Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, June 28, 2013

Week ending June 28, 2013

Buchanan, Cathy Marie. The Painted Girls. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12½ hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781470847555. $100; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Buchanan’s intricate tale of three young sisters trying to make their way through the pitfalls around them is sympathetically narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, and Danny Campbell. They bring proud, argumentative Antoinette; intelligent yet insecure Marie; and childish Charlotte to life and enlist the listener’s sympathy immediately. With so much against them in the underbelly of 1878 Paris—alcoholism, prostitution, even murder—the girls are almost sure to be lost. Can they survive? Even flourish? Marie is immortalized by the artist Edgar Degas, and the paintings and sculpture that are described in the story are on view on the author’s website (www.cathymariebuchanan.com/art). While a URL is given in the oral introduction, it would be helpful if it were spelled out on the packaging.
Verdict This audiobook is an essential purchase for all libraries. [The Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA) hc was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA

starred review starChevalier, Tracy. The Last Runaway. 8 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 10 hrs. Penguin Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611761412. $39.95; 8 CDs. library ed.; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Quiet, home-loving, and principled Honor Bright agrees to accompany her more adventurous sister across the Atlantic to 1850’s Ohio, to where Grace’s fiancé has immigrated. The journey is miserable physically and confusing culturally, and when Honor finally arrives at their destination, she is sick at heart as well. Forced to make choices for which she is unprepared and to face challenges to her lifelong belief in the innate equality of all races, Honor matures into a strong woman worthy of respect. Kate Reading narrates the book beautifully, perfectly portraying the timid English girl making mistakes and learning from them. Reading’s voice becomes rougher with the American pioneers—louder and harsher for the exacting Judith Haymaker, more relaxed and higher pitched for Belle, the whiskey-drinking milliner.
Verdict This is a recording listeners will not want to end. Highly recommended. [“Chevalier’s (The Girl with the Pearl Earring; Remarkable Creatures) writing continues to have that can’t-put-it-down quality, and her change in settings from Europe to 19th-century frontier America is a welcome one. Highly recommended,” read the starred review of the New York Times best-selling Dutton hc, LJ 12/12.—Ed.]—Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA

Gregson, Julia. Jasmine Nights. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged 14 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781471200441. $123.75; digital download. F
Amid the chaos of World War II, young Saba Tarcan, a talented singer performing for the troops in Africa, embarks upon a journey of newfound freedom, first love, and adventure. She falls for a charming RAF pilot, Dom, with whom she learns the ups and downs of war, separation, and anxiety. Saba soon realizes that entertaining the troops and her lover won’t be her only mission. Will she follow her British commanders’ orders or her heart? Loosely based on stories of female entertainers being turned into unofficial spies, Gregson’s (East of the Sun) latest does a masterly job of weaving intrigue, adventure, and Middle Eastern culture into a powerful tale. Julia Franklin does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life.
Verdict Recommended for fans of historical fiction and romance. [“Take Gregson’s third novel…to the beach for a leisurely read and let the warmth of the sun, plus the heat of the setting, transport you to a nostalgic romance of the past,” read the review of the Touchstone: S. & S. hc, LJ 5/1/12.—Ed.]—Erin Cataldi, Franklin Coll. Lib., IN

Laukkanen, Owen. Criminal Enterprise. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10¼ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470342715. $102.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Faced with the loss of his indulgent lifestyle, unemployed Carter Tomlin turns to crime. He develops a taste for excitement as he escalates from bank robberies to increasingly violent and titillating offenses. FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere follows her instincts to look beyond the obvious criminal elements. She is unexpectedly reunited with Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens, who is determined to give up the “hero stuff” that brought them together in series opener The Professionals. This novel falls short of both its prequel and its premise. It is neither a thoughtful look into the mind of a killer nor a well-developed suspense story. What appears to be a psychological journey spirals into sheer violence. Though intriguing, the shifting points of view often dampen the suspense by revealing actions too soon, and, unfortunately, too much of the plot is driven by coincidences for the story to be truly compelling. As a listening experience, this is equally disappointing. Edoardo Ballerini’s rich voice cannot counteract the languid pacing and the unusual voice choices that seem inconsistent with the text.
Verdict This is a supplemental purchase for larger collections with demand for action audiobooks or for libraries in which the first novel was well received. [“This is a terrific Great Recession thriller whose postmodern amorality grips from the beginning. While the criminals here are not as likable as Laukkanen’s Arthur Pender gang from the first book, fans will not be disappointed,” read the more forgiving review of the Putnam hc, LJ 3/1/13.—Ed.]—Lisa Youngblood, Harker Heights P.L., TX

