Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, April 19, 2013

Week ending April 19, 2013

Cole, Kresley. Shadow’s Claim. (Dacians: Realm of Blood & Mist, Bk. 1). 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2012. ISBN 9781470319564. $123.75; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; digital download. F
Cole spins off her “Immortals After Dark” paranormal series here as she follows characters referenced in Lothaire. Trehan Daciano is a vampire assassin dedicated to keeping his realm secret. Trehan is on the hunt for Caspion, a demon who has escaped the realm and who is the unrequited love of Bettina, a sorceress/demon princess. Bettina seduces Trehan, thinking he is Caspion and ends up reawakening his heart. Cole creates burning chemistry between Trehan, an alpha male, and Bettina, who is a bit more passive. Robert Petkoff does a great job narrating, especially the character of Trehan.
Verdict Fans of J.D. Ward, Larissa Ione, and Sherrilyn Kenyon will enjoy this book.—Sharon Redfern, Rockville P.L., Vernon, CT

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. 5 CDs. retail ed. abridged. 5½ hrs. Tyndale House. 2012. ISBN 978189977136. $39.99. F
This original radio dramatization is a first-rate production offering a middle ground between straight narrations of Dickens’s novel about an abused orphan and its various film adaptations. It should appeal strongly to readers who dislike abridgements but aren’t up to devoting 13 hours to unabridged productions. Its script uses as much of the novel’s original dialog as possible, and actor James Fox narrates segues bridging scenes. Listeners unfamiliar with the story should have no trouble following along. Its large and uniformly excellent English cast brings scenes to life in ways a single narrator cannot. Sound effects and background music lend authenticity and energy to the production, which should delight older children. A DVD accompanying the package contains documentaries about the program and about modern orphans.
Verdict Highly recommended.—R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA

Muller, Marcia. Looking for Yesterday: A Sharon McCone Mystery. 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8 hrs. AudioGO. 2012. ISBN 9780792783640. $59.95; Playaway digital; digital download. MYS
San Francisco PI Sharon McCone returns for the 33rd time as she tries to exonerate Caro Warrick, a woman who was found not guilty of murdering her best friend. But, of course, not all things are as they seem, especially when Caro is bludgeoned to death at Sharon’s doorstep, and the detective finds her life in danger yet again. Muller literally moves the main character into new domains as she captures a 1960s-style pulp-detective vibe. McCone is as hard-boiled as ever, despite her seeming finally to settle for the “good man,” fellow investigator Hy Ripinsky. Reader Laura Hicks is quite familiar with the style, tone, and voice as this is the 13th pairing of novelist and reader.
Verdict Recommended for McCone fans and those looking for summer reading.—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Norton, Ashley Prentice. The Chocolate Money. 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781452641379. $71.99; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Babs Ballentyne, heiress to the Ballentyne Chocolate fortune, lives a life of decadence and dissipation in Chicago. Norton’s debut is narrated by Babs’s daughter, Bettina, who lives in her mother’s shadow. Babs shares almost everything with Bettina, including explicit descriptions of her sexual exploits and escapades. Bettina craves her mother’s approval but rarely gets it and eventually finds she lacks the skills to cope in a more “normal” environment with children her own age. When she inherits the family fortune, she must decide how to become her own person. Audie Award finalist Tavia Gilbert nails the mean-girl cadences and inflections of female adults and teens in the story.
Verdict The plot of this story is almost nonexistent; the characters are insipid and flat. Unless the story is supposed to be a diatribe against the wealthy or a morality tale about the evils of excess, it serves only as a vehicle to put space among the graphic sexual encounters. [“Readers who enjoy contemporary mother-daughter fiction or chick lit fans looking for heavier fare than offerings by Sophie Kinsella or Lauren Weisberger will relish this one,” read the much more positive review of the Mariner: Houghton Harcourt pb, LJ 9/15/12.—Ed.]—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence

Soli, Tatjana. The Forgetting Tree. 11 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 13½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781452609096. $44.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Soli’s (The Lotus Eaters) second novel is a beautiful and lyrical but narratively uneven book that centers on loss, family, illness, and redemption. The death of her young son fuels Claire Baumsarg’s emotional and eventual physical alienation from the rest of her family, even as she works to preserve the citrus farm she and her husband, Forster, own. When Claire falls ill, her now ex-husband and now adult daughters try to persuade her to sell the land and focus on her health. Enter Minna, a young Haitian woman whose role of caretaker quickly morphs into that of surrogate daughter. Minna’s bleak past and inconsistent treatment of Claire add an element of mystery to an already dense novel. Narrator Joyce Bean’s rich voice perfectly embodies the novel’s heaviness.
Verdict Recommended for larger general fiction collections and where magical realism is popular. [“A lush, haunting novel for readers who appreciate ambiguity, this work should establish Soli as a novelist with depth and broad scope,” read the review of the St. Martin’s hc, LJ 8/12.—Ed.]—Nicole Williams, Englewood P.L., NJ

