AUDIOBOOKS: Three novels

This week we offer a serious novel about forgiveness, another about overcoming adversity, and one just to distract and scare you a bit. All titles are available as downloads from your local library and bookstore.

Colum McCann; read by the author
Random House Audio, 15 hours, 12 CDs, $45/, $31.50

McCann, best-known for his bestseller “Let the Great World Spin,” blows our minds with his use of language once again, though it does sometimes trip up the narrative flow when you hear of a biker who “salmons his way” through traffic — imaginative, but it continuously gives you pause. In this novel, two men build a friendship based on the pain of lost children, even though the men, one an Israeli and one a Palestinian, have diametrically opposed views of the world. McCann, an Irishman, is a polished narrator whose empathy and understanding of misery is heard throughout the novel. Even more intriguing is the fact that this is based on real people. Grade: A

The Giver of Stars
Jojo Moyes; read by Julia Whelan
Penguin Audio, 13 hours and 22 minutes, 11 CDs, $45/, $31.50

Trading one glass cage for another, Annie moves from England to rural Kentucky during the Depression and escapes a miserable marriage by becoming one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s travelling librarians. While some folk delight in the abundance of books in their lives, change for the most part is hard won for Alice and her pals. Misogyny, racism, sexism and poverty are all grist for a descriptive and hopeful story, though the plot feels contrived in a few too many spots. Whelan conjures up an array of voices and credibly manages both genders and regional accents. Grade: B-plus

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Grady Hendrix; read by Bahni Turpin
Blackstone Publishing, 13 hours and 49 minutes,, $24.47

This is graphic, hardcore horror with a sly, witty undercurrent that is best thought of as a guilty pleasure. Aside from a couple of unaccountable leaps in plot, the problem is that the Southern belles tackling a scary new dude on the block take much too long to grow spines. One would almost think they inhabit the Eisenhower years and not the late 1980s. Dark humor balances very descriptive and sexual violence, and Turpin serves up the suspense with a strong performance rife with various characters and distinct changes for genders and races. She is one of those rare narrators capable of projecting marked differences in characters through phrasing and timbre. Grade: B-minus