow, Therese Plummer, Robin Miles, and Sandy Rustin. This team of actors weaves an intricate and wrenching story of a modern society in which changing mores are changing the definition of love and family. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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As the unrelenting heatwave of 1976 frays everyone's nerves, Robert Riordan leaves home one morning and seemingly disappears. When his wife of 40 years calls their grown children home to help find him, each returns harboring a secret and long-held resentments. Narrator John Lee's lyrical cadence sets the mood for this affecting story of cultural expectations and family relationships. Lee adapts his pacing, energy, and native British accent (tinged with an Irish lilt) to fit each character—from the Galway-native parents to their London-born children—helping listeners understand their different personalities. While the Riordans search for Robert and personal crises heat up, Lee subtly increases the emotional tension—until everything boils over, forcing the family to face their truths. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This mesmerizing book is well written and superbly narrated—a possible best audiobook of the year. Scientists are shocked to find a man frozen in a massive iceberg. The story is told from the perspective of the four major characters, with the flawless narrators alternating chapters. Massachusetts Judge Jeremiah Rice perished in a 1906 Arctic expedition and is eventually reanimated. Experiencing Boston through his eyes is deeply moving. Highlights include hearing Jeremiah's 1900s vocabulary and perspective, and Dr. Kate Philo's bittersweet romance with him. Portraying the doctor, narrator Kate Udall is astonishing as Philo acts as Jeremiah's protector. Her delivery is deeply moving yet believable. When Guidall portrays Jeremiah, his voice is deliberate and dignified, an approach that makes his quaint words sound perfectly in context. This splendid account is perfect for audio. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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At 65, Billy Crystal is a master of comic timing, as he demonstrates during his narration of STILL FOOLIN' 'EM. A fine actor and nine-time Oscar host, Crystal knows exactly how to deliver his artful blend of touching memoir and rueful riffs on the indignities of aging. Several chapters were recorded before a live audience, giving him the opportunity to exchange banter and charm a crowd—as he no doubt will many listeners. The chapters recorded in a studio miss some of the energy Crystal injects when he responds to copious laughter and applause. In both modes, however, he proves himself accomplished, nuanced, and—best of all—very funny. A.J. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The late David Rakoff was a writer, actor, and regular contributor to “This American Life.” His last novel, written in verse, is sensationally clever, intricately made, funny, gritty, and moving. It reminds you of the pleasures of Byron at his wittiest, but this is an utterly contemporary work, and the only bad thing about having it read aloud to you is that some of the rhymes are so clever you want to underline them and recite them to your friends. Rakoff’s performance is a treasure. He knows exactly where the stresses should be and is a deft and artful actor as well as writer. That his voice is sometimes soft and his delivery etiolated at points is explained by a brief, moving interview recorded with him and included at the end. Gotta go. I can’t wait to listen to it again. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Philippa Gregory and Bianca Amato have another winner in this thrilling installment of Gregory's Cousins' War series. In addition to having one of the loveliest voices around, Amato's ability to transform words into people is extraordinary. She inhabits Gregory's richly imagined story of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth, the White Queen. After Henry Tudor's forces kill her lover, Richard III, Elizabeth is horrified to learn she must marry Henry in an attempt to end the strife between the Houses of York and Lancaster. With an ever present mystery surrounding the two missing York princes and the vindictiveness of Henry's mother, the Red Queen, Elizabeth struggles for survival. As Amato maneuvers her way through drafty corridors, intrigues, betrayals, and passions, listeners will be spellbound. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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If you’ve been living in a cave with no media connections, you might not know that Robert Galbraith, author of THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, is really J.K. Rowling. This is her second book for adults. Narrator Robert Glenister is the star. The book is a delicious mystery that begins with the alleged suicide of a supermodel. Glenister infuses gruff charm and a poignant edginess into Rowling’s wonderfully original detective hero, Cormoran Strike. Strike’s P.I. business is in debt, his longtime relationship is over, he lost a leg in Afghanistan, and he’s currently living in his office. Glenister’s character accents are terrific, and he’s a genius with women’s voices, which he softens without caricature. Glenister is just right in this noir-ish mystery with a hard-boiled softie at its center. Don’t miss it. