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AUDIOBOOKS: Travel, humor and more

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By Sunday, Jan 27, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Travel, humor, a legal thriller and the lives of ex-pats are on the docket this week.

American Housewife: Stories
Helen Ellis; read by a full cast
Books on Tape (library edition); three CDs; four hours/www.audible.com download, $21

Fierce, funny, outrageous and addictive, Ellis’ stories are among the best collection to hit bookstores in years. From unhinged monologues to a tale of “Book Club” that sounds more like “Fight Club” than anything remotely literary, her stories are layered with jabs at modern society that surprise with dark, piercing humor. A few, such as “Southern Lady Code,” play out as humorous streams of consciousness and are so clever you may find yourself rewinding.The four female narrators wield irony with aplomb and run the gamut from honeyed-voiced housewives to brittle, upper-class city dwellers waging war in their uptown vestibules. Grade: A

The Expatriates
Janice Y. K. Lee; read by Ann Marie Lee
Books on Tape (library edition); 11 CDs; 13.5 hours/www.audible.com download, $31.50

The author of “The Piano Teacher,” Janice Y. K. Lee has once again turned to Hong Kong as both subject and character. Using a third-person narration for each of her three female protagonists, she reveals a world of privilege and boredom, of identities lost and regained, of misfits grasping for a foothold on a fast-paced, crowded island. Part social satire, part tragedy, it is set in the present but coils back to the past, unraveling lives that are linked together through friendship, romance and sad choices. Narrator Ann Marie Lee occasionally sounds a little too studied, but relaxes more during conversations, perfectly pronouncing Asian words and giving each character a separate voice. Grade: A

An Invisible Client
Victor Methos; read by Alexander Cendese
Brilliance Audio; one mp3 CD; six hours and 20 minutes; $9.99/ www.audible.com download, $10.49

A fast moving legal drama, this features a high-powered attorney, Noah Byron, who surprises his firm when he becomes emotionally involved with a young boy critically injured by tainted cough syrup. There’s nothing particularly memorable about this tale in which Big Pharma is a looming evil entity, but it moves quickly and entertains along the way. Set in Salt Lake City, it also intertwines a romance between Byron and a new associate at his firm. Narrator Cendese has a deep, lush voice; his pacing and tone deftly match each character. Consider this easy listening. Grade: B

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs
Elaine Sciolino; read by the author
Tantor Audio; seven CDs; eight hours; $29.99/www.audible.com download, $27.99

Sciolino, a former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, brings her home to life with tales of locals who are political activists, historians, gourmands and good friends. Her evocative style can make us feel a part of street parties and gossip whispered by the fishmonger, but the pace slows down with excessive detail that eventually begins to bore. She’s at her best when describing the residents and not losing us in arcane, architectural histories. As a narrator Sciolino is far too slow and careful, sounding uncomfortable with the role.A tougher editor and a more energetic narrator could have greatly elevated this memoir. Grade: B


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