Audiobooks from Childress, Harrison, Henion, Mystery Writers, Moyes, Palmer, Stewart | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 18, 2015

Childress, Ron. And West Is West. 9 CDs. 10:45 hrs. HighBridge. 2015. ISBN 9781622318797. $34.99. digital download. F
Winner of the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Childress’s debut novel asks listeners to consider the damage technology does to the individuals using it, as well as to society as a whole. Through the stories of Ethan, who develops an algorithm that allows his Wall Street employers to make money from antiterrorist strikes, and Jessica, a drone pilot who performs those strikes, Childress presents a broad indictment of technological advances that allow the user to act at a distance and to avoid seeing the direct consequences of his or her actions. This is a sincere and earnest book, but those qualities can—and, in this case, do—make for a novel that ends up acting at a distance itself. Ably narrated by Graham Halstead, the story makes some interesting and important claims about corruption, technology and human nature, and the responsibility of the individual in a global society. Unfortunately, there are times when those claims overwhelm the narrative, leaving the reader understanding the ethical questions without coming to understand the characters of Jessica and Ethan.
Verdict Recommended for those interested more in the social conscience of the novel than in its storytelling. [“This powerful and morally chilling tale depicts the chasm modern technology can create between actions and consequences—and the effects that has on the individuals carrying out the actions”: LJ 8/15 review of the Algonquin hc.]—Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn

Harrison, Kim. The Drafter. 13 CDs. 16 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2015. ISBN 9781442397163. $39.99. digital download. F
drafter121815Peri Reed works for a covert government agency as a Drafter with the ability to rewrite history by manipulating time and changing an event’s outcome. Jack Twill, her Anchor, is responsible for helping Peri merge both time lines into one cohesive memory. After a failed mission, Peri discovers her name on a list of corrupt agents. Determined to exonerate herself by recalling all time lines, she realizes that the truth is as elusive as her lost memories. January LaVoy’s timing and pacing are an excellent match for Harrison’s edge-of-your-seat suspense.
Verdict Although the CD tracks are not synced with chapter divisions, Harrison’s series launch is still a success overall and worth placing on the library shelf. Fans of government conspiracy set in a futuristic setting with a paranormal element will enjoy. [“Harrison’s latest trilogy, set in a futuristic Detroit, is fast paced but muddled in execution”: LJ 8/15 review of the Gallery hc.]—JoAnn Funderburk, Rowlett, TX

Henion, Leigh Ann. Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World. 9 CDs. 10:40 hrs. Books on Tape. 2015. ISBN 9781101887783. $40. digital download. MEMOIR
The story begins with the birth of Henion’s son and the author’s difficulties adjusting to life as a new mother. Convinced that the greatest key to happiness—both her own and that of her family—lies in periodically venturing into the wider world beyond home, Henion sets out on a global trek to rekindle her sense of wonder. She witnesses such phenomena as the phosphorescent waters off Vieques Island and a volcanic eruption in Hawaii. She begins to see that having a family does not mean the end of her independence or wanderlust. Narrator Nicol Zanzarella does a decent job working with the material she was given, showing inflection when she can, but coming off sounding rather robotic in the end.
Verdict Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love may find this book appealing.—Jessi Brown, Huntington City Twp. P.L., IN

Manhattan Mayhem: An Anthology of Tales in Celebration of the 70th Year of the Mystery Writers of America. ed. by Mary Higgins Clark. 9 CDs. 11 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2015. ISBN 9781491542644. $32.99. 1 MP3-CD, Playaway digital. F
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Mystery Writers of America, this collection of new short stories, edited by Clark, is set in various New York City locations during various time periods. The 18 stories are from such authors as Jeffery Deaver, Margaret Maron, and T. Jefferson Parker, as well as editor Clark. The anthology offers a solid introduction to these writers for new readers of the genre. Longtime fans will appreciate the brief bios at the end of each story and will likely find at least one author new to them. The readings are performed by January LaVoy, Peter Berkrot, and Dick Hill and vary in length and intensity. Unfortunately, the audiobook version is missing the print edition’s maps, which might help anchor the stories to their neighborhoods, especially for listeners who are less familiar with the city.
Verdict Recommended for short fiction and mystery collections.—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Moyes, Jojo. After You. 9 CDs. 11:06 hrs. Books on Tape. 2015. ISBN 9781101925188. $45. digital download. F
Louisa Clark received unwanted notoriety when, as one of the caregivers for paraplegic tycoon Will Traynor, she attended his death by suicide in Switzerland. She is now back home in London, renting a small apartment near (but not far enough from) her loving, anxious parents and her bossy sister. She has a waitress job in an Irish-themed airport bar. Her family have persuaded her to join a grief support group to help with her recovery. One day a stranger knocks on the door. She is 16-year-old Lily, the daughter Will never knew he had, the result of a brief fling during his university days. Lily has only recently learned her birth father’s identity and Louisa’s name came up in Internet searches. On the outs with her materialistic mother, Lily moves in with Louisa “just for a couple of days” and proceeds to offer unsolicited advice about Louisa’s wardrobe, cooking, and social life. Lily is at once annoying, needy, and endearing. Meanwhile, Louisa meets Sam, a paramedic whose nephew is in the grief group. Managing relationships with Lily, Sam, and her family requires Louisa to take big risks on her journey to redemption. In this charming, hopeful novel, she finds they are all worth it.
Verdict A good choice for popular collections. [“Moyes’s many fans will line up”: LJ 9/15/15 review of the Pamela Dorman: Viking hc.]—Nann Blaine Hilyard, formerly with Zion-Benton P.L., IL

