"This voice was said to turn arias into spells, hymns into love songs, simple requests into commands, my suitors driven to despair in every country I visited, but perhaps especially here."
~ from Alexander Chee's The Queen of the Night
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold; narrated by Grover GardnerAdult Fiction. Three years after the death of her beloved husband Aral, Cordelia Vorkosigan, Vicereine Countess of Sergyar, decides that it's time to stop mourning and start living. To that end, she contacts Admiral Oliver Jole, her husband's subordinate and former lover, with an unusual proposal. What will the rest of the Vorkosigan clan -- including Cordelia's grown son, Miles -- make of their joint venture? Find out in this 19th entry in the long-running Vorkosigan saga. Familiarity with previous installments is helpful, though not essential, when reading this witty, character-driven series. AudioFile observes that Grover Gardner's "ironic intonations, just short of outright humor" effectively convey Bujold's style.
Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase; narrated by Nathalie Buscombe, Katie Scarfe, and Cassandra CampbellAdult Fiction. In the 1960s, the Alton family loved their time at their Cornwall manor, nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall by locals, until a tragedy changed everything. Thirty years later, Lorna Dunaway comes upon it as a possible venue for her upcoming wedding. And while it is literally falling apart, there's something about it that tugs at her memories from childhood, and she's determined not only to find out its secrets, but to have her wedding there. Fans of Gothic fiction will enjoy this compelling tale, in which the audiobook's three narrators "maximize the mystery and suspense swirling around" the house (AudioFile).
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee; narrated by Lisa FlanaganAdult Fiction. With her distinctive "falcon" soprano, Lilliet Berne is the uncontested star of the 19th-century Paris Opera. Her dream of originating a leading role seems to come true when she's presented with a libretto -- but it alludes to details of her past that could ruin her social standing. Who could have betrayed these secrets? As she tries to solve the mystery, she reflects on her life, beginning with her childhood on the Minnesota prairie. As lush and dramatic as the theatrical world it depicts, this sweeping novel, vividly narrated by classically trained opera singer Lisa Flanagan, brings Belle Époque France to richly detailed life.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse; narrated by Natalia PayneTeen Fiction. "Nothing in this war is what it seems." That's certainly true of innocent-looking Hanneke, who cycles through Nazi-occupied 1943 Amsterdam without anyone suspecting that she's a black market smuggler. Grieving the loss of her soldier boyfriend, Hanneke tries her best to ignore the war -- until a customer asks for her help in the search for a missing Jewish girl, drawing Hanneke into the Dutch resistance and forcing her to confront the limits of her courage. Similar to Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, Girl in the Blue Coat combines wrenching emotional truths, a vivid setting, and a gripping pace to create a truly unforgettable read.
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon; narrated by John LeeAdult Fiction. On May 3, 1937, a total of 97 individuals board the D-LZ129 Hindenburg for what will prove to be the airship's final, fatal flight. Covering the embarkation and three-day voyage, this suspenseful novel unfolds from the perspective of five characters with a wide range of backgrounds. All five have secrets, but whose will bring down the zeppelin? Drawing on extensive research, Flight of Dreams provides an absorbing fictionalized account, enhanced by narrator John Lee's emulation of the "gravity of a radio announcer in pre-World War II Europe" (Library Journal).
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys; narrated by Jorjeana Marie; Will Damron; Cassandra Morris; Michael CrouchTeen Fiction. When the Wilhelm Gustloff sank in 1945, over 9,000 of its passengers lost their lives. Yet before the voyage, the doomed ship offered a last chance of escape for thousands of Eastern European refugees fleeing from the brutality of World War II. Salt to the Sea follows four passengers, beginning in the days before the ship's departure: Joana, a guilt-ridden Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a pregnant Polish teen; Florian, a secretive Prussian artist; and Alfred, a young Nazi soldier. The narrators "excel in capturing the tone of their characters" (Booklist) in this gorgeously portrayed tale of a deadly shipwreck.
Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith; narrated by Mirron WillisAdult Fiction. When his beloved mother, Cappie Florence, flees Chattanooga after killing a white man, five-year-old Delvin Walker is taken in by successful African American funeral director Cornelius Oliver. Under Oliver's tutelage, Delvin becomes an undertaker more out of loyalty to his benefactor than any love of the mortician's trade. However, his quiet life changes irrevocably when he's falsely accused of rape and goes on the lam. Delvin subsequently rides the rails from Tennessee to Louisiana and back, giving readers of this bleak, lyrical novel an intimate look at the Jim Crow South during the Great Depression.
West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein; narrated by Scott Brick, Paul Boehmer, Tara Sands, and Cassandra CampbellAdult Nonfiction. In West of Eden, author Jean Stein draws on hundreds of oral accounts to stitch a complex tapestry depicting Hollywood and Los Angeles in the first half of the 20th century. Focusing on five well-known figures, one of whom is Stein's father Jules, the founder of MCA, she portrays studio moguls, actors, oil barons, and their spouses, lovers, and families. Both insightful and gossipy, this history of Tinseltown has much to offer movie buffs, celebrity enthusiasts, and popular history lovers, who will appreciate Stein's "exhaustive research and brand-new interviews" (Publishers Weekly).
The Nest: A Novel by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney; narrated by Mia BarronAdult Fiction. The four Plumb siblings have been looking forward to the youngest's 40th birthday, when they are all finally allowed to receive funds from the trust their father set aside for them. Having spent the money in their heads, they are devastated to learn that Leo, the oldest brother, has already depleted the fund while cleaning up one of his more disastrous messes. Narrator Mia Barron's expert handling of the patchwork of characters' voices "easily hooks the reader" (Booklist), while the well-depicted Manhattan setting provides a fitting background for this novel about sibling dynamics.
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