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Writing a novel means walking in your characters' shoes: feeling their pain, celebrating their joys, sharing their fears and anxieties. In Therese Beharrie's And They Lived Happily Ever After, romance novelist Gaia Anders takes this maxim to a whole new level. Every night, the pages she's written during the day come to life in her dreams. Gaia is her heroine—speaking each line of dialogue, experiencing every encounter, even feeling every kiss. On a practical level, she uses this ability as a writing tool. There's nothing like living out a scene's worth of dialogue to hear if it sounds stilted or unnatural. On an emotional level, it allows her to deal with her very real loneliness and isolation in a version of the world that she can control, one where she knows exactly what everyone will say and do and no one can hurt her with an unscripted word or deed. It's a world that lets her live both wildly and safely at once. Until everything changes.

Jacob Scott is Gaia's best friend's little brother. So maybe it's not surprising that they reconnect for the first time in years at a party in Jacob's brother's apartment. It is a little surprising that they run into each other because they're both hiding in the same bedroom though. Jacob doesn't want his brother to scold him for being a workaholic. Gaia doesn't want her friend to scold her for giving in to her pervasive social anxiety and avoiding the party. But Jacob doesn't make her anxious. In fact, they quickly get very close to being physically intimate. An interruption derails their encounter, but it can't wipe the desire from Gaia's mind, so when she goes home and starts a new story, it has a very familiar-looking hero. The only problem is that when Jacob shows up in her dream that night, he doesn't stick to the script. Gaia is still living out her writing in her dreams, but she's not the only real person there anymore. The daytime world has intruded in the form of a man she can't resist, and now can't avoid.

There's something wondrous about stories that take the ordinary world and add in something unexplained, something marvelous or frightening or bizarre (or, best yet, all at once). Gaia's dreams feel truly magical, but Beharrie also shows how real life moves on alongside them. Gaia's ability is incredible, but it doesn't solve all her problems. It makes some things easier, some things harder and a lot of things more complicated. Because no matter how well things go in her dreams, where she has all the control, in the morning she has to wake up and face real life—where interacting with strangers scares her, she has hardly anyone she'd consider a friend and she grapples every day with a former foster child's sense that there's nowhere she belongs and no one she can count on. It's little wonder that she prefers her dreams.

And yet, at the end of the day, life is real and vivid and shockingly intense. The magic of the story comes from Gaia learning to choose that real, scary, vivid life over the safety of her imagination. In Beharrie's wonderful romance, real love is even better than magic.

Real love is even better than magic in Therese Beharrie’s story of a romance novelist whose writing comes to life in her dreams.

"I suppose I prefer being in the thick of it," American heiress Nanée Gold explains when asked why she hasn't fled the dangers of Nazi-occupied France. She's a flamboyant, daring character who flies a Vega Gull airplane and entertains friends with her beloved dog, Dagobert, who barks ferociously whenever he hears the name "Hitler."

In The Postmistress of Paris, Meg Waite Clayton fictionalizes the fascinating story of Mary Jayne Gold, a wealthy American socialite who spent the early years of World War II helping to finance and shelter 2,000 Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees near Marseille, France, and aiding in their escapes over the Pyrenees. Gold worked with American journalist Varian Fry as part of the Emergency Rescue Committee, obtaining fake passports and planning escape routes to Spain and Portugal for luminaries such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt. Clayton is well versed in this era, having written bestsellers The Race for Paris, about two female American journalists in 1944 France, and The Last Train to London, about the Kindertransport rescue.

Clayton excels at creating fictional worlds, weaving historical details with lively dialogue and rich scene-setting details. Readers meet Nanée in 1938 as she flies into Paris on a freezing cold night, quickly swaps out her wool stockings for silk and throws on several strings of pearls. She's headed to a surrealist art exhibition, where she sees the works of Salvador Dalí and plays party games with André Breton. Danger is at the doorstep, but life is a joyful whirlwind for Nanée—until the Nazis invade Paris, abruptly forcing her to escape to the countryside near Marseille, where she rents a villa to house her artist friends.

Nanée falls in love with fictional Jewish German photographer Edouard Moss, a widower with a young daughter named Luki. Much of the novel focuses on Nanée's attempts to rescue Edouard from a French labor camp, reunite him with his daughter and get the pair out of the country. While Clayton superbly crafts banter, parlor games, romance and philosophical discussions among her cast of talented, intellectual characters, her writing is at its sharpest whenever Nanée faces great danger—which is often. Tension builds throughout the novel, culminating in a grueling, dangerous escape attempt that's full of surprises. Fans of Kate Quinn and Kristin Hannah will want to dive right into The Postmistress of Paris.

Meg Waite Clayton superbly crafts banter, romance and philosophical discussions, but her writing is at its sharpest when Nanée faces danger—which is often.