Palmer, Alex. The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York. 7 CDs. 8:49 hrs. Tantor Media. 2015. ISBN 9781494517250. $34.99. 1 MP3-CD. HIST
Palmer (Weird-o-Pedia) offers an engaging history of early 20th-century New York City and the modern notion of Santa Claus, as well as an entertaining biography of his great-grand uncle John Duval Gluck Jr. In 1913, after learning that hundreds of letters written by New York City’s children to Santa went unanswered every year, Gluck formed the Santa Claus Association, receiving the blessing of the U.S. Postal Service. Gluck, a small-time businessman who had inherited his father’s custom brokerage firm, assembled a team of volunteers who carefully read each letter, flagging any requests that seemed to be from children of means, any repeat requests, or any accounts of starvation, homelessness, or abuse; these latter were forwarded to the Public Charities Commission for further investigation. Letters that successfully made it through the initial screening process were matched up with volunteer donors who had agreed to buy presents for needy children. It was a well-oiled philanthropic machine—until the con man in Gluck couldn’t resist using the charity to gather and promote side business opportunities, increase his standing in New York society, and, eventually, just flat-out line his pockets. Intriguing stories of stolen art, gun-toting Boy Scouts, a child’s kidnapping, Clement Clarke Moore’s writing of A Visit from St Nicholas and the World War I Christmas Day armistice are among the many stories woven into Palmer’s larger account of how Christmas evolved into the celebration we now know. Eric Michael Summerer smoothly delivers this thoroughly enjoyable work.
Verdict Highly recommended for history fans.—Beth Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib.

Stewart, Amy. Girl Waits with Gun. 9 CDs. 10:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2015. ISBN 9781490667119. $123.75. 1 MP3-CD. digital download. F
girlwaits121815This lively mystery is based on fact: the corruption found in clothing manufacturing at the beginning of the 20th century and that protagonist Constance Kopp was America’s first female deputy sheriff. In 1914, Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp’s buggy is struck by an automobile driven by silk manufacturer Henry Kaufman. When he refuses to pay damages, the feisty Constance challenges him. Soon, Henry’s thugs threaten the Kopp women at their remote New Jersey farm. Undaunted, Constance goes to the police, who are amused by the tall, confident woman. However, wise, fair, and kind Sheriff Bob Heath sees the wrong in what’s happening to the family and asks Constance to help catch the men. The trial after the accident is compelling, offering a fascinating look at how different—and yet similar—legal doings are today. Narrator Christina Moore skillfully portrays characters of all ages and classes and splendidly conveys humor and fear, but she is best demonstrating the warm relationships among the Kopp women.
Verdict The clever conclusion will have listeners eagerly anticipating a sequel. [“Historical fiction fans and followers of Rhys Bowen’s “Molly Murphy” mysteries and Victoria Thompson’s “Gaslight Mystery” series will delight in the eccentric and feisty Kopp women”: LJ 6/15/15 starred review of the Houghton Harcourt hc.]—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Willig, Lauren. The Other Daughter. 10 CDs. 12 hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2015. ISBN 97801427261670. $39.99. Playaway digital, digital download. F
Rachel Woodley’s world is shaken by the death of her mother and the discovery that the father she’s believed long dead is actually alive—and a titled aristocrat. She confronts the only person who could explain her parents’ situation and then runs out angrily before he has a chance to tell her the truth. Instead, she changes her name, borrows a flat and fashionable clothes, inveigles her way into London society, banters cleverly through literary allusions, and, finally, comes face to face with her father. If Willig had reduced 27-year-old Rachel’s age by ten years, it would be easier to be drawn into the plot. As it is, listeners may be annoyed with Rachel’s immature behavior and decisions. The dialog is self-consciously sprinkled with 1920s slang and Shakespearean references, Rachel’s father apparently having inspired her love of the bard before her fifth birthday. Nicola Barber’s slightly breathy speech illustrates Rachel’s bewilderment. Her expert pacing and pitch bring melodramatic Rachel to life. Other characters, too, are well portrayed.
Verdict An optional purchase where 1920s-set books are popular. [“This stand-alone will appeal equally to longtime Willig fans and readers looking for character-driven, historical fiction with a light touch of romance”: LJ 6/15/15 review of the St. Martin’s hc.]—Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA

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