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Writer Joe Hill has proven to be as adept at writing horror as his father, Stephen King, and this may be his best work yet. It's made even better by the performance of narrator Kate Mulgrew. The title, a play on “Nosferatu,” is not a reference to vampires. This is a very long story about Charles Manx, who kidnaps children and turns them into unliving creatures who forever play monstrous games in “Christmasland.” Victoria McQueen, his nemesis, is a half-crazy woman who is determined to kill him. It takes a special talent to sustain suspense over such a long novel, and Mulgrew is more than equal to the task. She doesn’t read; she performs. With many voices, she carries the listener through this story of horror, love, and inspiration. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Although Kate and Violet are identical twins, they have reacted differently to their inborn sensitivity to psychic phenomena: Kate suppresses her talents, but Vi makes her living by conducting readings for clients. Narrator Rebecca Lowman keeps the personalities of the twins distinct, matching the emotional tenor of her performance to fit Kate's conventionality as well as Vi's looser, hippie-like temperament. Lowman's rock-solid interpretations carry over to the secondary characters, who range from small children to old men. When the twins sense an impending cataclysmic earthquake, Vi contacts the media, exposing them both to the public eye and forever changing their personal relationships. Lowman stays tuned in to the tempo of the story, carefully building tension as the day of disaster approaches. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Author Daniel Silva and narrator George Guidall are an elegant combination for audiobook listeners. The slowly unfurling mystery of the disappearance of an English girl on vacation in Corsica is trademark Silva, laying the groundwork for another adventure of master spy and assassin Gabriel Allon. Guidall uses his mastery of accents, place names, and personalities to succinctly portray the international cast as the globetrotting spy craft shifts into high gear. He doles out the secrets to the puzzling kidnapping that surprise even the seasoned intelligence agents--with perfect timing. Many of the previous exploits of Allon and Tel Aviv's "Office" seem to surface in conversation, making listeners eager to chase down those capers as well. Some series might lose steam after a dozen episodes, but Silva--in Guidall's rendition--seems responsive to new challenges and solutions to 21st-century espionage. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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News flash: Meryl Streep is a genius. I know this will come as a surprise to you. Performing the late, great Nora Ephron’s seriocomic novel HEARTBURN, Streep is so sensitive to nuance, so gifted at making every syllable tell, that even when she reads you a recipe, she can give emotional and funny topspin to the words “serves two.” (There are quite a few recipes in the book because the protagonist, Rachel, who is seven months pregnant when she discovers her husband is boffing their acquaintance Thelma Rice, is a food writer.) Streep, who also starred in the 1986 movie made from this novel, has a highly evolved take on Rachel and her wry, witty, self-deprecating voice, and every syllable is a pleasure. What a treat. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Stephen King is in full form. JOYLAND, narrated by Michael Kelly with just the right touch of innocence, is a creepy story about a young man who gets involved with a dying boy, his beautiful mother, and murder. A little slow at the start, the story quickly turns into an engaging, horror-tinged spookshow of the kind King has made famous. Kelly is convincing as the earnest, confused young hero. His voice convinces us that Devon Jones is a good guy who will always do the right thing. We are passengers in Jones's mind as he tries to chart the course of his life, which was difficult enough before he got involved in a series of grisly murders. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Ellis’s history of the summer of 1776 is sure to be one of this summer’s leading titles, and rightly so. Stefan Rudnicki’s natural-sounding delivery matches the crisp pace and compound perspectives of the dramatic narrative. Against today’s comfortable hindsight, from which military victory and independence seem inevitable, Rudnicki portrays actors uncertain of what was to come, improvising as they went along. The reporting is crisp, with each detail carrying weight and significance. The range of perspectives—British and American, patriot and loyalist, framed with our growing understanding of how much might have turned out very differently—makes this a complex and often suspenseful narrative. Rudnicki helps make it easy to follow even with frequent interruptions and vacation distractions—making this, in other words, an ideal summertime book. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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"How long have you been 11 for?" That’s just one of the mysteries in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, where otherworldly things might be strange but aren't in the least impossible. As the 7-year-old protagonist, Neil Gaiman projects all the wonders and terrors of childhood, both ordinary and extraordinary. His neighbors, 11-year-old Lettie, Mrs. Hempstock, and Old Mrs. Hempstock, have rural Sussex accents that get stronger when the things that they love and protect are threatened. Gaiman evokes the comforts of their farm lovingly—good food, a full moon that always shines on the back of the house just so—and they contrast with the coldly emotionless voice of the story's villain. Spooky, beautiful, and magical, OCEAN will stay with listeners for a long time. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist

