Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tor Books: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

From My Shelf

Billy Crystal, Still Foolin' 'Em at 65

Our audio book issue leads off with star power. Last Thursday night, actor, comedian, director and author Billy Crystal read six chapters from his upcoming book, Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? (Macmillan, September 10, 2013), to a sold-out crowd of 300 at New York University's Cantor Auditorium.

The event, which featured Crystal reading portions of his book from an iPad mounted on a podium, had more of the feeling of a comedy routine than a typical author reading, with Crystal frequently bantering with audience members. The entire reading was recorded; Crystal plans to use the recordings for the Macmillan audio version of Still Foolin' 'Em, to give those chapters a unique stand-up-flavored twist. Tickets for the evening went for $250 and all proceeds from the event will go to NYU's Helen Crystal Scholarship, named for his mother.

Crystal told the audience that Still Foolin' 'Em, which contains his funny, adroit musings on topics such as aging, death, sex, memory and the time he played in a spring training game for the New York Yankees, did not begin as a book. He wrote material as if he were preparing a stand-up act, he said; the more he wrote, the more it took the shape of a book.

The final chapter that Crystal read, about buying a burial plot, contained the night's most poignant and surprising moment. During a touching rumination on his relationship with his wife, Janice, he choked up while saying that he hoped he died first, so that he wouldn't have to go through the pain of missing her. After fumbling the iPad and spouting some colorful language, Crystal continued, and he ended the night by saying that his heaven would be reliving the moment he met his wife for the first time and "starting it all over again." --Alex Mutter

Arcade Publishing: A Mysterious Country: The Grace and Fragility of American Democracy by Normal Mailer, edited by Michael J. Lennon and John Buffalo Mailer

Book Candy

Summer Reads; Author Wedding Photos

On the beach."Summer Adventure: 5 Thrilling, Chilling, Far-Ranging Reads" were recommended by NPR's Alan Cheuse, who noted: "Reading always turns any season into summer." And for those wanting a British beach read perspective, the Guardian obliged with holiday reading suggestions under the heading "the best books to pack this summer."


Flavorwire showcased "the wedding photos of 16 famous authors in love."


Taylor Stevens shared her choices for the "11 most kickass literary heroines" in the Huffington Post.


Mental Floss discovered "how 8 famous writers chose their pen names."


Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, chose his "favorite wolf stories" for Flavorwire.


Taxi showcased "charming typography bookshelves shaped from A to Z."

Zonderkidz: The Smallest Spot of a Dot: The Little Ways We're Different, the Big Ways We're the Same by Linsey Davis, illustrated by Lucy Fleming


Katherine Kellgren: Dedicated to Every Word

Katherine Kellgren is sitting in a recording booth in a studio on Broadway, speaking with an aristocratic British accent. "I do think it's possible to overdo the diamond choker style," she says, reciting dialogue from Fay Weldon's Long Live the King (Macmillan Audio), a novel set at the Downton-like Dilberne Court just after the turn of the 20th century. "I rather wish you could develop a taste for diamonds...."

The scene continues. As a new character, "Little Minnie from Chicago," is introduced, Kellgren shifts into her voice as well. Occasionally, she asks to re-record a line, giving it a slightly different emphasis based on her emotional understanding of the characters' entire story.

"Katy's fabulous," producer Scott Sheratt says from his station at the control board. This is the second Weldon novel they've recorded together (after Habits of the House), and he admires the tenacity with which she approaches Weldon's often complex prose style. "She's so dedicated to every word, every author intention."

During a break in the recording, Kellgren is quick to return the praise. "Scott is so clear about what he wants," she says, "but he also makes me feel so comfortable. He can usually get more pages out of me [in a day] than anybody else."

Pages, in this context, is taking on an increasingly metaphorical meaning. After years of working directly from paper scripts, Kellgren is now seeing those pages scanned and loaded onto an iPad, from which she reads in the booth. Although she misses "the security blanket of the actual paper," she says, the elimination of the rustle of turning pages is a happy development. "Soon," she resolves, "the iPad will hopefully feel like a home base."

