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AUDIOBOOKS: Traveling across the globe and beyond

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By Friday, Jan 4, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

This week we travel to Africa, France, the coast of Massachusetts and Mars.

How We’ll Live on Mars: A TED Original
Written and read by Stephen L. Petranek
Simon & Schuster Audio; two CDs; two hours; $14.99/audible.com download, $10.49

This audiobook is based on a TED talk by Petranek, the former editor of Discover magazine and the current editor of Breakthrough Technology Alert. He predicts that, in 2027, humans, using privately owned aircraft, will land on Mars. His arguments sound plausible as he discusses the cost, safety, isolation and risks of such a trip, as well as the technologies needed to colonize the planet and make it habitable. Petranek is an engaging speaker and clearly explains his theory. Correct or not, it is a fascinating Plan B for our ever-expanding population. Grade: A-minus

The Little Paris Bookshop
Nina George; read by Steve West and Emma Bering with Cassandra Campbell
Random House Audio; nine CDs; 11 hours; $40/audible.com download, $28

Calling himself a “literary apothecary,” Monsieur Perdu heals broken hearts and tortured souls from his floating bookstore in a barge. As he drifts along France’s rivers, Perdu uses intuition and a profound knowledge of human suffering to enhance the lives of his customers, his friends and finally himself. Reserving his French accent for the dialogue, West gently takes us on this lovely, adult journey without killing it with quirkiness. He reads most of the audiobook, though Bering and Campbell do enhance our enjoyment when they appear by adding emotional depth. A PDF is included with recipes and “Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy” for what ails you. Grade: A-minus

The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Cafe
Alexander McCall Smith; read by Lisette Lecat
Recorded Books; nine CDs; 9.75 hours; $34.99/audible.com download, $24.49

In this 15th installment of the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency mysteries, Mma Ramotswe is trying to solve the mystery of a woman who lost her memory. Her business partner, Grace Makutsi, has decided to branch out on her own and open the Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café, to very mixed results. Smith is a charming writer, but there was very little mystery and, while this is a breezy and fun listen, it is also rather inconsequential. Narrator Lecat, however, is a treasure. A native of South Africa, her Botswanan characters sound authentic and she adapts her deep, lush voice to suit each individual, capturing their humor, introspection and occasional agitation. Grade: B-plus

Barbara Delinsky; read by Amy Rubinate
Macmillan Audio; 11 CDs; 13.5 hours, $39.99/audible.com download, $27.99

The best thing going for this tale of a mother and daughter at odds with each other is Rubinate, who is an engaging narrator. Her manner is warm and she has an array of speech patterns that give the story character and help it to resonate with feeling. However, there just isn’t much happening in the novel. There is a lot of family tension, some of which does not feel believable, and a tragedy that changes the lives of several characters in a coastal New England town. Because we are not fully engaged in their lives, and because the pace is so plodding, we can’t much care. Grade: C

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