11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Mystery

An absolute gentleman by R.M. Kinder, read by Helen, on 08/30/2012

Based on the authors real-life relationship with a convicted murderer, this gripping first novel delves with subtlety and nuance–rather than violence and sensationalism–into the mind of a serial killer.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Classics, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by Helen, on 08/30/2012

The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved “bad guys,” Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!

The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Helen, History, NonFiction

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocolyptic, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

Two generations after destruction rained down upon America’s cities, the population is scattered into small towns. Cities are forbidden by law, as is scientific research.

Rumors abound of a secret place known as “Bartorstown”, where science is untrammelled by interference or hatred. A youth named Len Colter, developing an unhealthy thirst for knowledge exacerbated by the discovery of a forbidden radio, sets out on a long road. During this journey, he will change his mind many times before determining the correct direction for himself, and the benighted America in which he lives.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Night Birds by Thomas Maltman, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

The intertwining story of three generations of German immigrants to the Midwest—their clashes with slaveholders, the Dakota uprising and its aftermath—is seen through the eyes of young Asa Senger, named for an uncle killed by an Indian friend. It is the unexpected appearance of Asa’s aunt Hazel, institutionalized since shortly after the mass hangings of thirty-eight Dakota warriors in Mankato in 1862, that reveals to him that the past is as close as his own heartbeat.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

Irish athletic reporter Malone narrates tale of bold squat quarrelsome Professor Challenger seeking remote Amazonian plateau where “the ordinary laws of Nature are suspended” with prehistoric creatures and ape-men. Other armed British whites are spare skeptic Professor Summerlee, and ginger dead-shot Lord John, supported by colored bearers.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

A Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it’s there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey’s strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women’s shared past–and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Forever Queen by Helen Hollick, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?

Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England’s shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.

Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk , read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

The newest Palahniuk novel concerns Madison, a thirteen year old girl who finds herself in Hell, unsure of why she will be there for all eternity, but tries to make the best of it.

The author described the novel as “if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume.” And “it’s kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell.”

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocolyptic, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

Zone One by Colson Whitehead, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.

Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.

And then things start to go wrong.

Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Helen, History, NonFiction

Ghosty Men by Franz Lidz, read by Helen, on 05/30/2012

A true tale of changing New York by Franz Lidz, whose Unstrung Heroesis a classic of hoarder lore.

Homer and Langley Collyer moved into their handsome brownstone in white, upper-class Harlem in 1909. By 1947, however, when the fire department had to carry Homer’s body out of the house he hadn’t left in twenty years, the neighborhood had degentrified, and their house was a fortress of junk: in an attempt to preserve the past, Homer and Langley held on to everything they touched.

The scandal of Homer’s discovery, the story of his life, and the search for Langley, who was missing at the time, rocked the city; the story was on the front page of every newspaper for weeks. A quintessential New York story of quintessential New York characters.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, read by Helen, on 05/30/2012

A timeless American classic rediscovered—an unforgettable saga of a heartland family

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy’s fate will be the family’s greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive—and, ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

A Good American by Alex George, read by Helen, on 05/30/2012

An uplifting novel about the families we create and the places we call home.

It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead (“What’s the difference? They’re both new“), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

A Good American is narrated by Frederick and Jette’s grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors’ story, comes to realize he doesn’t know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James’s family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette’s progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.

Poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, A Good American is a novel about being an outsider-in your country, in your hometown, and sometimes even in your own family. It is a universal story about our search for home.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Mystery

Blacklight Blue by Peter May, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

Enzo MacLeod, a Scot who is teaching forensics at Cahors in southwest France, thinks that he can use his expertise to crack seven notorious murders described in a book by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin. After solving the first two, Enzo is diagnosed with a terminal illness. And now it appears hes the target of someone intent on destroying his credit and getting him arrested for murder. Establishing a safe house for his loved ones, he sets to work. Are his woes connected to one of Raffins unsolved cases? What further remnants of evidence can he review? Can he stay alive until he catches the long-hidden killer?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Mystery

Innocent Blood by P.D. James, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

Adopted as a child into a privileged family, Philippa Palfrey fantasizes that she is the daughter of an aristocrat and a parlor maid. The terrifying truth about her parents and a long-ago murder is only the first in a series of shocking betrayals. Philippa quickly learns that those who delve into the secrets of the past must be on guard when long-buried horrors begin to stir.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

1929 by Frederick W. Turner, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

By 1929, the brief, brilliant career of Bix Beiderbecke–self-taught cornetist, pianist, and composer–had already become legend. From the summer of ’26 at Hudson Lake, Indiana, when his genius blazed forth with a strange, doomed incandescence, Bix’s career tragically reflected the chaotic impulses of a country suddenly awash in wealth, power, and a profound cynicism. Shy, elusive, inarticulate, Bix was beloved by both the raccoon-coated campus crowd and the men who nightly played alongside him. He is still celebrated in a yearly festival in his hometown of Davenport, lowa. And that is where the novel begins, in Davenport, at the Bix Fest. It then travels back in time to focus on the highlights of a meteoric career: the early jams at the Blue Lantern Casino, a Capone-controlled nightclub; the grueling cross-country tours with Paul Whiteman’s “Symphonic Jazz” orchestra; the disastrous Whiteman trip to California to make the first all-color talkie musical; the stock-market crash of 1929, which finds Bix in an asylum, victim of the era’s signature product, bootleg gin; and finally, Bix’s dying efforts to combine his piano compositions into a suite that would be the pinnacle of his life’s work and his evocation of his time and place. Colored by some of the age’s most popular characters–Bing Crosby, Maurice Ravel, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, and Clara Bow–1929 brilliantly illuminates a period in history, personified in the gifted, compelling, and melancholy figure of Bix Beiderbecke.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Helen, History, NonFiction

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history–and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.

Using Cline’s own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man’s heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac’s Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Teen Books

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Thriller/Suspense

The Basement by Stephen Leather, read by Helen, on 03/30/2012

New York City. With a population of almost nineteen million people, it’s easy to remain anonymous even if you’re a serial killer, torturing and murdering beautiful young women. The killer has another victim right now, locked in a basement somewhere in the city. For NYPD detectives Turner and Marcinko, it’s their job to sift through those nineteen million and narrow their list to the one before it’s too late. And they’re sure they have the right man in their sights. Fusing alternating viewpoints with devastating precision, Leather’s top-notch thriller dives deep into the mind of a demented killer as tension mounts immeasurably. Turner and Marcinko’s prime suspect is screenwriter wannabe Marvin Waller. He is becoming increasingly frustrated by his lack of success and the cops think he might be channeling his anger into murder ? yet he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned that they are hot on his trail. As Turner and Marcinko close in on Waller they have to wonder: is he the killer? And if he isn’t ? who is? Only time will tell ? and time is one thing they do not have. An unrelenting vice-grip of suspense and fear, The Basement is the ultimate shocker with a shattering climax that will leave you battered, bruised, and broken.