Kellgren does a significant amount of research for each audiobook project. Long Live the King, for example, required her to track down the tunes to several Victorian-era songs quoted in the novel, as well as a slew of general pronunciation questions. Luckily, she says, she's long possessed an "amazing book," The BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names, an essential resource for her audiobook work. "It's been incredibly helpful for this scene," she observes.

Beyond that, there's the preparations she goes into for each character. The previous night, she confides, she spent an hour and a half brushing up her Australian accent for a character she'll be recording later in the day. I mention that Little Minnie's Chicago accent came across very subtly in the passage she just recorded. "Minnie's been to finishing school, so her Chicago accent has been diminished," Kellgren explains, then mentions that her mother, who appears elsewhere in the novel, had a much broader accent.

Kellgren has recorded more than 100 audiobooks and has won just about every award there is to win for audiobook narration, several times over. She's especially sought after by publishers to record books by British novelists. Although she's a native New Yorker, "I don't think I ever had a strong New York accent," she says, and she spent three years studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. "We did a lot of vocal training, a lot of dialect work," she recalls. After the intensive training, which included writing out phrases phonetically in one dialect after another, her replication of several regional British accents was eventually rated "native" or "nearly native." One day, an acting coach from the Royal Shakespeare Company came to meet the students--and was initially convinced that Kellgren was from Devon.

As you might imagine, Kellgren's Anglophile roots run deep. "My ultimate hero from the time I was a teenager was John Gielgud," she says; the first audiobook she owned was his recording of Ages of Man. "Talk about a reader who completely understood what he was reading, and made it clear to the reader." It's an approach she works hard to emulate; in addition to novels like Long Live the King, she records a great deal of young adult and children's literature, and "I really aspire to be a reader who encourages children to pick up the books and read them in print."

For her own part, Kellgren doesn't usually get to read print books outside of her professional projects, but she has recently indulged in some pleasure reading--P.G. Wodehouse's Where Angels Fear to Tread and The Bad Beginning, the first book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. She also has high praise for John Schwartz's audiobook recording of his own memoir, Oddly Normal. (Though she does very little nonfiction work, she says working on first-person stories can be "enormous fun," and they make up many of her favorite projects.)

As I leave the studio, Kellgren and Sheratt are going over her notes for the chapter they'll record next, fine-tuning the voice of one of the novel's servant characters. She proposes a Somerset accent, "to show the contrast between upstairs and downstairs," and, once the green light is given, she steps back into the booth, and back into Weldon's early 20th-century aristocratic world. --Ron Hogan

Listen to an excerpt from Fay Weldon's Long Live the King audiobook, read by Katherine Kellgren.

RP Mystic: Magic, Diversified

Book Review


Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson, read by Fenella Woolgar

The central conceit of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life is heroine Ursula Beresford Todd's ability to renew her birth. At first, Ursula's power is dedicated to skirting the mishaps and perils of her own Edwardian youth in the bucolic "Fox Corner" outside London; with maturity, she begins to intervene in the fates of family and friends. The novel gains its greatest power as Ursula's narrative strands elongate into overlapping sojourns in wartime Germany and London, including a particularly affecting portrayal of her rescue work in London during the Blitz. The more Ursula experiences life, the more selfless she becomes about her individual existence, leading to an audacious denouement.

The cast of Life After Life is diverse and also gabby; fortunately, Fenella Woolgar is well up to the challenge of performing the dialogue of an Irish scullery maid, an Oxonian snob, a loutish American, a flapperish children's book author and a Nazi sycophant, among many others. When reading Ursula's internal narration, Woolgar's voice quality is reminiscent of Lady Mary's from Downton Abbey (appropriately so, as the beginning of Life After Life takes place in a similar era).

For a listener as opposed to a reader, the un-contextualized flash-forward scene at the beginning of the novel is extra confusing--just keep calm and carry on. As for the heroine's excessively reiterative infancies, once you hear the demise keywords "Darkness fell," listen for her rebirth date of "February 10, 1910" accompanied by the word "snow," and you'll soon catch the drift of another one of Ursula's many interesting lives. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts

Discover: Fenella Woolgar fluently voices the accents and lives in Kate Atkinson's novel about an Edwardian-born Englishwoman who keeps starting life over until she gets it right.

