Reading vs Listening

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby: a Spenser novel by Ace Atkins
Devoted readers of Robert Parker’s Spencer series were dismayed to learn of Parker’s death in 2010. After all, many of us have been enjoying these stories since the early 1970’s! Fortunately, Parker’s estate contracted with gifted writer Ace Atkins – the first “collaboration” is “Lullaby”. Spenser is moved by the tale that 14 year old Mattie Sullivan tells him when she walks into his office one day, looking to hire an investigator to re-open the murder case of her mother. Perhaps he identifies with her passion and outward toughness because he takes her case, sealing the deal with a dozen donuts as a retainer fee. The usual, violent, Spenserian investigation ensues, bringing back stalwarts such as Susan, Hawk, and Quirk whose personalities are captured perfectly by Atlkins: this debut demonstrates his ability to re-create Parker’s characters, voice, and plot lines in a way that should be pleasing to all faithful readers.

“Lullaby” is a great car “read” because of its short chapters and snappy dialogue. Audio reader Joe Mantegna is well qualified, too, as he’s played Spenser in three made- for- TV movies, and was selected to read all of the Spenser novels that are available in audio format.

Read-alikes include Michael Connelly and his detective, Harry Bosch. Also John Dunning’s series featuring Cliff Janeway, Michael Harvey’s stories with Michael Kelly, and Chris Knopf’s Sam Acquillo. All are detectives, or PI’s, who are street smart, intelligent, hard boiled yet capable of sensitivity, and humorous, like Parker’s Spenser. Stephen White’s books about Alan Gregory, a clinical psychologist, have something of the same tone and fast pace. Gregory is quirky, too, like the above named protagonists.

                                                                                                   Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline
Jill Farrow is a pediatrician in private practice. Three years after her divorce, she lives a peaceful, stable life with her 13-year old daughter, Megan and fiancé, Sam.

Then her ex-step daughter Abby appears at her door with the news that her ex-husband has died. Abby thinks he was murdered and begs Jill to help her find out what really happened.

Though she doubts Abby, Jill starts investigating. Then Sam starts retreating, jealous of the attention a dead man is receiving from Jill and concerned with the lack of attention that Megan is getting from her mother. He goes to visit his grown son after telling Jill that he wants out of the child rearing game. The engagement might be off.

But Jill can’t abandon Megan, and continues her investigation, putting herself and others at risk.

This story is more about the love for a child and family than it is a mystery or thriller. Jill doesn’t have to do much investigation to solve the crime and most of the novel deals with her feelings towards her ex step daughters and how to make them a family again.

An easy read with short chapters and a quick pace.

Save Me, Lisa Scottoline
No Time to Wave Goodbye, Jacquelyn Mitchard
Black Out, Lisa Unger
Chill Factor, Sandra Brown

Come Home read by Maggi-Meg Reed

Ms. Reed has narrated many novels, including: The Dark Side of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon; One False Move by Alex Kava; Home Front by Kristin Hannah; and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

I did not care for the audio version of this book. All the characters sounded whiney and Sam sounded disinterested. The narrator did not change her voice enough to differentiate characters and the reading seemed extremely slow.

                                                                                                            Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg

Danish author Peter Høeg takes us to a part of the world that few of us have experienced – Copenhagen and Greenland - where we meet Smilla the toughest Scandinavian female amateur detective until Lisbeth Salander came to town. At the book’s first chapter we already know that Smilia’s six-year-old Inuit neighbor fell off the roof of their apartment building and she is convinced it was no accident. For one thing the boy was afraid of heights. Rich characters, dark themes, and cold settings. It’s a great one to listen to because of the melodic and unusual names.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

                                                                 Kathleen Carter, Retired, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and son walk along a dusty road, surrounded by the ashes of what was the world that we know today. They head for the coast, with nothing but one another and an old shopping cart full of supplies they have picked up along the way.

I’ve read The Road twice and have seen the movie. This is my fourth encounter with The Road. Every time I experience it I truly enjoy it. The bare bones of the story is the relationship between the boy and his father. The audio version of the book dulls that down. Hearing the father yell at the boy (although it was for his own safety) is certainly not the same as reading it. The story is also much darker through the voice of Narrator Tom Stechschulte. Through the audio book you really get a sense of how gritty the story is. The road becomes darker, the people more menacing, and the setting more real. In the text skimming through some of the more gruesome parts is easier than when listening. The ending of this story is pretty heartwrenching, but listening to it wasn’t as bad for some reason. I recommend all three formats this story is available in!