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The gee-whiz tone in Elisa Donovan’s appealing voice, both youthful and credibly assertive, is a fitting way to perform this thoughtful reminder of how much gender bias still operates at the top levels of most U.S. institutions. She sounds fresh and easy to hear but also intelligently connected to every theme and nuance in this important book. The author, the COO of Facebook, uses cultural references and compelling personal stories to show how most women don’t try harder to enter positions of power. Noting the entrenched obstacles to leadership positions at work and the antiquated division of labor in traditional marriages, her call to action includes healthy activism against barriers in both settings along with an examination of why women make excuses instead of nurturing their ambitions and demanding more from others. T.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Jodi Picoult has a genius for zeroing in on incendiary legal and moral issues and turning them into stories of pain and compassion. Here she delves into the Holocaust and the present-day life of a former SS guard who is hiding in New Hampshire. When young Sage Singer, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, befriends Josef Weber, a beloved retired teacher, she is horrified when he asks her to kill him—and even more outrageous—to forgive him for the heinous acts he committed decades earlier. The ensemble cast members meld their illustrious talents to enable the listener to envision, as in a powerful film, the experiences—individual and communal—of their characters. Some of the performers either speak with heavy German accents or voice the German language flawlessly, lending the story chilling verisimilitude. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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What an amazing science writer and explorer Mary Roach, the author of STIFF, has become! Here she fearlessly delves into more taboo terrain, turning the topics of chewing, swallowing, digestion, and elimination into a fascinating biological adventure. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller complements Roach's bizarre details, witty style, and humorous attitude word by word. Zeller is undeterred by the detailed account of the alimentary canal—including its ins and outs—embracing the subject with aplomb and audible appreciation of the author's puns and jests. This appealing nonfiction work yields as much intrigue as any fictional thriller, all amid a foundation of well-researched medical facts. The listener continually learns how little we know about our bodies, nutrition, and the customs and biases of food consumption—global and historical. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The smooth and convincing intimacy of Colin Firth's narration brings listeners quickly into dreary, cold post-war London. One of Greene's famous Catholic novels focuses on three characters—Brendrix, a novelist; his former lover; and her husband, a civil servant. Firth makes an emotional commitment to the story, and listeners do as well. The powerful introspection, the force of emotion, and even the melodrama are made real. Firth's full understanding of the text and ability to render the balance and meaning of each sentence allow listeners to admire Greene's elegant writing. The keen-eyed observations of realistic details—weather, war-damaged buildings, household effects—are contrasted with the theology and clash of emotions. Firth never misses a beat. Firth's celebrity may draw new listeners, and none will be disappointed by this powerful audiobook. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Facing a broken betrothal, Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman, leaves her home in England in 1850 and accompanies her sister to Ohio, where Grace is to be married. After an arduous journey Grace dies, and Honor arrives shaken and uncertain of her future. Kate Reading provides just the right sense of confusion and determination for Honor and, as always, perfect voices for each of the many well-drawn characters, including gruff milliner Belle; her brother, Donovan, a slave hunter; and the Quaker family of dairy farmers Honor eventually marries into. Honor is torn between loyalty to her husband and family and assisting runaway slaves. An emotionally wrenching tale of conflicting ethics, humanity, and early American pragmatism from Tracy Chevalier (GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING), superbly performed by Reading. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Part personal story, part comedy, and part career advice, Tina Fey's memoir is full of her signature smart and self-deprecating humor. The author's narration of the audio version keeps the laughs coming. Fey gives a behind-the-scenes look at her upbringing in Pennsylvania, her days with the Second City comedy troupe, her work on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” and her efforts to balance motherhood with her career in an industry dominated by men. The book itself is jumpy, like the sketches Fey writes for television. Her delivery and timing make it extra funny, with voices, impressions, and asides, as well as the audio from her famous depictions of Sarah Palin for SNL. Fey also refers listeners to a downloadable PDF file, on which there are some photos worth viewing as a complement to the narration. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2012 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine

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