Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, May 3, 2013

Week ending May 3, 2103

Dobbs, Michael. Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman—from World War to Cold War. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2012. ISBN 9780449013779. $50; digital download. HIST
Dobbs (Down with Big Brother; One Minute to Midnight) here offers a meticulous presentation and analysis of one of the most critical half-years in world history. From February to August 1945, two Big Three conferences were held, Nazi death camps were discovered, Adolf Hitler committed suicide, World War II ended on the European front, Europe melted clumsily into spheres of influence (beginning the Cold War), U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt died and was succeeded by Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was defeated, the atom bomb was dropped on Japan, and the list goes on. Bob Walter’s deliberate, gravelly voice somehow manages to add gravitas to events that already had all the gravity they needed.
Verdict This book is the final installment in Dobbs’s important “Cold War Trilogy” and will be snapped up by academic and public libraries.—Don Wismer, Trustee Emeritus, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME

Kirk, David. Child of Vengeance. 12 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780385362245. $45; digital download. F
Kirk takes listeners to 16th-century feudal Japan in this debut, which is based on actual events in the life of legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto. Bennosuke was abandoned by his father and raised by his uncle, a monk. When he learns a shameful family secret, Bennosuke decides to abandon the contemplative life and go the way of the samurai. At 13, he kills a much older adversary and then is considered a man. After a circuitous route following many bloody battles and witnessing seppuku (death by self-inflicted disembowelment), Bennosuke prevails. Narrator Mark Bramhall’s very mature voice works best for the older samurai and long text within the convoluted saga.
Verdict Only those who are accustomed to very graphic—almost sickeningly so—descriptions and extreme violence should attempt this disturbing novel. [“Kirk, who teaches English in Japan, has penned an educational, engrossing, and just plain fun-to-read book. It is well written and well researched and should appeal to a wide variety of readers, especially those who loved James Clavell’s Shogun,” read the much more enthusiastic starred review of the Doubleday hc, LJ 2/1/13.—Ed.]—Susan Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Mathis, Ayana. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10 hrs. Books on Tape. 2012. ISBN 9780804127271. $40; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Mathis’s debut novel, an Oprah Book Club selection, features strong characters who find hidden strength after enduring tragedy. The novel opens with 15-year-old Hattie Shepherd’s 1923 move from Georgia to Philadelphia and goes on to tell the stories of her children, starting with the loss of infant twins Philadelphia and Jubilee. Hattie’s interactions with her nine other children are filled with discipline, difficult choices, and the courage and tenderness none of them will see until much later. Told to great effect in 12 separate voices, for which the audio edition employs three readers—Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Adam Lazarre-White—the book’s individual stories are emblematic of a half-century in America.
Verdict Highly recommended for all fiction collections. [The Knopf hc was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Mattson, Kevin. Just Plain Dick: Richard Nixon’s Checkers Speech and the “Rocking, Socking” Election of 1952. 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 7 hrs. Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781470837730. $69; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. POL SCI
Mattson (history, Ohio Univ.; The Cause) deconstructs Richard Nixon’s 1952 “Checkers speech,” clearly describing a pivotal time in Nixon’s career as well as a transformative moment in American politics. In 1952, Nixon faced pressure to resign as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate because of possible campaign finance improprieties. In what is still the most-watched television speech to date, Nixon painted a portrait of himself as the hardworking common man, fighting the good fight against powerful elitists such as Ike’s opponent, Adlai Stevenson (whom Nixon dismissed as an “egghead”). Veteran narrator Keith Szarabajka’s lively performance will engage listeners.
Verdict This title will appeal to political junkies of all ages as well as those interested in how the media influences elections. [“Mattson’s book will appeal to historians, politicians, politics buffs, and those interested in the impact of television on the electorate,” read the review of the Bloomsbury hc, LJ 8/12.—Ed.]—Beth Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib.

Mosley, Walter. Merge/Disciple. 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8¾ hrs. Books on Tape. 2012. ISBN 9780449806616. $40; digital download. F
Mosley’s razor-sharp prose is on display in these two novellas from his “Crosstown to Oblivion” series. In Merge, narrator J.D. Jackson gives an outstanding performance as a lottery winner who discovers the true secret to happiness is not from winning the lottery but from trying to nurse an alien back to health. In Disciple, voice artist Bernard K. Addison is engaging as a data-entry clerk whose response to a bizarre instant message lands him at the head of a corporation in the center of a struggle for world domination.
Verdict Mosley’s speculative/sf novellas may be too hard-core for some of his Easy Rawlins mystery fans, but sf fans are certain to enjoy these imaginative and thought-provoking tales from the versatile author.—Beth Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib.

