Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, December 6, 2013

Week ending December 6, 2013

starred review starBaker, Jo. Longbourn. 11 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 13 ½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804149426. $45; 11 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio. digital download. F
This brilliant and inventive novel brings Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice’s below stairs to life, in the process creating as much intrigue and romance as the original. Baker (The Undertow) fleshes out the lives of the servants, footmen, and cooks to create a classic tale of love lost, perseverance, and early 19th-century life that will please even the most critical of Janeites. The story centers on the Bennets’ maid, Sarah, a naive, likable young girl. When a new footman, James, joins the Longbourn staff, life is turned upside down and may never be the same again. Emma Fielding brilliantly narrates this novel with her smooth English accent and does a fantastic job bringing the characters to life using accents and inflections in all the right places.
Verdict A must listen for fans of historical fiction, Austen, and Downton Abbey. [“…[D]ensely plotted and achingly romantic. This exquisitely reimagined Pride and Prejudice will appeal to Austen devotees and to anyone who finds the goings-on below the stairs to be at least as compelling as the ones above,” agreed the starred review of the Knopf hc, LJ 8/15/13.—Ed.]—Erin Cataldi, Franklin Coll. Lib, IN

starred review starBelfoure, Charles. The Paris Architect. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11 hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804190831. $40; 9 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio. digital download. F
In Belfoure’s first novel, talented French architect Lucien Bernard is commissioned to build factories for the German occupiers of France during World War II. Secretly, and at great risk to himself, he also designs clever, undetectable hiding places for Jews fleeing for their lives from the Nazis. The plot is very exciting and lends itself well to Mark Bramhall’s flawless dramatic reading. Bramhall seamlessly toggles between French and German accents. The listener hears every emotion of the characters from the fear and suffering of torture victims to the sarcasm and evil pleasure of the Nazi officers interrogating prisoners.
Verdict Highly recommended for patrons who like clever, well-written thrillers and historical fiction. [“Readers will root for Lucien as he risks his life and discovers strength and character he never knew he had. Some sensitive readers may take offense to characters’ language and attitudes toward Jews,” read the starred review of the Sourcebooks Landmark hc, LJ 6/15/13.—Ed.]—Ilka Gordon, Aaron Garber Lib., Cleveland

starred review starBenedict, Jeff & Armen Keteyian. The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football. 14 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 17½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804148436. $50. SPORTS
Having spent the 2012 college football season getting to know players, coaches, administrators, and big-money boosters at a handful of schools with high-profile programs, investigative sports journalist Keteyian (HBO Real Sports) and Benedict (Poisoned) peel back the shiny veneer of major college football in this compelling, deeply researched exposé. Consisting of a wide-ranging series of richly detailed vignettes, this work covers everything from financial and sex scandals, lurid recruitment methods, and the ugly politics of NCAA relations, but it also finds room for a few inspirational feel-good stories. Despite their brevity, these consistently well-written pieces dig deep into their subjects and provide vital insight into what goes on behind the scenes, but the book doesn’t actually make any bold, overarching statements about the “system” of college football as a whole. Mark Deakins’s narration convincingly conveys a variety of moods and personalities.
Verdict Entertaining and engaging throughout, this valuable and candid look into the underbelly of modern college football is recommended to both hard-core and casual sports fans. [“…the best book on college football in years. It is an exposé on cheating and sex in college sports, but the book also recalls feel-good stories of true amateurism,” read the starred review of the Doubleday hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 10/4/13.—Ed.]—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

starred review starFink, Sheri. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital. 14 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 17 ½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804128117. $45; digital download. SOC SCI
Fink’s meticulous and extensive research is apparent in her first book, a detailed description of a large urban hospital in New Orleans in crisis during Hurricane Katrina. Memorial Hospital was seen as a place to shelter from the pending storm, and even had patients transferred there from other facilities. When the woefully unprepared hospital lost power and seemed under siege, the doctors made some difficult and controversial decisions about evacuation and triage, with the most physically able people leaving first. As a result of this policy, a doctor and two nurses were charged with injecting some patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. The first half of the book vividly describes the situation in the hospital and the equally engrossing second half describes the legal cases resulting from the storm’s aftermath, a situation that took years to play out. Reader Kristin Potter narrates professionally and even handedly.
Verdict Highly recommended for all listeners. [“Fink’s six years of research and more than 500 interviews yield a rich narrative full of complex characters, wrenching ethical dilemmas, and mounting suspense,” read the starred review of the Crown hc, LJ 9/1/13. See Best Books 2013: Top Ten, http://ow.ly/ruZ6p, LJ 12/13.—Ed.]—Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI

Van Gieson, Judith. The Stolen Blue. (Claire Reynier, Bk. 1). 6 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 7 hrs. AudioGO. 2013. ISBN 9780792795001. $59.95; digital download. F
The main character in Van Gieson’s series starter, which was first released in 2000, is a rare book librarian for the University of New Mexico, so lots of tidbits and library lore are included. The premise is simple—Claire’s mentor, rare book collector Burke Lowell, has died, but not before appointing Claire as his estate administrator. His will leaves the family ranch to a daughter, but only if it becomes a nature preserve. This displeases most of his heirs and all of his neighbors, and some of his rarest books are stolen. Are the thefts tied to Blake’s death?
Verdict This is a good solid Southwestern mystery, with enjoyable characters, and a decent pace and plot. Some of the references are a little dated, especially regarding the technology, and it drags a little in the middle but is still a pleasurable listen. This is a worthy entry for Tony Hillerman and J.A. Jance fans.—Gretchen Pruett, New Braunfels P.L., TX

Annalisa Pesek About Annalisa Pesek

Annalisa Pesek (apesek@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Book Review
[photograph by John Sarsgard]