Maazel, Fiona. Woke Up Lonely. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12½ hrs. Dreamscape. 2013. ISBN 9781624064838. $47.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Late in the novel, a main character states, “I could not fathom where to go.” This statement neatly describes a messy novel. It is not clear whether the author intended for this work to be a humorous approach to politics and self-awareness, a view of cult leadership and life, an approach to transmogrifying relationships, or a travelog on North Korea. The characters’ backstories are numbingly long and overly detailed, the plot veers like a driverless car, and the overall effect is a hot mess. The excellent narration by Bernadette Dunne is wasted on this confused literary effort.
Verdict Not recommended. [“Maazel’s wildly imaginative style isn’t for everyone, and her humor may be lost on many readers. But this ambitious, wide-ranging novel should appeal to those who enjoy complex, edgy, and ironic literary fiction,” read the review of the Graywolf hc, LJ 5/1/13.—Ed.]—J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA

MacDonald, Patricia. Sisters. 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 7¾ hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781624065194. $59.99; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds. F
After the death of her parents, Alex Woods finds out that she has a half-sister. When she locates the woman in prison, Alex is swept up in a murder mystery that takes over her life. Best-selling author MacDonald (Missing Child) creates a compelling whodunit. She successfully keeps the listener guessing to the very end. Her characters face unenviable life challenges and situations as the plot plays out. Well read by Bernadette Dunne, this book will appeal to readers who like Mary Higgins Clark and Joy Fielding and to those who enjoy mysteries in general.
Verdict Recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence

Sharp, Zoe. Die Easy. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10¾ hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781611209211. $59.99; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Sharp’s tenth book sets action heroine Charlie Fox in post-Katrina New Orleans where even the best intentions become suspect. Readers familiar with the Fox series and the character’s history with post-coma partner Sean Meyer may have a quicker entry into the book, but the author sprinkles in the right amount of background to complicate logically an already deceptively simple bodyguarding task. The events where multimillionaires gather to raise funds for the devastated city pit bodyguard against bodyguard in addition to numerous villains with their own agendas that involve a shifting set of prey. Some of the action is heavily suggestive of a film treatment and may strain the plausibility meters for some listeners. Reader Justine Eyre, an expert audiobook reader, handles the accents quite well.
Verdict A solid choice for action collections, with some cautions for violence and sexual references. Recommended.—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Wu, Julie. The Third Son. 9 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 9¼ hrs. HighBridge Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781622311460. $34.95; 9 CDs. library ed.; digital download. F
This finely detailed and fascinating story begins in 1943 Taiwan as Saburo, the least favored son, copes with the prejudice of his own parents. He ultimately marries the girl of his dreams and lives and works in mid-20th-century America. Along the way listeners are treated to history lessons for the places Saburo inhabits. Most movingly, he must fight his upbringing of filial and cultural tradition. However, he’s irritatingly his own worst enemy because of the hasty decisions he makes. What’s most intriguing about Wu’s writing in her debut is how seemingly tiny events tie together, giving listeners many aha! moments. Narrator David Shih captures the many accents perfectly, with American university secretary Mrs. Larson’s warm and welcoming style being the standout.
Verdict Recommended for fans of coming-of-age sagas and fiction set in Asia.—Susan Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn 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"