ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Heard a good book lately?

By Mary Louise Ruehr | Books Editor Published:

I just finished listening to a great audiobook. In fact, there have been several recently that were so good, I listened to them twice!

The latest was "Behind the Shattered Glass" by Tasha Alexander. This is a Lady Emily Mystery, but it's my first acquaintance with the series, and I didn't feel I was missing anything that came before.

From the opening lines, when the excellent reader (Bianca Amato) spoke the lines of the introductory poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I was captivated by her voice with its lilting British accent. I could listen to her all day. And it's even better when she adopts the voices of elderly matrons, lowly maids, and even gruff old men.

The story opens with an aristocratic neighbor walking into the room and falling to the floor, dead. Was the murderer after the inheritance? Was it a jilted lover? Or someone punishing the victim for his unseemly behavior? No, I didn't figure out the answer right away.

It's a murder mystery, but the fun is in following the characters rambling around the rich and stately manor house ("I crossed the room and flung open all six sets of French doors overlooking the neatly manicured terrace" -- that sort of rich) and the upstairs drama/downstairs drama of the crime and related subplots. There's a nice little romance, as well.

I was happy to see in the book's reviews that I wasn't the only one who was reminded by the Emily character of Elizabeth Peters' marvelous archaeological sleuth, Amelia Peabody.

"Be Careful What You Wish For" by Jeffrey Archer is book four in The Clifton Chronicles, which follow the life of Harry Clifton. I have become very fond of Harry and his family; in fact, his children have become major players in the story, and Harry hardly appears in this volume. The children are grown now; one is a talented artist and another is involved in politics.

The major plot takes right up where the previous book left off ("Best Kept Secret," which ended in a real cliffhanger), with a vendetta against Harry's family by a powerful gangster. He inflicts as much hardship on the Cliftons and their relatives as he can, including the family business. I was surprised by how compelling a business-related story could be: stockholders, board rooms, deal-making, high-stakes politics -- I couldn't stop listening.

The reader again is Alex Jennings, whose character voices are completely identifiable, although I miss the female voice of Emilia Fox heard in previous books in the series. I can't wait for the next book, except that it will be the last, and I'll be sorry to see it go. Don't start here: start with the first one, "Only Time Will Tell."

"Cress" is the third book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers. These audiobooks are magnificent performances by the reader, Rebecca Soler. Start with book one, "Cinder," in which we travel to a dystopian Earth of the future and meet the Cinderella figure of the title, who is part girl, part machine, part computer. Cinder falls in love with the young emperor, but she is labeled a criminal and finds herself on the run, with fellow escaped prisoner Captain Thorne, in various parts of the world.

In book two, "Scarlet," she meets the title character (based on Red Riding Hood) and Wolf in Europe, and by the end of the book several characters have formed a band of friendly rebels, trying to save the world.

In book three, they all meet up with Cress, a young girl with very long hair (reminiscent of Rapunzel) who has been kept stranded on a satellite circling the moon most of her life, in service of a nasty Lunar witch. (Well, she isn't called a witch, but she has diabolical powers, so that's what I'm calling her.) Our rebel friends manage to free Cress, but at a high price.

This book has more romance, but every bit as much adventure, as the previous books. I adore that the female characters are feisty, strong, and capable. No one is perfect; they're all flawed, but they find ways to work together, hoping to save Earth by stopping the wedding of the emperor to the evil Lunar queen.

The books all have a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat quality. They're outstanding, and good for all ages. In fact, they're targeted toward young adults, but never compromise or talk down to the reader.

I think there's just one more to go in the series, but if it were up to me, it would just keep going and going and going ...

For those of you who like a more literary book, try "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler. The reader, Jenna Lamia, gives voice to young Zelda Sayre, the Southern belle who will become the wife of popular author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Jazz Age surrounds the listener in Zelda's world as the Fitzgeralds travel and hobnob with creative greats such as Ernest Hemingway.

The complexities of the Fitzgerald marriage -- its ups and subsequent downs -- are presented believably and rather heartbreakingly. I was always taught that Zelda was deranged and that she destroyed Scott. Here, almost the exact opposite is hinted at. I was appalled when Scott took credit for Zelda's work. I can only imagine how frustrating it was to be a talented woman in the shadow of a talented man, but Fowler pre­sents the confused emotions of her fictionalized character very well.

It's beautifully written, and Zelda is brought to life with a loving and gentle touch.

All these wonderful books are available on Macmillan Audio.

Copyright © 2014 by Mary Louise Ruehr

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