Dreams of parenthood
What can dreams reveal about the joys and fears of pending parenthood? In the new book "Dreaming for Two: The Hidden Emotional Life of Expectant Mothers" (Dutton, $22.95), Sindy Greenberg, Elyse Kroll and Hillary Grill examine the dreams of pregnant women to help mothers-to-be deal with the psychological issues they face.
"Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon" by Pablo Neruda, translated and read by Stephen Mitchell; Audio Literature (two cassettes, 2 hours, unabridged, $18)
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has been gone nearly 30 years, but his sensual, optimistic poems should find a new audience in this audio reading. Selections range from humorous odes to everyday objects such as onions and socks, to more spiritual poems that celebrate life, nature and sex. Throughout all, the Nobel laureate's work is refreshingly accessible and unpretentious.
With 49 poems -- each only a few minutes long -- the tape's selections are easy to absorb and appreciate. Narrator Mitchell has won kudos for his previous translations, and his love for this material is clear.
"A Simple Habana Melody (From When the World Was Good)" by Oscar Hijuelos, read by Jimmy Smits; Harper Audio (seven cassettes, 10 hours, $34.95 unabridged)
A lot happens to Cuban piano prodigy and composer Israel Levis -- success, adulation, then a dizzying fall to the Nazis -- but not much happens with him in this novel of subtlety and nuance.
Actor Jimmy Smits has the fame but not the voice for this sort of novel. He reads, true, and reads and reads and reads. He might as well be reciting, "Tuck Tab A into Slot B, then rotate assembly to Notch C."
Only in the final chapters does he warm to his material.
Combined dispatches

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