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

                                                                                                     Lissetty Thomas, Brentwood Public Library

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Although this memoir depicts a harsh, neglected childhood there is humor throughout which makes you laugh when you want to cry. It captures McCourt’s early years with his brothers as they survive hunger, cold, deplorable conditions as their mother tries to provide for them while their father drinks himself into an early grave. You feel a child’s hope as the McCourts wait for their father to come home with his pay when Mr. McCourt finally lands a job, only to have that hope dashed when Dad comes home in the wee hours of the morning singing: “Roddy McCauley.” Your heart is broken over and over again but you rise to the challenge with Frankie and his resilience to face another struggle. The audio experience is thoroughly enhanced through Frank’s McCourt’s brilliant reading and singing of all the songs.


A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

                                                                                                                                Peg McCarthy, retired

Unorthodox: the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots by Deborah Feldman

Deborah Feldman grew up in a strict Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where religious laws forbid her from reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Arranged to be married at 17, and a mother by 19, she secretly enrolled at Sarah Lawrence college and began to plot an escape. In her memoir, Feldman describes the experiences that allowed her to find the courage to sever all ties with her family and strike out alone at 22.

Even though she left the Satmar community, she declares that being Jewish is really important to her. “I didn’t leave Judaism. But I’m Jewish in my own interpretation if it, and no one else’s.”


The Rabbi’s Daughter by Reva Mann

I am forbidden by Anouk Markovits

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

                                                                                                       Grace O’Connor, West Islip Public Library

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Anastasia’s world is turned upside down after meeting the enigmatic, billionaire Christian Grey. Shy, naïve Ana is both surprised and thrilled when Christian shows a romantic interest in her only to be shocked when she learns of his sadomasochistic tendencies. When Christian asks Ana to become his submissive, he discovers exactly how inexperienced Ana really is and finds her more alluring than ever. Fifty Shades of Grey is a steamy romance filled with lots of sex and overindulgence.

Although a fast read, bad writing and repetitive prose keep Fifty Shades from being a great read. If one can get past Ana’s internal dialogue which constantly references her “inner goddess,” the amount of times the same phrases/actions (lip biting, elevator scenes, the bickering about money) occur, the continuous comparisons to Tess of the D’Urbervilles and the random “big words” that are thrown in to otherwise mundane dialogue (avuncular, somnambulant, ubiquitous, censorious), then Fifty Shades is a great book.

Becca Battoe, the audiobook’s narrator, did a good job portraying Ana’s innocence. The voice was the appropriate age and sounded as if it fit in with the Pacific Northwest setting. Christian’s voice changed once or twice in the beginning but was consistent after that so it didn’t ruin the flow. Before listening, I had been interested in how Ana’s internal dialogue would play out in an audio version without the typed cues signifying that it was her “inner goddess” speaking or doing tricks, etc. but Battoe was able to differentiate well and never left me wondering who was speaking. The sex scenes weren’t too over the top and although the parts of the book, which I skipped/skimmed over when reading it, were difficult to listen to because of the repetitive nature (the contract, the emails back and forth), the audio edition on a whole was well done.


Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Switch by Megan Hart

Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

                                                                                                         Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
This sequel to Pride and Prejudice celebrates the British system’s ability to adapt and thus survive.  Fitzwilliam Darcy, master of Pemberley, is now happily married to Elizabeth Bennet, who has settled comfortably into her new role despite her family’s inferior social status.  Enter Wickham, her nefarious brother-in-law, who appears to have committed murder on the estate.  Darcy struggles to clear the family name by shepherding the case through the legal and social institutions of his time.

 The book is a delight for an English major or a literary fiction buff, with clever wordplay, classic literary devices, parodies of famous authors, and relevance to the current state of the monarchy.  In contrast, the structure is simple, the characters one-dimensional, and the frame the conventional English country house.
The audiobook would benefit from a second reader. Narrator Rosalyn Landor deals ably with the female characters and drawing room chatter which dominate the first part of the book, but does not have the range to communicate the ominous tone which takes over once the Wickhams arrive.

If you like this book, you might also enjoy Skyfall, the latest James Bond film, for its confidence in traditional British institutions and its technical wizardry.

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library