Hachette, $29.98, unabridged, 12 CDs, 15 hrs., 30 mins., 9781619696969


by Eoin Colfer, read by John Keating

Irish Army veteran and New Jersey club owner Dan McEvoy is back in Eoin Colfer's Screwed, the tangled and witty follow-up to Plugged, here narrated by John Keating. When local mob boss Mike Madden summons Dan to settle a score, McEvoy knows that there has to be a catch. Going to Manhattan to deliver bearer bonds to a man from a rival gang in SoHo sounds deceptively easy, so it is no great shock when he discovers that his own untimely demise is part of the plan. As he works to avoid being whacked, Dan is kidnapped by two corrupt cops who cuff and taser him, demanding to know where an indescribable "package" is. McEvoy slips out of custody and makes it to Manhattan, only to learn that his aunt has gone missing. No doubt about it: Dan McEvoy is screwed.

Colfer presents a quirky, adventurous caper with a multi-layered plot, constant action and comical situations that, delivered through the brilliant reading of John Keating, will have the listener captivated and laughing out loud. Full of meta-theatrical observations--including allusions to Elmore Leonard--woven into a stream-of-consciousness style of narration, Colfer's prose keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end, while Keating's narration perfectly complements the Jersey atmosphere and adds another facet to Colfer's characterization. The humor, which sometimes borders on the absurd, softens the gritty style and occasionally raunchy dialogue. Fans of Leonard, and of Carl Hiaasen, are sure to enjoy the ongoing adventures of the quirky Dan McEvoy. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

Discover: The darkly humorous, riveting sequel to Eoin Colfer's Plugged, read by actor and Earphone Award-winning narrator John Keating.

Audiogo, $29.95, unabridged audio, 15 CDs, 10 hrs., 42 mins., 9781620642764

Red Moon

by Benjamin Percy, read by the author

The world of Benjamin Percy's Red Moon is eminently recognizable as our own and yet entirely another, resulting in a story that succeeds as a work of science fiction, a thriller and a political allegory all at once. Percy (Wilding) reimagines the world as steeped in werewolf, or "lycan," mythology. The United States is still conducting a war on terror--except it is a war on lycans, a population that has been colonized, subjected to mandatory medication that prevents their transformation and required to register with the government. While this may seem too much to pack into one novel, Percy pulls it off--and his own gravelly narration of the audiobook makes his story all the more chilling as it unfolds.

Red Moon weaves together the stories of Patrick, the only survivor of a lycan attack on a passenger jet, Claire, a lycan on the run after her parents are brutally murdered by government officials, and Chase, a politician who has sworn to defeat the lycan "threat," giving listeners a diverse set of perspectives from which to take in this complex alternate reality. Percy's narration is slow and steady, offsetting the fast-paced plotlines in such a way that listeners can practically feel the charge in the atmosphere Percy has created, bound to explode with the strike of a match. Explode it does, pulling these three key characters together before sending them out to fight in battles, aid in revolutions and change the world they know--for better or for worse. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A big, literary werewolf novel that succeeds as both a thriller and a political allegory.

Grand Central, $29.98, unabridged audio, 18 CDs, 22 hours, 9781478952091

Mystery & Thriller

The Redeemer

by Jo Nesbø, read by John Lee

In the United States, several audiobook narrators have read Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole series. The Redeemer marks the first time John Lee gives voice to the damaged Oslo police detective. His narration, however, sounds as though he's known the series intimately from the start. While Lee's style may sound abrupt at first, the rhythm quickly blends into the story and becomes an afterthought as listeners find themselves caught up in the action of the investigation.

Detective Hole is after the killer of a Salvation Army worker. Despite the murder happening in a crowded street, no one can identify the shooter; even worse, he's not finished. Harry must find him and prevent him from killing again.

Hole's role is a multi-layered challenge, but Lee has a firm grip on the strata. Hole's paradoxical characteristics of compassion and apathy blend seamlessly in Lee's calm, laid-back approach to the detective. And while the action of the plot is fast and intense, Lee keeps the pace in line with Hole's character. Nesbø works a very dark sense of humor into this series, which is not lost on Lee. His depiction of Hole with an unloaded weapon in a standoff with the murderer is both suspenseful and humorous.

