Audiobooks from Abé & Card & Chiaverini & Kingsbury & Wood | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 11, 2014

Abé, Shana. The Deepest Night. (Sweetest Dark, Bk. 2). 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470301910. $102.75; digital download. F
Set during World War I, Abé’s series second installment (after The Sweetest Dark) finds Lora Jones having completed her first year at Iverson, a prestigious finishing school. Lora has endured the scorn of classmates who see her as someone who’s more suited to be their servant than their classmate, but Lora has a powerful benefactor, the Duke of Idylling, the owner of Iverson. And Lora is a Drákon, a flying dragon who can turn into smoke. But Lora isn’t the only Drákon, for so also is Armand, the duke’s son, though he hasn’t reached his full capabilities. Lora is there as his friend and mentor, though his feelings for her go much deeper, and she will spend her summer helping Armand as he turns his family’s large country estate into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers while they practice their Drákon skills and test out their magical abilities. The duke asks Lora and Armand to undertake a mission across enemy lines into Germany to rescue a prisoner of war, his son, who was presumed dead. Lora and Armand test their magical powers against human technology and move through nations devastated by war, hoping to bring Armand’s brother safely home. Elizabeth Sastre and Rich Orlow narrate, with Sastre’s ethereal delivery ably describing the magical world and Lora’s point of view.
Verdict Recommended for fans of fantasy and paranormal romance.—Laura Brosie, Abilene, TX

Aw, Tash. Five Star Billionaire. 12 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 15 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452616650. $49.99; 12 CDs. library ed.; 2 MP3-CDs. retail ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
This unusual, sometimes difficult-to-follow novel relates the exploits of billionaire Walter Chao, who writes books to help people attain success and wealth in fast-changing Asia. Factory girl Phoebe, pop star Gary, activist-turned-businesswoman Yinghui, and Justin, who works for his family’s real estate business, are new to Shanghai and hoping to make it big. Walter exercises his influence on each of them, either directly or indirectly. Aw’s writing is excellent, with excellent description and dialog. While the story can lean toward dark and depressing, listeners will wonder what’s about to happen next. Narrator Robertson Dean’s understated delivery is perfect.
Verdict Fans of Asia-set fiction will enjoy.—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. 9 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 10½ hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427235398. $29.99; Playaway digital; digital download. SF
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a brilliant child who is sent to the orbiting Battle School for intensive military training. He is pressured by the adults in his life to be the savior the Earth needs in the war against the Buggers, the alien race that has plagued humans for over a hundred years. Main narrator Stefan Rudnicki is supported by other cast members sporadically throughout the novel. Rudnicki’s partially roboticized tone is appropriate for Ender’s overly logical character, but his interpretation of the Battle School boys’ colloquial terms can be irritating. However, Ender’s story has been popular since the 1970s because of the character’s straightforward brilliance and heart-felt emotions.
Verdict With this new recording and a movie tie-in cover, this classic will resonate with a new generation of listeners.—Samantha Matush, Clara B. Mounce P.L., Bryant, TX

Chiaverini, Jennifer. The Spymistress. 11 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 13½ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470327439. $123.75; 2 MP3-CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
spymistress041114Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker) here revisits the Civil War era as abolitionist Elizabeth “Lizzie” Van Lew, a real historical figure who was posthumously inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, becomes the leader of a Union spy ring when she morally objects to the Confederate capitol established in her hometown of Richmond. Using her social standing and Christian charity as a cover, Lizzie passes on Confederate secrets in hollow eggs and helps Union sympathizers escape from prison. Veteran narrator Christina Moore’s performance is first-rate apart from her choice to speak all of Lizzie’s dialog in a high-pitched, flighty tone that doesn’t fit the character.
Verdict A compelling portrait of an unsung American heroine, this measured espionage tale loaded with historical facts is recommended for Chiaverini’s fans and listeners who enjoy historical women’s fiction.—Julie Judkins, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Kingsbury, Karen. Fifteen Minutes. 10 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 11½ hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781442361515. $39.99; digital download. F
Fifteen Minutes is a reality TV show featuring unknown singers who compete to win fame and fortune. Zack Dylan’s family is about to lose their horse farm, and his sister needs medical care. He sees winning Fifteen Minutes as a solution to their problems. Can he keep his commitment to honor God and also satisfy the requirements of the show’s producers? Will he remain faithful to his longtime girlfriend even as he is tempted by others? What will he have to give up to keep going in the competition? The story focuses on Zack, but several supporting characters (his girlfriend and two of the judges) are also developed with depth and feeling. Narrator Kirby Heyborne is superb, smoothly transitioning between male and female characters.
Verdict Another good and timely novel from Kingsbury (The Chance). Recommended for inspirational fiction collections.—J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA

Wood, Tom. The Killer. 14 CDs. retail ed. 15½ hrs. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781452615660. $49.99; 14 CDs. library ed.; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; digital download. F
Rob Shapiro gives a fine performance narrating the story of Victor, a highly skilled and highly paid assassin with no last name, who’s on what seems to be a routine assignment in Paris. The action is nonstop once he realizes that his mission is actually a setup and he must fend off numerous assassins as he travels across Europe and ends up in Tanzania. Shapiro’s resonant voice is delivered in a disciplined yet subtly expressive manner that well suits the ruthless Victor. The numerous conversations are given suitable and appropriate expression and intensity with credible accents for all characters. All in all, an excellent pairing of voice and text.
Verdict Public libraries should purchase.—Michael T. Fein, Central Virginia Community Coll. Lib, Lynchburg