Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, July 5, 2013

Week ending July 5, 2013

Andrews, V.C. Forbidden Sister. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9½ hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781624064890. $59.99; Playaway digital; digital download. F
All Emmie Wilcox has ever wanted was to know her older sister, Roxy, but it is hard to get to know someone who was been thrown out of the house by their parents years ago, especially when the mere mention of Roxy’s name is considered worse than swearing. So Emmie decides to find her sister and learn whatever it is her parents refuse to tell her. When Emmie finally finds what she is seeking, her world is turned upside down. This is your typical Andrews (Flowers in the Attic) novel: the focus is on a young girl, with lots of tragedy. Narrator Amy Rubinate does an excellent job voicing Emmie’s insecure, breathy whispers, her mother’s French accent, and Roxy’s confident tones.
Verdict Listeners who enjoy family drama, transparent plots, and teenage angst will enjoy this book. [The Pocket: S. & S. pb was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—Jessi Brown. Huntington City-Twp. P.L., IN

Keyes, Marian. The Mystery of Mercy Close. (Walsh Sisters, Bk. 5). 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 16 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470327491. $123.75; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Keyes’s latest series installment (after Anybody Out There?) is about the Walsh sibling who may be the most intriguing: self-deprecating, curmudgeonly Helen. As a self-employed private investigator, Helen tests her darkest moods as she is hired to find the missing member of a once-popular Irish boy band, The Laddz, as they rehearse for a reunion concert. The five members of the band may be reminiscent of the sisters: a Talented One, a Cute One, a Gay One, the Other One, and—the missing one—the Wacky One, Wayne. With the Walsh sisters, Keyes has created a solidly interesting set of diverse characters. It may be Helen whose humor most closely parallels Keyes’s essay collections.
Verdict Well read by Caroline Lennon, this is recommended as an enjoyable summer listen. [“While Helen’s voice, a mix of Stephanie Plum and Bridget Jones, is consistently amusing, the story line is dragged down by the slow pacing,” read the review of the Viking hc, LJ 4/1/13.—Ed.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Leavell, Peter. Gideon’s Call. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10½ hrs. Oasis Audio. 2012. ISBN 9781613752555 $29.99; digital download. F
Barrie Buckner’s gentle voice brings to life Leavell’s tale of a little-known piece of American history, the Port Royal Experiment. In his first book, Leavell uses the story of a young slave boy, Tad, to relate the broader chronicle. In 1861, advancing Union troops compelled white plantation owners to flee the sea islands of South Carolina as their slaves were the first in the nation to be freed. The Port Royal Experiment was designed to prepare these former slaves for their new lives as free citizens. While the government and troops concentrated on using the freedmen to bring in the cotton crop to help fund the war, groups of missionaries came to the islands to start schools (the founding of the Penn School by Laura Towne), provide medical care, and help in whatever way they could. Against this backdrop, Tad, who as a slave was humiliated, unjustly accused, and abused, embraces freedom and rises above his earlier life to become a savior of sorts for his people.
Verdict This compelling, historically accurate coming-of-age story entertains but also educates without being didactic. Recommended.—Judy Murray, Monroe Cty. Lib. Syst., MI

Michaels, Fern. The Blossom Sisters. 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781455812769. $79.97; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Evicted from his house and served with divorce papers by his greedy soon-to-be-ex-wife, Elaine, Gus Hollister returns to his childhood home. But when he arrives, he finds that he has much fence-mending to do before his grandmother Rose and her sisters, Violet and Iris, are willing to welcome him back into the fold. His relatives had tried to warn him against marrying Elaine, but he didn’t listen and ended up alienating the women who’d raised him. Now they’re running a lucrative business out of their home and are not sure they want Gus’s interference. This story of redemption, forgiveness, and fresh starts will enthrall all listeners. Jim Crawford’s vocal range and timbre enable him to differentiate clearly among multiple female and male characters.
Verdict Will be of interest to Michaels’s fans and those who enjoy redemptive family stories.—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Palmieri, Suzanne. The Witch of Little Italy. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 10 hrs. Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781470842994. $76; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
When Eleanor Amore was ten years old, she spent a magical summer in the Bronx, NY, with her aunts, playing hide-and-seek, exploring Far Rockaway beach, and meeting her first love. Unfortunately, she has no memory of that time, the bonds she made, or anything else from before her last day there. Years later, pregnant and desperate, Eleanor is inexplicably drawn back to that Bronx apartment. With the help of her aunts and a rekindled romance, she begins slowly to uncover the memories of that summer and the dark secrets that made her forget. Narrator Cassandra Campbell seamlessly transitions from the youthful voice of Eleanor to the aunts’ elderly tones, giving each woman a distinct and discernible voice. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will appreciate the incorporation of magical elements throughout the story, such as the Amore aunts’ “sight” and their ability to create powerful herbal concoctions.
Verdict Recommended for all public libraries. [“This is an earnest effort at a sweet family story, but it falls short of its mark. Trite, overreaching, and unbelievable at best,” read the less enthusiastic review of the Griffin: St. Martin’s hc, LJ 12/12.—Ed.]—Elizabeth Hoff, Bulverde Spring Branch Lib., TX

Robison, John Elder. Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives. 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 12½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780307881373. $40; digital download. MEMOIR
The two most interesting facets of noted memoirist Robison’s (Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s) book receive the least attention. The first is that both Robison and his son, Cubby, live with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. The other is that by the time he turned 18, Cubby had a basement chemistry lab so advanced that the local district attorney was moved to press charges (for “possessing explosives with intent to harm people or property”). Much of the parenting material tends toward dull recitations of mundane events. And though naturally defensive about his son’s legal plight, Robison never addresses the elephant in the room: that a boy he best characterizes as “eccentric” creates some fairly powerful homemade explosives.
Verdict The tedious subject matter combined with Robison’s uninflected narration makes for a poor translation to audio. Not recommended.—Douglas C. Lord, Connecticut State Lib., Middletown

Stuart, Andrea. Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire. 12 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452612669. $44.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; digital download. MEMOIR
Caribbean-born historian Stuart (The Rose of Martinique) uses her family’s history as a framework to trace the complex history of the sugar trade from the 17th century, when her earliest known maternal relative arrived in Barbados, to the present day. Stuart’s talent for blending storytelling with meticulous research is on full display. Lisa Reneé Pitts’s energetic narration is a joy to listen to and enhances comprehension in some of the denser passages.
Verdict Recommended for nonfiction collections and wherever Mark Kurlansky’s books (Salt; Cod) are popular.—Julie Judkins, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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"