Giunta, Salvatore with Joe Layden. Living with Honor. 9 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 10½ hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781442355859. $39.99; 9 CDs. library ed.; digital download. MEMOIR
In this autobiography, Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Giunta chronicles his life and time on duty in Afghanistan. Listeners will follow Giunta’s journey from Subway “sandwich artist” to receiving the highest honor possible for a U.S. solider. Sparing no details, Giunta recounts the abject horror of daily life in Afghanistan, showing how easily one can come to view human lives as “worthless.” The author shares the “worst day of his life” with a detailed account of the battle that merited him the commendation. This work features striking realism, very strong language, and content about casualties that is not censored. Narrator Keith Nobbs is brilliant; listeners will feel as if they are hearing Giunta himself sharing war stories.
Verdict Best for fans of nonfiction works about war and military life.—Sean Kennedy, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib

Jasanoff, Maya. Liberty’s Exiles. 14 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2012. ISBN 9781464045998. $123.75; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; digital download. HIST
This comprehensive, engaging work examines the Loyalists, those on the losing side of the American Revolution. While some readers may associate the term Loyalist with images of affluent white Englishmen, Jasanoff (history, Harvard Univ.) points out that they were in fact a multiethnic group that included African Americans and Native Americans. After the war, many of those still loyal to the Crown left the Colonies and fled around the world to places where British rule still prevailed. The personal stories of these refugees are the most poignant part of this study. Readers travel with the exiles forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind and struggling to remake their lives in such diverse locations as Quebec, Jamaica, and India.
Verdict The epic sweep of these world-changing events and the affecting personal accounts of those who endured them are handled expertly by L.J. Ganser, who narrates with firmness and clarity. The historical analysis and eyewitness testimonies will satisfy academic and general readers alike. [“Combining compelling narrative with insightful analysis, Jasanoff has produced a work that is both distinct in perspective and groundbreaking in its originality,” read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 12/10. Winner of the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction.—Ed.]—Denis Frias, Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont.

Manchester, William & Paul Reid. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill. Vol. 3: Defender of the Realm, 1940–1965. library ed. unabridged. 42 CDs. 53½ hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781470819521. $160; 4 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. HIST
This third volume of Manchester’s (American Caesar) massive biography of Churchill was incomplete when the author died in 2004; he passed the baton to Reid, who has done a marvelous job of patching and interpreting Manchester’s notebooks into a coherent whole. The volume covers the years 1940–1965 in great detail and is nicely enhanced by Clive Chafer’s narration. The authors relate that Adolf Hitler was nonplussed and unprepared when England refused to haggle or surrender like most of the European nations had done. As England stood alone, Churchill became the voice, the rallier, the bulwark for both England and the world at large.
Verdict An essential purchase for public and academic libraries. [“This is a big book but reads easily, filled with anecdotes from the principals. Although not a practiced historian, Reid learned well from Manchester, and the finished book is a worthy conclusion to what must be considered one of the most thorough treatments of Churchill so far produced,” read the review of the Little, Brown hc, LJ 10/1/12.—Ed.]—Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME

Moody, Ruth. Coming of Age in Mississippi. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781452611112. $44.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; digital download. AUTOBIOG
Originally published in 1968, Moody’s book chronicles her growing up poor, female, and African American in segregated Mississippi and her participation in the civil rights movement. Lisa Renee Pitts is an engaging narrator who ably conveys Moody’s perspective as a young child and well into adulthood. Racial descriptions and language reflect the prejudices of the period.
Verdict This important account will be of interest to students of African American and women’s history, as well as fans of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help who want to learn more about mid-20th-century Southern culture.—Julie Judkins, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Wiesel, Elie. Open Heart. 2 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 90 min. Books on Tape. 2012. ISBN 9780385393546. $20; digital download. MEMOIR
Faced with life-threatening open-heart surgery, Wiesel (Night) reflects on his life, work, and faith; the Holocaust; and his goals and accomplishments, past, present and future. Mark Bramhall does an exceptional job reading the philosophical text. His sensitive timing and voice afford the listener enough time to absorb and contemplate the content. Some Hebrew words are mispronounced, but that doesn’t impede the listener’s satisfaction with Bramhall’s performance of this poignant memoir.
Verdict Highly recommended for all libraries, both academic and public.—Ilka Gordon, Aaron Garber Lib., Beachwood, OH

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"