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AUDIOBOOKS: ‘New’ authors

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By Saturday, Dec 22, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

This week we are visiting several genres by authors new to this critic. 

The Jaguar’s Children
John Vaillant; read by Ozzie Rodriguez and David H. Lawrence XVII
Random House Audio; 8 CDs; 9.5 hours; $40; www.audible.com download, $28

Author Vaillant draws you in immediately with this gripping story of 19 immigrants abandoned by their coyotes in a sealed truck tucked away in a remote part of Texas. Hector, talking into a cell phone, leaves messages about current circumstances and those that brought him to this harrowing place in which people are dying all around him. While credulity is sometimes stretched a bit, the tale is compelling and made all the more so by Rodriguez, who narrates most of the story with enough heartache and desperation to keep you glued to your ear buds. Without ever going over the top, he expresses Vaillant’s (often) poetic language and deeply empathetic story. Grade: A

Get in Trouble: Stories
Kelly Link; various readers
Random House Audio; 8 CDs; 10 hours; $40; www.audible.com download, $28

Quirky and weird, this collection of mostly well-written and consistently well-read stories is not easily accessible fantasy, but it is wildly original. A favorite is “The Summer People,” a tale of magical realism involving fairy folk and much humor. Other stories veer into the supernatural and/or science fiction, but they can throw the listener off kilter and are not always satisfying. The narrators bring out the best of Link’s interesting but oddball prose, with Tara Sands sounding remarkably young and vulnerable in “Secret Identity” and Cassandra Campbell bringing poignancy to “The Lesson,” which could have been tedious without her energy. Grade: B

Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
Patton Oswalt; read by Patton Oswalt
Simon and Schuster Audio; 4 CDs; 4 hours; $24.99; www.audible.com download, $17.49

Though at its core this is a memoir, you really have to be a true cinephile to enjoy it, as actor/writer/producer Oswalt was such a “sprocket fiend” in his salad days that he didn’t understand that the inane details of his viewing could be cause for tedium. However, he is a clever writer and a relaxed, energetic reader so, even if you have to wade through unwanted detail, you are also treated to some very funny stories such as his account of Jerry Lewis’ attempt at a drama set in Auschwitz: “The Day the Clown Cried.” Though sometimes overly introspective and disjointed, I’d recommend this audiobook just for that particular story. Grade: B-minus

The Last American Vampire
Seth Grahame-Smith; read by MacLeod Andrews
Hachette Audio; 12 CDs; 14 hours; $35; www.audible.com download, $29.65

Think of Grahame-Smith’s sequel to “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” as an odd mash-up of history and “Dark Shadows”—a little sloppy and greatly over the top, but fun nonetheless. Vampire mythology is told through the eyes of Henry Sturges, a Zelig-like figure who is involved, or witnesses, almost every major event in American and European history for hundreds of years. Andrews, who has a deep, pleasant voice and crisp diction, is more than capable until he enters into foreign accents, which are remarkably phony. Grade: B-minus

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