Nesbø fans accustomed to Robin Sachs's previous narrations may find the change a bit jolting, but John Lee has given voice to an exceptional interpretation of The Redeemer. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The holidays have never been darker and the concept of a "redeemer" never more terrifying than in the narration of this Harry Hole thriller.

Random House Audio, $40, unabridged audio, 8 CDs, 9 hrs, 9780307917546

The Stranger

by Camilla Lackberg, read by Simon Vance

In The Stranger, the fourth installment of Camilla Läckberg's Fjällbacka series, Patrik Hedstrom has his hands full with two murders and a reality TV show in town, not to mention his upcoming nuptials and a newborn daughter. 

A gay shop owner who never touches alcohol wraps her car around a tree one night after a fight with her partner. This appears to be an accident--until the results of her autopsy came back. The second murder involves one of the contestants on the reality show. The producers secretly rejoice for the publicity while local law enforcement battles for some semblance of sanity in their efforts to solve the case.

Simon Vance confidently takes the role of narrator for The Stranger, volleying between such characters as the grounded, principled Patrik, his frazzled fiancée, Erica, and the reality show's passel of dysfunctional youths. Vance portrays each convincingly, even the baby whose contributions amount to giggling and crying. Vance's greatest strength in this recording, however, is his ability to set the situational tones. The mortifying absurdity of prioritizing television ratings over human life strikes the listener as strongly as the hate generated by homophobia. These dark tones contrast the happy chaos of a house filled with children, laughter and the anticipation of a wedding.

As Läckberg slowly constructs the suspense, Vance saves the more dramatic tones for the climax, opting for a sense of enticement in the build-up. This approach helps readers forget Vance is even there--they're simply caught up in Läckberg's dark Swedish mystery. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: When murder and a reality TV show invade the town of Fjällbacka, Patrik Hedtrom's wedding may be the ultimate victim.

Highbridge, $36.95, unabridged audio, 10 CDs, 11 hrs., 30 mins., 9781611746266

Point and Shoot

by Duane Swierczynski, read by Pete Larkin

Pete Larkin returns to narrate Point and Shoot, the final segment of Duane Swierczynski's Charlie Hardie trilogy. The degree to which Swierczynski has built on each book is such that this trilogy is best read or listened to in order, beginning with Fun & Games then Hell & Gone. Doing so on audio will not only help listeners to understand the plot fully; they will also better appreciate the excellence in Larkin's portrayal.

This third outing opens with Charlie in a satellite in space. His job is to guard the satellite for a year in exchange for his family's safety. So when a man who looks exactly like Charlie and claims to be there to rescue him breaches the satellite, Charlie has to decide if he should chance teaming up with this doppelganger or "point and shoot."

Swierczynski created a delicate balance with his Charlie Hardie series. Tipped one direction or the other, the blend of science fiction, crime fiction and comedy would come across as utterly absurd. Instead, it's engaging and entertaining, even while the readers and listeners know it's completely impossible. Emphasizing something differently or missing a bit of humor could upset that balance. But Larkin walks this thin tightrope with style and panache, maybe even juggling flaming batons as he goes. Down to the smallest details, like Swierczynski's choice of movie quotes to open each chapter, Pete Larkin connects with the story so his listeners can, too. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: Narrator Pete Larkin points, shoots and hits his target with a kill shot in the final installment of Duane Swierczynski's Charlie Hardie trilogy.

Audiogo, $34.98, unabridged audio, 7 hrs., 9781611132526

The Boyfriend

by Thomas Perry, read by Robertson Dean

The Boyfriend reintroduces readers to Jack Till, a retired LAPD homicide detective turned private investigator who first starred in Thomas Perry's 2007 novel Silence. Jack usually works routine cases, but the parents of a recently murdered girl, Catherine Hamilton, come to him in desperation. They've just discovered that Catherine was working as a high-class prostitute, and the cops are dismissive, chalking her death up to the hazards of her occupation. Till starts looking into the matter and discovers that Catherine seems to have had a boyfriend who vanished with all her money and jewelry. What's more, Catherine's actually the fifth escort with strawberry-blonde hair shot in the head over the last couple of months. Convinced he's unearthed a serial killer, Till delves into the case, which leads him on a nationwide hunt for the brilliant, good-looking, but disturbed "Boyfriend."

