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September 19, 2008 Edition

Mad Dash, by Patricia Gaffney, read by Laural Merlington

In the past year, Dash Bateman has lost her mother and packed her daughter off to college, and now is facing life alone with her husband for the first time in decades. But it seems their lives have gone in different directions, and when a stray puppy sparks an argument of epic proportions, she storms out, puppy in tow, to start a new life on her own. What she finds is enlightening: she falls back in love with her career as a children’s portrait photographer, makes friends who fill in the gaps her mother and daughter left behind, and starts feeling herself again. Meanwhile, her staid college professor husband Andrew is home, enjoying the peace and order he’s been craving through his years with his impulsive and energetic wife – or is he?

A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore, read by Fisher Stevens

Charlie Asher becomes a new dad and a widower at the same time, but that’s not all that changes in his life. There are the giant ravens, the demons, and Mr. Minty Fresh all vying for “weirdest” in Charlie’s life. It seems he’s been recruited (without even putting in an application) as a Death Merchant, a collector of objects impregnated with the souls of the dead, and there’s no way to refuse. With baby Sophie in tow, Charlie tries to learn his new job (while keeping his old one), keep Sophie safe from the hell hounds (except from the ones who become pets), and, ultimately, save the world from the Sewer Harpies. Stevens reads with a timid bafflement befitting Charlie’s permanently-befuddled beta-male personality.

The New Moon’s Arms, by Nalo Hopkinson, read by Gin Hammond

Is it hot flashes or magic that give Calamity a funny sort of feeling just before something unusual happens? In her 50’s but clinging tenaciously to her youth, Calamity is being revisited by lost things: toys she played with as a child fall out of the sky, her family’s long-gone cashew orchard appears in her backyard overnight, and one night, washed up on the beach, she finds a little boy. He speaks no language that anyone on her Caribbean island understands, and she takes him in until his family can be found. This delightful mix of fantasy, chick-lit, and family drama has plenty of disparate elements, expertly woven together to create a warm and funny novel.

The Children of Hurin, by J.R.R. Tolkien, read by Christopher Lee

The story told here takes place well before the Elves began to dwindle, when Sauron was only a servant to the dark god Morgoth, and the world was an even darker place. This follows Turin and Nienor, the titular children, who have been cursed by Morgoth for their father’s defiance and live lives of despair because of it. Christopher Lee’s ominous and gravelly-voiced reading has been likened to “Sauron around the campfire.” Fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in book-form will enjoy this bitter glimpse into Middle Earth’s former glory, while movie-goers may find it grimmer than expected.

The Spanish Bow, by Andromeda Romano-Lax, read by Paul Michael

Written as a fictional autobiography, this is the life of Feliu Delargo, a fictional Spanish cello prodigy. Barcelona after World War I is a tough place for fatherless Feliu Delargo, but he’s found a tutor who’ll teach him what he needs to know to succeed in the music world. And he meets Justo Al-Cerra, another musical prodigy who becomes a lifelong friend, rival, and sparring partner. Their relationship as they study and tour together is complex and authentic. Michael reads with a slight Spanish accent and an assuredness that grows along with Feliu’s maturity.

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