Portico Reeves isn't an average kid, and he doesn't live in an average house. He lives in the biggest house in the world. In fact, it's a castle. Well, it's actually an apartment building, but it is pretty big. And all those people who also live in the building? They're not neighbors. They're characters in a television show starring Portico's superhero alter ego: Stuntboy!

Is Stuntboy faster than a speeding bullet? No. Does he have X-ray vision or super strength? Also no. But he is brave enough to jump in front of the new kid, Zola, when she attracts the attention of Stuntboy's archnemesis, Herbert Singletary the Worst? You bet he is.

As Stuntboy, Portico can withstand a bully's barbed words, but when the trouble tracks closer to home, he struggles to keep up his superheroic facade. His grandmother calls it the frets. Portico's stomach begins to twist, and he doesn't know what to do. Lately, his parents' separation and constant arguing have been making Portico's frets worse than ever.

In his first original graphic novel, award-winning author Jason Reynolds, whose tenure as National Ambassador for Young People's literature was recently extended for a third year, gives readers a comic book superhero whose adventures feel both timely and classic. Stuntboy, in the Meantime is an imaginative tale of creative resilience and friendship.

The book's illustrations by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award-winning artist Raúl the Third are stylish and energetic. When Zola relates Portico's troubles to her favorite sci-fi TV show, "Super Space Warriors," scenes appear straight out of a midcentury comic book, complete with Benday dots and bold, psychedelic colors by Elaine Bay.

Beneath its superheroic trappings, Stuntboy, in the Meantime is an appealing story about a young boy struggling to bolster himself against the mundane uncertainties in his life. Portico finds winning allies in this quest, including Zola, who shows him strategies for settling his anxiety. Underpinning it all is the notion that to overcome our fears, we must turn our attention outward. To save ourselves, we must serve others.

Is Stuntboy faster than a speeding bullet? Er, no. Can he defeat the frets, those feelings he gets when his life feels out of control? Find out in Stuntboy, in the Meantime!

Charlie Barnes, the hero of Joshua Ferris' novel A Calling for Charlie Barnes (11.5 hours), has pancreatic cancer. Or maybe he doesn't. He is a shyster, a con man and a liar. Or perhaps he's a dreamer, a nobody who could be a somebody, if only the planets would align in his favor and grant him some grace. The task of discovering the true Charlie falls to his novelist son, Jake, the narrator of this hilarious and tragic story of love, failure and redemption.

Nick Offerman, best known as the laconic misanthrope Ron Swanson on "Parks and Recreation," delivers a powerful performance as Jake. His whiskey-soaked baritone swings effortlessly from world-weary cynicism to wickedly dry observations about siblings and stepmothers. Like his namesake in The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes is a flawed and vulnerable character, but Offerman's deft reading convinces the listener that Jake also has the strength necessary to understand and forgive the inexplicable and unforgivable.

Read our starred review of the print edition of 'A Calling for Charlie Barnes.'

Nick Offerman delivers a powerful performance as Jake Barnes, the narrator of Joshua Ferris’ hilarious and tragic story of love, failure and redemption.

For Tarana Burke, the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017 was a unique emotional journey. As the founder of the movement, she reacted to the use of the hashtag on social media—initially without her awareness or involvement—with alarm, dismay and fear. But she soon moved beyond her protective instinct to a place of gratitude and openness, as she recognized how people were benefiting from the phrase's transformative power. 

Burke narrates these moments in her memoir, Unbound (7 hours), then goes back in time to her childhood experience of sexual assault and her journey to liberation and activism. Her steady, grounded voice commands the listener's attention and moves us through time, through emotions, through visceral experiences and psychological breakthroughs. The pain, confusion, vulnerability and, ultimately, power in her story are rendered all the more potent and compelling by her confident voice, distinguishing Burke as a woman who has found her strength and her path to help others heal. This is a listening experience not to be missed.

Read our starred review of the print edition of 'Unbound.'

In the audio edition of Unbound, the pain, confusion, vulnerability and power in Tarana Burke’s story are rendered all the more potent by her confident voice.

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father. Throughout Act Like You Got Some Sense: And Other Things My Daughters Taught Me (6 hours), Foxx brings honesty and heart to touching stories about his childhood—growing up with an absent mother and being raised by a loving and unyielding grandmother—and shows how these experiences guided him when he became a parent. Foxx's impersonations of family members are dynamic and animated, as are his exasperated (and sometimes expletive-filled) responses to the trials and tribulations of parenthood. 

In an equally candid and heartwarming foreword, Foxx's eldest daughter, Corinne, affirms that, despite some unconventional parenting, her father always showed up for her and her sister, and always conveyed his love for his family. Throughout his rise to fame, Foxx's continual efforts to stay grounded and live by the values instilled in him by his grandmother shine through in the raising of his daughters. 

This inspiring, raucous and entertaining listening experience brims with attitude and positivity about embracing parenthood and the ups and downs of life. 

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father.

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