Xpress Reviews: Audiobooks | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Carr, Robyn. The Hero. (Thunder Point, Bk. 3). 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 9¾ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781464012709. $102.75; 1 MP3-CD. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
When Devon McAllister takes her young daughter and flees the cult she’d been part of for the past seven years, they are picked up and adopted by Raleigh, the crusty bartender at Cooper’s Bar and Grill in Thunder Point, OR. Even though Devon is just looking for a place to escape and be invisible, she finds much more than that, including an unexpected romance with widowed high school football coach Spencer Lawson. Consistent volume, disk change notices, and thought repetition at the beginning of each disc complement Therese Plummer’s clear, distinct, nicely paced narration.
Verdict The latest of Carr’s “Thunder Point” series (after The Newcomer), this title will appeal to Carr’s fans and romance listeners in general.—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Dent, Jim. The Kids Got It Right: How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls. 8 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470377977. $102.75; digital download. SPORTS
Dent (The Junction Boys) mixes sports with social history in this engaging true story of the 1965 Texas all-star high school football team that traveled to Hershey, PA, to take on a local squad. Owing to the trailblazing efforts of its head coach, NFL legend Bobby Layne, the Texas team featured for the first time three black players, including Jerry LeVias, who roomed with star white player Bill Bradley (not to be confused with the basketball player and politician). Dent focuses on these two teenagers’ unlikely but eventually strong friendship, chronicling how they overcame racial prejudice by learning to trust and respect each other both on and off the field. Dent blends several participants’ recollections into his well-researched narrative, crafting an inspiring but unsentimental story well worth telling. Narrator Brian Hutchison excels at depicting both exciting game action and quieter off-field moments.
Verdict Recommended to gridiron fans of all ages who want more from sports stories than just scores and statistics.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

Fielding, Helen. Mad About the Boy. (Bridget Jones, Bk. 3). 10 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11½ hrs. Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 9780804148788. $40; 10 CDs. retail ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
True to character, Bridget continues to bumble and stumble forward, sideways, and oftentimes backwards in her disheveled life. In this installment (after The Edge of Reason), Bridget, now in her early 50s, is mourning Mark Darcy, the love of her life, and raising two small children on her own. At the same time, friends and family encourage her to get back into the dating scene. The format is familiar: Bridget’s second-by-second reckonings of perceived major events in her life—Twitter account activity, texts received (or not received) from romantic prospects, weight loss and gain, number of calories taken in, number of bags of shredded cheese consumed, number of nits (lice) found in her and her children’s hair, and how many people she and her children have infected—all detailed in unfortunate half-sentences that seem to mirror her scattered thought processes. Only a true Bridget Jones devotee could enjoy this book and the tired punch lines that miss their mark. The author seems to have overlooked the possibilities of a mature, fully aware Bridget Jones who has grown up to become an interesting, functioning, believable person. Narrator Samantha Bond does an adequate job in her delivery of the material, with a pleasing, posh British accent.
Verdict Recommended only where there is patron demand.—Laura Brosie, Abilene, TX

Jewell, Lisa. Before I Met You. 13 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470395131. $72. F
Betty’s grandmother Arlette has just died, leaving behind a will that awards most of her estate to a woman no one in the family knows, someone named Clara Pickle. There is a one-year deadline for them to find Clara, so Betty decides to relocate from remote Guernsey Island to London, where Arlette had lived in her youth, to try to locate Clara. Jewell alternates between the 1920s, describing Arlette’s experiences in London, and the 1990s, where Betty is on her own in a small flat, with a famous rock star as a neighbor. During her quest, Betty learns much about Arlette’s life, including her affair with a jazz musician. Narrator Jane Collingwood capably narrates this character-driven novel with a slow-to-develop plot.
Verdict Recommended for fans of British and women’s fiction.—Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI

Palin, Michael. The Truth. 7 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452616094. $39.99; 1 MP3-CD. 7 CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
truth022114Former journalist Keith Mabbut gets an offer to write the seminal biography of the iconic and elusive environmental activist Hamish Melville. He takes the job, finds Melville, gains his trust, and writes the book. Then his troubles begin. His publisher demands more dirt on Melville—and shows Keith where to find it. In his search for the truth about his subject, Keith discovers that truth is subject to interpretation. Palin (Brazil) captures the struggle between truth and justice on one hand and power and influence on the other. His story is both compelling and entertaining. Well read, with distinctive character voices, by Alex Jennings.
Verdict Recommended to listeners who enjoy general fiction titles.—Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence

Palmer, Daniel. Stolen. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11½ hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781624068270. $59.99; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; digital download. F
In Palmer’s (Helpless) latest, John Bodine, an online gaming software engineer, and his very ill wife, Ruby, are victims of an anonymous psychopath. When the Bodines realize their insurance coverage won’t cover Ruby’s drug prescription needs, John goes to desperate, at times hard-to-believe lengths to save Ruby’s life as their puppet-master nemesis forces the couple to perform more and more objectionable and dangerous illegal acts. Peter Berkrot’s gritty tone complements this suspenseful tale, although his attempts at a Boston accent are uneven. The author’s efforts to parallel the situation the Bodines are facing with John’s earlier climbing tragedy and John’s musings on how much he loves Ruby and can’t live without her feel redundant at times, but readers who love action with suspenseful new twists and settings will enjoy this book.
Verdict Recommend to fans of thrillers.—Susan Herr, Bulverde/Spring Branch Lib., TX

Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. 7 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 7½ hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452616117. $39.99; 7 CDs. retail ed.; 1 MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. ED
This well-considered, fact-based book by Ripley (The Unthinkable) examines the factors contributing to the United States’ poor global educational performance. A great deal is conveyed about the American educational system by comparing it to that of other countries, particularly South Korea, Finland, and Poland, that rank higher on an international test called PISA. Those three countries’ school systems are also considered through the experiential lens of three American exchange students. Cultural differences aside, Ripley found that success boiled down to one element: rigor. When educators created high expectations and “a serious intellectual culture in schools, one that kids can sense is real and true,” children responded with innate drive and grit. Narrator Kate Reading’s serious, sonorous tone is spot-on.
Verdict Of limited application for parents, this title is of primary interest to teachers and educational professionals.—Douglas C. Lord, New Britain P.L., CT