Five fantastic new audiobooks
According to the Audio Publisher’s Assn., about 25% of us have listened to an audiobook in the last year. Whether an avid listener or a newbie, we can all agree that one of the best aspects of an audiobook is the ability to listen while walking the dog, washing dishes or while driving.
If you need something while you’re in the car with the kids, try “The Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert, a sinister fairy tale that will reel in both you and your teens. (Read by Rebecca Soler; Macmillan Young Listeners; 10.5 hours.) There are eerie twists and turns as protagonist Alice is drawn into the sinister world of her grandmother, an author who penned a slim volume of creepy fairy tales. Narrator Soler’s voice is sometimes a little sharp, but she sounds age appropriate and easily conveys the novel’s tension as well as teenage snarkiness.
For a more grown-up fantasy, plug into the novel “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin (Read by Maggie Hoffman; Penguin Audio; 11.5 hours). In 1969 four youthful siblings visit a mystic and are told the exact times of their deaths, which thereafter informs all of their lifetime choices. Sometimes the writing is better than the plot but nevertheless, this entertaining audiobook is difficult to shut off. Enhancing the production is Hoffman, who has a lovely, moderately deep voice, an easy natural style, and a firm command of the material.
Fans of both mysteries and old movies should try “The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn (Read by Ann Marie Lee; Harper Audio; 13 hours and 41 minutes). Narrator Lee, who conjures up several accents and voices, imbues this whodunit with emotional frailty and fear via protagonist Anna. An agoraphobic who binge-watches old movies, abuses alcohol and pills, and spies on her neighbors, she is often drunk, which Lee ably conveys. Dark deeds as well as madness are revealed, though you may figure it out before the end.
Audible has ventured into new territory with the play “Harry Clarke” bundled with another, “Lillian,” both by David Cale. (Performed by Billy Crudup and Cale; original recording; 3 hours and 13 minutes). Crudup performed “Harry Clarke” off-Broadway and has an almost surreal way of slipping into authentic-sounding accents and dialects within those accents. He plays a withdrawn Midwesterner whose alter ego is a flamboyant Brit, sounding rather like Peter O'Toole. Though a clever writer, Cale is not quite as deft a performer as Crudup, but his “Lillian” is a fascinating and often funny character study about an unhappy middle-age woman who risks everything for romance. This is droll in a Noel Coward sense and Cale is surprisingly believable as a woman.
Ijeoma Oluo tapped into the national zeitgeist with “So You Want to Talk About Race.” (Read by Bahni Turpin; Blackstone Audio; 7 hours and 41 minutes). Oluo, a writer, speaker and self-described “Internet yeller,” lays out life as a black woman in a world dominated by white people. She is insightful and the material is both important and relevant. Police brutality, micro-aggressions at the workplace and affirmative action are all grist for the verbal mill. Narrator Turpin has a soothing voice and reads with authority, understanding and passion. Parents may want to share this with older children, bearing in mind there is cursing and the content is difficult. Both narrator and author are worth seeking out again.
O’Gorman, a writer based in Massachusetts, has been reviewing audiobooks for two decades.
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