Week ending June 21, 2013
Benn, James R. Souvenir. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12 hrs. AudioGO. 2013. ISBN 9780792793748. $69.99; digital download. F
The turning point in Clay Brock’s life comes during an especially horrendous battle against the Germans in 1945. He remains haunted by this event even as he becomes a husband and father in the 1960s and an old man in 2000. The energy and wit of Benn’s (A Blind Goddess) excellent World War II mystery series featuring Billy Boyle is missing here. Despite the horrors depicted, even the battle sections seem routine, and Brock’s later life in Connecticut is mostly banal. Peter Berkrot’s youthful, slightly gruff delivery helps spur the war scenes, but the conventionality of the other sections weighs down the narrative.
Verdict Fans of the Boyle books are likely to be disappointed.—Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr., New York
Lehr, Dick & Gerard O’Neill. Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.14 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 17½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780385366588. $45; digital download. HIST/CRIME
Since notorious bad guy Whitey Bulger was captured in hiding in 2011, a minor industry has sprung up around examinations of his story (including the authors’ previous collaboration, Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal). For the latter part of the 20th century, Bulger was a part of and eventually controlled the Boston-area underworld. A complex, intelligent man with wide political ties, he was (is) ruthless in his actions and meticulous in his planning and eventually corrupted even elements of the FBI. John Rubenstein never stumbles as he reads the highly detailed text. One of his techniques is to read at a slightly more rapid clip than most narrators do, adding a sense of tension and “what-will-happen-next” to the events and personae.
Verdict A welcome addition to public and academic libraries alike.—Don Wismer, Trustee Emeritus, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME
Pink, Daniel H. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others. 5 CDs retail ed. unabridged. 6 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781611761115. $29.95; digital download.
Pink (Drive; A Whole New Mind) successfully narrates his examples and research confirming that what he calls “non-sales salespersons” (i.e., the bulk of us) regularly persuade, convince, and influence others to give up something in exchange for something else. As they move others to uncover unknown challenges, modern salespersons are problem finders. The final third of the book is a practical how-to manual for “selling” your ideas using the contemporary sales ABC’s (attunement, buoyancy, clarity), with six modern elevator-pitch outlines.
Verdict This title should be of interest to anyone who is not a professional salesperson but who wishes to communicate and convince more effectively. [The Riverhead hc was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—M. Gail Preslar, formerly with Business Lib., Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, TN
Sweeney, Julia. If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother. 6 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 6½ hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781442365438. $29.99; digital download. MEMOIR
With her husband abroad on business and her daughter away at camp, Sweeney found herself alone at home (except for the cat and the dog) with time to reflect on her family. Her story deftly weaves between the present day and her childhood. As a young comedienne and writer in Los Angeles, she had a brief marriage that ended in divorce, followed by a number of boyfriends (whom she recalls as Joe #1, #2, etc.). In her later 30s, after a bout with cancer (God Said, “Ha”), she realized that she wanted to be a mother. She recounts the experience of adopting her Chinese daughter, Tara Mulan (“no, not because of the movie”) and the struggles with nannies, strollers, playdates, and urban public schools that followed. She was introduced to her current husband, Michael, via an email from his brother, saying that she ought to be his wife. The brother (-in-law) was right. Julia, Mulan, and Michael became a family. Life in suburban Chicago has challenges—not only the weather but also being taken for Mulan’s grandmother by the ponytailed, preppy women in the neighborhood. Sweeney’s narration makes listening to the personal material even more intimate. Her interview with her mother-in-law about having an abortion in the late 1950s is candid and poignant. Sweeney’s explanation of the facts of life to nine-year-old Mulan is side-splittingly funny.
Verdict Recommended for all popular collections.—Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., Zion, IL
Thorson, Scott & Alex Thorleifson. Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452611914. $34.99; 1 MP3-CD library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. MEMOIR
National attitudes about those who are GLBT are trending positive these days. Not so for Thorson back in the 1970s and 1980s, when as entertainer Liberace’s lover he lived inside an opulent, yet claustrophobic, closet. Liberace, a pianist whose trademark candelabra and overall fabulousness made him a television legend and Las Vegas mainstay, was unwilling to come out in that less-forgiving era. “Lee,” as friends called him, maintained a media firewall that lasted until just before his AIDS-related death in 1987. Well before then, Thorson had unsuccessfully tried to sue Liberace for palimony after he was dumped for a younger lover. Peter Berkrot’s experienced narration keeps the pace brisk and nails Liberace’s distinctive nasal delivery. Liberace might have been difficult to live with, but, oh, how the champagne flowed.
Verdict Recommended, in particular for those who recall Liberace’s shows. The recent HBO movie based on the book and starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon should build interest.—Kelly Sinclair, Temple P.L., TX