Robertson Dean's deep voice is a bit jarring in the first chapter, told from Catherine's perspective, but because the rest of the story alternates between the points of view of Till and the Boyfriend, his narration is pitch perfect, bringing the detective's determined hunting and the killer's increasingly desperate (and foolish) crime spree to life. The plot of The Boyfriend is not exactly original, but on audio it still plays out well and Dean makes the minutes fly by. The Boyfriend is a perfect summer audio book--meant to be listened to while jogging down a beach or lazing next to the pool. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Jack Till, private investigator, is on the hunt for a serial killer targeting strawberry-blonde escorts across the country.

Tantor Media, $34.99, unabridged, 7 CDs, 9 hours, 9781452611488


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

by Matthew Goodman, read by Käthe Mazur

The legendary Nellie Bly was a determined, ambitious young reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's World newspaper, who dug deep to report gripping news stories to an eager audience. By contrast, the beautiful Elizabeth Bisland wrote literary book reviews for the Cosmopolitan magazine. Though their backgrounds were very different, both of these remarkable women had the persistence to break into the world of journalism at a time when newsrooms were full of men. In New York City in the fall of 1889, Bly embarked on a journey by steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, while Bisland boarded a train headed in the opposite direction. Their goal was the same: to travel around the world in fewer than 80 days, beating Jules Verne's fictional benchmark. At about 28,000 miles, the ensuing journey would test both women and change their lives forever.

Käthe Mazur brings the abundant detail and compelling characters of Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days to life for the listener. Goodman's snapshot of the late 1800s skillfully highlights not only the various ports of call the two women passed through but also sheds light on the social backdrop of the Victorian era. Mazur's expressive narration adds a textured layer to the story, enhancing listeners' experience and placing them on the edge of their seats, hanging on every word. Fans of travel writing or the works of Lauren Hillenbrand are sure to enjoy this sometimes nail-biting and always engaging adventure. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

Discover: The captivating story of two female journalists and their exciting race to circle the globe in the late 19th century.

Books on Tape, $60, unabridged audio, 15 CDs, 19 hours, 9780385359726

Children's & Young Adult

The Knights' Tales Collection

by Gerald Morris, read by Steve West

Narrator Steve West and these retellings of King Arthur's Knights are a match made in heaven.

For the first group of these comical and witty adventures, Sir Lancelot the Great, West adopts a hint of a French accent for Sir Lancelot, who leaves France to join King Arthur's court. The vain knight, obsessed with keeping his armor clean, unwittingly fends off a series of challengers as he attempts to shine his armor, only to discover he's won a tournament sponsored by King Arthur. Sir Lancelot slips out of seemingly inescapable circumstances--falling for a trap that finds him armorless in a tree, and being thrown into a dungeon until he chooses a Lady to wed. West inhabits an array of humorous voices for these mooning Ladies ("He's soooo handsome," one repeats).

West deftly handles a variety of personalities, making each sound distinct. He takes on a disarmingly adolescent voice for Sir Givret the Short (star of the second group of stories), who defends Queen Guinevere's honor against insult from a rude Sir Yoda and also gives King Arthur a way out of the double-edged prize for bringing down the White Stag. West tackles Gerald Morris's turns of phrase with ease. Sir Gawain the True, for instance, begins with a humorous treatise on the importance of courtesy in King Arthur's court. And West reveals the history of Excalibur and the Round Table in Sir Balin the Ill-Fated as if letting readers in on a secret. Enthralling. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: In this captivating reading of tales about King Arthur's Knights, Steve West handles clever turns of phrase and a variety of voices.

Listening Library, $38, unabridged audio, 5 CDs; 6 hrs, ages 8-12, 9780385361194


Author Buzz

Bond of Passion
(A Demonica Novella)

by Larissa Ione

Dear Reader,

I'm so happy to be back in the Demonica world, especially with the people and the hospital that started it all. You'll find hints of what's to come in the new series, and you'll catch up with old friends. And best of all, Tavin gets his story!

Larissa Ione

Available on Kobo

1001 Dark Nights Press

Pub Date: 
November 1, 2022


List Price: 
$2.99 e-book

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