Pamuk, Orhan. Silent House. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12¾ hrs. Books on Tape. 2012. tr. from Turkish by Robert Finn. ISBN 9780385363266. $40; digital download. F
In Nobel prize winner Pamuk’s (Istanbul) second novel, published in Turkey in 1983 and translated into English in 2012, 90-year-old widow Fatma lives in a crumbling house in a resort town north of Istanbul. Her caretaker is the dwarf Recep, her husband’s bastard son. Fatma and Recep squabble constantly but clearly cannot live without each other. Fatma harbors a decades-long resentment of her husband, who was exiled to the town and spent the rest of his life working on an encyclopedia of everything in the world. Her jewels were sold, piece by piece, to support the family and to keep her husband supplied with alcohol. Now it is time for Fatma’s grandchildren to pay their annual summer visit. The young adults are caught up in a tumultuous time in Turkish politics, with nationalists are pitted against socialists. Faruk is an aspiring historian whose alcoholism overshadows his research. Nilgun professes to be a leftist and a feminist but is easily swayed. Metin is a high school nerd who desperately (and unsuccessfully) wants to be cool and popular. The multiple narrators—Emrhys Cooper, Jonathan Cowley, John Lee, Juliet Mills, and Steve West—convey both the comic and poignant scenes.
Verdict For large literary fiction collections. [“Finn’s beautiful translation captures the moody atmosphere of a country in transition and results in an accessible read perfect for those new to Pamuk,” read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 9/1/12.—Ed.]—Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL

Samsom, Marja. Kitchen Round Table: At Home with Lidia Bastianich, Madhur Jaffrey, Judith Jones, Betty Fussell, and Deb Perlman. 1 CD. library ed. unabridged. 60 min. AudioGO. 2012. ISBN 9780792798550. $29.95; digital download. MEMOIR
Restaurateur Samsom here interviews culinary luminaries to learn about their food memories and what inspires them. The arrangement is rather unusual with Samsom connecting each section to a recipe for linzer torte that she dictates to the listener. The technical quality of the interviews varies widely; one set was recorded in an active restaurant complete with the distracting sound of dropping silverware. Additionally, the sound levels vary from interview to interview, and the listener will be continually adjusting the volume.
Verdict This program has an exciting and interesting premise but would be better suited to a video or better quality audio recording. Not recommended.—Donna Bachowski, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL

Von Däniken, Erich. Tomy and the Planet of Lies. 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 7 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2012. tr. from German by Nicholas Quaintmere. ISBN 9781452610542. $34.99; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Best-selling Swiss author von Däniken (Chariots of the Gods?) here tells the story of a 1987 extraterrestrial encounter via an adventure novel whose protagonist shares a name with the author. Happenstance brings renowned researcher von Däniken together with an alien, dubbed Tomy. Tomy, who has great powers, seeks a deeper understanding of humans. While the human and the alien are traveling together, government agents learn of Tomy’s existence and his amazing abilities and they seek to capture him. The author and the alien must elude the officials to keep Tomy safe. Arthur Morey provides a clear, serious, and well-paced narration.
Verdict Of interest to fans of the author and of sf.—Denise A. Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY

Wolfe, Tom. Back to Blood. 19 CDs library ed. unabridged. 21 hrs. AudioGO. 2012. ISBN 9781619695283. $99.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities) here returns to familiar themes: race, sex, class, and society. Set in Miami, the novel (with some digressions) ostensibly tells the story of Nestor Camacho, a Cuban American policeman, but as with Wolfe’s other fiction the real focus is on larger issues in American society. And as is the case with his other books, this broader focus is a weakness. The characters are secondary to the wider themes, often to the detriment of a listener’s interest in and engagement with the story. This is alleviated to some extent by the fine narration by actor Lou Diamond Phillips but eventually makes this a less-than-stellar audiobook experience.
Verdict Of interest to Wolfe fans.—Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn

Woolf, Virginia. The Years. 12 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 13½ hrs. AudioGO. 2012. ISBN 9780792793090. $49.95. F
The last novel to be published in Woolf’s lifetime, this is the chronicle of the Pargiter family from 1880 to the late 1930s. Colonel Pargiter is a veteran of the Indian Mutiny, in which he lost two fingers. His wife, Rose, is an invalid. Each person in the large cast—their children Eleanor, Morris, Milly, Edward, Delia, Martin, and Rose; their housemaid, Crosby; their cousins Kitty and Digby; grandchildren Peggy and North; and émigré Nicholas—has a place in the chronology from the height of the Victorian era through the Edwardian period, the Great War, Jazz Age, and the eve of the next European war. Finty Williams narrates the story elegantly and precisely, ably differentiating the characters, which enables the listener to keep them sorted out.
Verdict Fans of PBS’s Downton Abbey will particularly enjoy this family saga set in the same time frame.—Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL

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"