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AUDIOBOOKS: Tales of the supernatural

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By Saturday, Nov 24, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

Shorter days and colder nights make us want to curl up with a scary story, so enjoy these two collections of unearthly tales and two novels about the supernatural.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
Neil Gaiman; read by a full cast
Harper Audio; one CD; one hour; $13.99; www.audible.com, $14.82

This mash-up of the Snow White and Sleeping Beauty fairy tales is erudite, humorous and beautifully written. Gaiman takes a couple of well-worn tropes and spins them into a feminist tale with eerie undertones that makes for enjoyable listening for tweens and parents alike. Through clever speech patterns and a narrative sparseness that allows us room for imagination, the author harkens back to older tales before we grasp the modernity of the landscape. Music and sound effects are used to full advantage without overpowering the vocals, and the cast of British actors is energetic and skillful. However, it is much too short and leaves us longing for more. Grade: A-minus

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Stephen King; read by Stephen King, Dylan Baker, Edward Herrmann, Will Patton, Mare Winningham, Hope Davis and others
Simon & Schuster Audio; 16 CDs; 19 hours; $49.99; www.audible.com, $34.99

Not every entry in this collection (King’s sixth) of short stories is scary and a few are forgettable, but most are entertaining enough to keep you circling the block until you get to the end of a particularly captivating one. Music is used between tales and King introduces each yarn and reads a short coda. A few of the stories are original to this collection and each is well matched to one of 16 narrators, with the late Herrmann a standout reading “The Dune.” There is a slight quality problem as King’s snippets are somewhat muffled and the volume dips whenever his sections begin. Overall, this is a keeper, as a couple of these stories (the truly weird “Mile 81” and the provocative “Ur”) are worth hearing again. Grade A-minus

Secondhand Souls
Christopher Moore; read by Fisher Stevens
Harper Audio; 9 CDs; 10.5 hours, $39.99; www.audible.com $30.79

Moore writes outrageously weird and funny novels and this is no exception. A sequel to “A Dirty Job,” this picks up where soul collector Charlie Asher, his Buddhist nun girlfriend and a cast of eccentrics left us almost 10 years ago. People are dying in San Francisco but their souls aren’t being gathered, leaving a great imbalance between life, the afterlife, and all the good and bad in between. There are tiny animal creatures that talk, a little girl who is the Luminatus (death incarnate) and a lovely Hispanic ghost with romance troubles. Stevens is a vocal match for all of this laugh-out-loud lunacy as his various voices are wildly imaginative, consistent and believable. Over the top, but a lot of fun. Grade: B-plus

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
Stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke; various readers
Listening Library; available on 11 CDs as a library edition; 13 hours and 13 minutes; www.audible.com, $38.50

A bevy of young adult authors contributed to this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by April Genevieve Tucholke, author of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” The subjects include a game of hide and seek with Death, a vengeful reanimated corpse, a lonely ghost, and birds that know how to get even. After each story, the author reveals his or her inspiration. Young listeners should find these sufficiently frightening and older audiophiles will appreciate the new direction each writer took with the older material. The narrators sound young, scared and authentic, professionally dealing out accents and vocal mannerisms as needed. Grade: B

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