Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson; narrated by Jesse Bernstein, Ramon de Ocampo, and Maxwell GlickJuvenile Fiction: By the time they reach 6th grade, classmates Topher, Steve, and Brand have been taught by all kinds of teachers, but they've never had one quite like Ms. Bixby. She's one of "the Good Ones," the kind of teacher who really understands. When Ms. Bixby has to leave the school to start cancer treatments (sooner than expected), the three boys band together to cut class, sneak into the hospital, and give their teacher the kind of send-off she deserves. Topher, Steve, and Brand (distinctly voiced by the narrators) take turns describing their offbeat (and not entirely legal) plan, as well as the different ways in which Ms. Bixby changed their lives.
Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty; narrated by Cassandra Campbell Juvenile Fiction: Though she's firmly rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Serafina is stuck between two worlds: in one, she's the Chief Rat Catcher at the grand, recently completed Biltmore Estate, but in the other, she's learning the ways of the wild from her mother, a shape-shifting catamount. When several unusual visitors arrive at the Estate just as the local animals begin acting strangely, Serafina realizes that it's up to her to figure out what's really going on. Narrator Cassandra Campbell quickly places readers in the "unrelenting action and excitement" (Booklist), but be sure to read Serafina's 1st adventure, Serafina and the Black Cloak (also voiced by Campbell) before you dive into this sequel.
The Muse by Jessie Burton; narrated by Bahni Turpin and Maria Elena InfantinoAdult Fiction: An aspiring writer, Odelle Bastien arrives in London from Trinidad in the 1960s. Though literary success eludes her, she finds a job as a typist in a posh art gallery, where she becomes the protégée of eccentric Marjorie Quick. Thirty years earlier, painter Olive Schloss is living in Spain with her Viennese art dealer parents when she meets Teresa and Isaac Robles, half-siblings who will change her life forever. Connecting Odelle's and Olive's stories is a mysterious painting whose secrets are gradually revealed in this intricately plotted novel of intrigue. The Muse's complex female characters, strong atmosphere, and sparkling prose may appeal to fans of Dominic Smith's The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.
The Reader by Traci Chee; narrated by Kim Mai GuestJuvenile Fiction: The flat, hard package was the only thing Sefia saved after her father's horrific murder, and she's protected it, unopened, for years, hiding in the wilderness of Kelanna and learning survival skills from her wily aunt Nin. But now Nin has been kidnapped, and Sefia needs clues, so she opens the package and finds a dangerous, highly illegal object: a book. Her discovery kicks off a powerful, multi-layered tale of vicious assassins, unexpected allies, and hidden powers, effectively portrayed by narrator Kim Mai Guest. This debut, which is the 1st in a series, ends in a cliffhanger that will leave you eager for volume 2.
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies; narrated by James ChenAdult Fiction: This absorbing journey through over 100 years of American history and culture is told by four Chinese Americans (three of whom are inspired by real people). From the building of the transcontinental railroad in the mid-19th century to a modern-day, biracial Chinese American visiting China to adopt a baby girl with his white wife, their thought-provoking perspectives tie fact and fiction together, providing insight into the Asian American experience. Themes of identity and belonging emerge throughout this thoughtful, perceptive novel, which narrator James Chen illuminates with his "understated portrayals" (AudioFile).
Murder Has Nine Lives by Laura Levine; narrated by Brittany PressleyAdult Fiction: Things are looking up for California freelance writer Jaine Austen. There's a vacation to Hawaii on the horizon, a client has hired her to write a new brochure, she's got a date with the client's handsome nephew, and her cantankerous cat Prozac will star in a commercial for Skinny Kitty diet cat food. But things don't go well, especially once Prozac loses it on set and a murderer strikes shortly afterwards. The police have plenty of suspects, including Jaine, so she decides to solve the crime herself in this 14th entry in a fun series. Narrator Brittany Pressley delivers Jaine's narrative with excellent timing, but the best parts, says Publishers Weekly, are "the woozy conversations between Jaine and Prozac."
I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows; narrated by Emily Sutton-SmithAdult Fiction: As dust storms bear down on Mulehead, Oklahoma, dashing the region's farmers' hope for rain, the Bell family struggles to survive. Patriarch Samuel turns to religious fanaticism, while wife Annie reflects on how her life might have been different had she stayed home in Kansas instead of following Samuel to Oklahoma. The Bell children, Birdie and Fred, have their own problems, including the pains of first love and living with chronic illness. Vivid imagery and lyrical prose evoke the Depression-era setting, while the novel's emotional weight comes from its moving depiction of a family in crisis. Emily Sutton-Smith's narration deepens the novel's "portrait of yearning as penetrating as the dust storms" (AudioFile).
Darktown: A Novel by Thomas Mullen; narrated by André Holland Adult Fiction: It's 1948: Atlanta's eight new African American police officers have severe restrictions (no driving a police car, no entering police headquarters, no policing white parts of town, etc.), and they face hostility from their white colleagues as well as distrust from their own community. One night on their beat, officers Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith see a white man driving a car erratically with a young African American woman inside. When the woman is found dead, the men investigate despite the risk to their careers and maybe their lives. Blending history with mystery, this gritty 1st in a planned new series has already been optioned for TV. Publishers Weekly and AudioFile both praise actor André Holland's evocative and steady narration.
The Best Man by Richard Peck; narrated by Michael CrouchJuvenile Fiction: Some kids might feel weird about having their teacher marry their uncle, but sixth-grader Archer Magill just feels lucky. Besides his dad, his grandfather, and his Uncle Paul, Mr. McLeod (student teacher, National Guardsman, reluctant Twitter celebrity) is the person Archer admires most. And honestly, Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod's wedding is just the most recent in the constant stream of changes Archer has been through lately, which include confronting school bullies, dealing with heartbreaking loss, and finally starting middle school. Narrator Michael Crouch is a "natural with kid voices" (AudioFile) while clearly differentiating among all the characters, child and adult. This funny, down-to-earth slice of life is hard to resist.
Loner: A Novel by Teddy Wayne; narrated by David BendenaAdult Fiction: It's clear from the get-go that David Federman is pretty smart but not particularly memorable. Overlooked in high school, he hopes to make a name for himself at Harvard, but (unsurprisingly) things don't get off to a great start. Overlooking friendly overtures from another girl, he becomes enamored of fellow freshman Veronica, and does everything and anything he can to ingratiate himself with her. Soon, his self-absorbed attempts move from pathetic to disconcerting to downright creepy, and we're left wondering exactly what is going on in this page-turner, vividly rendered by narrator David Bendena.
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