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May 27, 2010 Edition

The Devil’s Queen, by Jeanne Kalogridis, read by Kate Reading

This melodramatic imagined life of Catherine de Medici sweeps listeners up into the world of a young political pawn whose hope for autonomy lies in her ability to become as ruthless as the powerful men in her life. Catherine, married off to Prince Henry of France, becomes a disciple of the occult in a quest to seduce her husband away from his mistress. She succeeds and bears him three heirs; when Henry dies, she becomes regent for each son in turn, her influence in court contested but never overthrown, until shortly before her own death at the age of 69. Beautifully narrated by Reading, this shows a different side of the much-maligned Medici queen.

A Date You Can’t Refuse, by Harley Jane Kozak, read by Deana Hurst

Officially, Wollie Shelley is a greeting card designer currently working as a social coach for a company which needs to bring its socially-inept foreign clients up to Hollywood-ready standards. But really, she’s on the payroll for the FBI, strong-armed into scouting out some discrepancies at the MediaRex firm when the FBI promises to help care for her schizophrenic brother. And she doesn’t like it one bit: there’s a coyote-chewed corpse in the compound and hints that her predecessor didn’t die an innocent death after all. Fast-paced and funny, this is a series that Stephanie Plum and Spellman fans in particular will want to try.

Cold Choices, by Larry Bond, read by Dick Hill

When the USS Seawolf is sent near, but not into, Russian naval space to watch Russian training maneuvers, their submarine is spotted by Russia’s newest, fastest attack submarine, the Severodvinsk, which drives the Seawolf off with a series of close passes. Too close, as it turns out: in a collision, both subs are damaged and the Severodvinsk sinks. Russian command is too angry with the Americans to listen to information about their lost submarine and so the commander and crew of the Seawolf take it upon themselves to keep both themselves and the Russian sub’s crew alive.

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, written and read by Frank Delaney

Ireland in the 1930s was full of chaos and political upheaval, and Ben McCarthy, now an old man, remembers it well. At 18, he’s sent to bring his father home to the farm after Harry uncharacteristically runs off with the circus to be with its young headliner in a traveling variety show. But Ben falls prey to Venetia Kelly’s charm himself, angering Venetia’s politician father who doesn’t want his reputation sullied by a farmboy connection. King Kelly begins laying waste to the McCarthy family, first stealing the family farm, then laying into them with the help of political mobsters, but gets his comeuppance in the end. Delaney reads this himself, and his well-trained voice winks slyly at listeners as his lightly-accented voice brings to life the era and locale of this larger-than-life story, rooted in the mythology and politics of Ireland.

Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea, read by Susan Ericksen

Nayeli has lived her whole nineteen years in the small Mexican village of Tres Camerones, where she works in a taco stand and dreams of her father, who left the village years before to go North. Now, the town is under threat of takeover by a drug gang, and she realizes that it isn’t just her father who is gone – nearly all the men have gone North to find jobs. Under the influence of the movie The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli convinces a few of her friends to sneak across the border with her and find their own Siete Magnificos (including, she hopes, her father) to protect and repopulate Tres Camerones. Beautifully written, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this is a look at a side of the Mexican immigration question that Americans rarely contemplate.

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