Audiobooks by Berenson, Cambron, Christie, Iles, Love, and Mejia | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 20, 2017

starred review starBerenson, Alex. The Prisoner. (John Wells, Bk. 11). 10 CDs. 12:22 hrs. Books on Tape. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781524735357. $45. digital download. F
John Wells is back, and this time he is voluntarily going undercover—again—as an al-Qaeda operative in a CIA black-site Bulgarian prison. His mission is to infiltrate a group of Islamic State prisoners who were overheard discussing a high-ranking mole at the CIA and identify him before he can pass on operational details and get more operatives killed. To make it realistic, he is captured in Afghanistan and becomes a high-value prisoner. This is John Wells at his best: the spy skills, the adventure mixed with danger, and the mystery of the mole combine to make this a great novel. The narration by George Guidall is exceptional; the accents, his smart use of cadence, and his smooth, yet engaging tone make this wonderful story even better.
Verdict Highly recommended.—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.

Cambron, Kristy. The Illusionist’s Apprentice. 9 CDs. 10:21 hrs. Thomas Nelson. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9780718095284. $24.95. 1 MP3-CD. F
“Convince your customers of your story and they will believe your illusion,” Harry Houdini told Jenny “Wren” Lockhart when she was learning the trade. Fifteen years later, Jenny is a very successful vaudevillian. She is at her home in Boston when rival showman Horace Stapleton is murdered. The newly created FBI is called in to investigate. As they race to discover the murderer, the careful illusion that Jenny has wrapped around her life comes undone. The audio recording has two drawbacks: chiefly, the chapter-by-chapter tracks are quite long (ten-plus minutes), so that stopping a disc in the middle of a track requires a lot of relistening (or skipping ahead). Secondly, Amy Rubinate reads in a breathy, hesitant manner. The book’s premise is interesting, but the awkward phrasing and mangled metaphors throughout are annoying. Additionally, there are numerous anachronisms. The book is set in the 1920s, yet the author uses contemporary wording, e.g., “vine-ripened tomatoes” when they didn’t have anything but vine-ripened in those days.
Verdict Not recommended. [“A gripping tale of suspense”: LJ 3/15/17 review of the Thomas Nelson hc.]—Nann Hilyard, formerly with Zion-Benton P.L., IL

Christie, Sally. The Enemies of Versailles. (Mistresses of Versailles, Bk. 3). 12 CDs. 15 hrs. Tantor. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9781515954019. $39.99. digital download. F
First-person, present-tense chapters alternate between the voices of Jeanne Bécu, the illegitimate daughter of a cook and a monk who becomes Comtesse du Barry, and that of Madame Adélaïde, unmarried daughter of King Louis XV. Elizabeth Wiley succeeds in conveying the giddy gaiety of du Barry as she climbs from poverty to become the king’s last official mistress. Wiley uses a nasal, pompous voice for Adélaïde, who is concerned with etiquette and rank.
Verdict Recommended for lovers of historical fiction with a chick lit sensibility and Philippa Gregory fans.—David Faucheux, Lafayette, LA

Iles, Greg. Mississippi Blood. (Penn Cage, Bk. 6). 23 CDs. 28:09 hrs. Harper Audio. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9780062657350. $65.99. ISBN 9780062657348. $40.99. F
Mississippi Blood concludes a trilogy within a series, following Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree. Listeners unfamiliar with the two earlier titles should read or listen to them in sequence as the characters and plots actually form a single, compelling thriller set in the South from the 1960s to the present. Central to this portion of the tale is Penn Cage’s reaction to Dr. Tom Cage’s trial for the murder of Viola Turner, an African American nurse Tom once employed. Penn and his daughter Annie are still in mortal danger from the menace of KKK radicals, the Double Eagles and their leader “Snake” Knox. The suspenseful activity (murder, mayhem, pursuit) is superb, and the conclusion is quite satisfying. Since Penn has narrowly escaped death and witnessed or committed murder several times, his irate, overly sensitive reactions to details of his father’s defense may seem a bit much. Narrator Scott Brick’s characterizations are excellent—consistent and emotional.
Verdict Highly recommended for adult audio collections. [“Heart-racing, enthralling thriller”: LJ 12/16 starred review of the Morrow hc.]—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

Love, Melissa Scrivner. Lola. digital download. 13 hrs. Books on Tape. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9781524755317. $95. F
If $2 million in drug money isn’t reimbursed to a Los Angeles cartel within two days, Lola will be savagely murdered. Her only chance for a reprieve is replacing the cash and heroin lost in her gang’s bungled attempt to foil a drug drop for the cartel. Listeners will root for Lola as she races against time to unmask rivals and recoup a staggering amount of loot. Roxana Ortega embodies this one-of-a-kind heroine by conveying her cunning, character, and grit. Her voice melds with the intricate plot, letting the story propel itself. As a debut novelist, Love won’t have a loyal fan base awaiting her newest offering, and the title and cover design are unrevealing. This novel warrants readers’ advisory and word of mouth endorsement.
Verdict A detectiveless crime novel in which the mystery is solved by the criminal herself; recommended. [“This adrenaline-charged debut will thrill readers as they discover one of crime fiction’s most captivating protagonists yet”: LJ 2/1/17 starred review of the Crown hc.]—Judith Robinson, Univ. at Buffalo

Mejia, Mindy. Everything You Want Me To Be. 9 CDs. 10:44 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan 2017. ISBN 9781508224099. $59.99. digital download. F
In sleepy Pine Valley, MN, 18-year-old Hattie Hoffman—beloved daughter, excellent student, best friend, adored girlfriend, talented actress—lies dead. Solving her gruesome murder is up to local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend who watched Hattie grow up. Her English teacher Peter Lund thought she was one of the small town’s most promising students. And from these three perspectives—Hattie narrated by Caitlin Thorburn, Del by John Moraitis, and Peter by Jeff Harding—the “who-done-what-to-whom” gets slowly revealed over Hattie’s high school senior year. With three characters telling the story, a corresponding triumvirate cast makes perfect sense. What’s missing, unfortunately, is a sense of continuity among the narrators so that overlapping characters remain consistently recognizable throughout: boyfriend Tommy, for example, shouldn’t sound like an affable goof from one reader and then resemble a strangely accented thug in another section. As singular narrators, all three readers are competent, with Moraitis the most convincing.
Verdict Mejia’s (The Dragon Keeper) latest is not a particularly opaque mystery; more seasoned thrill-seekers in search of less predictable fare might look elsewhere.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

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