Badfellas was the original English title, and that alone gives a tease of what Malavita has on tap. When a Mafia kingpin testifies in exchange for witness protection, Giovanni Manzoni becomes Fred Blake, and he and his family find themselves living in Normandy, France. They mostly follow the rules, but old habits are hard to break. It only takes one slip before old friends who’ve become new enemies come calling all the way from Alcatraz. A film adaptation, The Family, stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, but you can’t miss the story in audio. Sopranos actor and 2013 Audie Award winner for Best Solo Narration, Edoardo Ballerini deliciously balances the menace, the dark comedy, and the Italian sensibilities of Tonino Benacquista’s international crime caper.
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The Happiest Millionaire is a favorite lesser-known Disney musical that offers toe-tapping charm. Fred MacMurray is a wealthy father who keeps pet alligators in his mansion and hosts a Bible-and-boxing club in the stables. Lesley Ann Warren, Greer Garson, and the irrepressible Tommy Steele add to the family fun.
Australian bachelor Don Tillman is a brilliant genetics professor whose social skills are anything but genius. He’s reached a point in his life at which he’s willing to deviate (slightly) from beloved routine in order to find a suitable life partner. A scientifically sound process is designed, and soon “The Wife Project” is underway. Enter Rosie, a woman who meets none of Don’s criteria and who has a personal project of her own. If your resolution is to explore upbeat fiction that appeals equally to men and women, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion passes with flying colors. Optimize your results by choosing the audiobook read by Dan O’Grady and enjoy hearing Don’s deadpan earnestness and inadvertent humor delivered in a native Aussie accent.
“This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.” That curious opening line might actually apply to you, too! No matter how many times you may have seen the movie, if you’ve not read The Princess Bride by William Goldman you are missing the best parts. Inconceivable? Trust us. You’d have to be mostly dead not to enjoy the extra adventures contained in these pages. Swordplay, true love, giants, revenge, torture, fantastical beasts, mawage, and, of course, miracles all await. As you wish, this newly illustrated 40th anniversary edition is the perfect book to keep you happy company during dreary days and nippy nights. Have fun storming the castle!
Karl Pilkington is a British TV and radio personality. He works with Ricky Gervais. I love everything Pilkington does, like An Idiot Abroad, where he travels to the Seven Wonders of the World with twists orchestrated by Gervais. Also, try The Ricky Gervais Show for more hysterical, dry wit.
Want a gritty, dark horror novel? Last Days by Adam Nevill is the leisurely tale of an indie filmmaker shooting a documentary on the cult The Temple of the Last Days, all of whose members were murdered. As the shoot progresses, evil has awoken and people start dying.
How about literary, uncanny short stories? Try Nalo Hopkinson’s anthology of dark fantasy and horror, Mojo: Conjure Stories. Nineteen authors, from Neil Gaiman to Tananarive Due, explore the tricky, powerful, and dangerous nature of magic.
What about an unlikely monster? Brood X by Michael Philip Cash shows what happens when cicadas take over the world. Billions of cicadas wreak havoc on the electric grid, wi-fi, food, and water for Seth and his family in this original, fast-paced read.
Finally, how about something funny? This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong is a small town Armageddon in the form of giant, invisible spiders that only two hopeless, sarcastic heroes can see and fight.
Still not enough horror for you?
If you like dry English humor, then Kind Hearts and Coronets is for you. Louis plots the demise of family members, shortening the line of succession to become Duke. His conniving and lust for revenge is punctuated with humorous circumstances and whimsical dialog as he romances, manipulates, and eliminates his relatives.
The 2013 Hugo Awards, the leading honor in the field of science fiction and fantasy, were announced earlier this month. Which worlds will you explore?
Best Novel: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Best Novella: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Best Graphic Story: Saga, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Avengers, written and directed by Joss Whedon
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, written by George R.R. Martin, directed by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Best Professional Artist: John Picacio (check out the Elric series!)
You might think literary heavyweight Marcel Proust has nothing to say to you, but French author Alain de Botton wants you to experience How Proust Can Change Your Life. This book is a unique animal, blending wit, literary biography, and self-help to illustrate the power of reading and life experiences. The short chapters have pithy titles including “How to Be a Good Friend,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” and “How to Be Happy in Love.” The audiobook format best allows you to appreciate the humor, with narrator Nicholas Bell easily bringing out the lightness in the anecdotes and observations. Change your life with one of the books we are reading along with our friends in Sèvres, France.
It takes a healthy sense of humor to bring the Olympics to town, and that’s exactly what is on display in the BBC series Twenty Twelve. Winner of Best Sitcom at the British Comedy Awards, the mockumentary format (à la The Office) mixes a faux-serious treatment with dry wit and satire. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) leads the ensemble as the much put-upon Head of Deliverance responsible to organize the 2012 London Summer Olympics. His team must solve everything from traffic patterns to protesters to an unpredictable official countdown clock, all while keeping a positive spin for the watching world. Let the Games begin!