Audiobooks by Brontë, Foster, Gregory, Griffin & Butterworth, White, & More | Xpress Reviews

Week ending March 17, 2017

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 2 MP3-CDs. 19 hrs. Brilliance. Sept. 2016. ISBN 9781536628265. $10. F
Everyone knows about poor Jane Eyre. First, her aunt (and guardian) dislikes her, her cousins abuse her, and not even the household servants have a kind word for her. Sent away to school, she soon finds herself out in the world, companion/governess in another unhappy household. Naturally, she falls in love with the morose Mr. Rochester. Happiness, unhappiness, conflicts, and drama, this classic Victorian Cinderella story has it all. Read by Thandie Newton in gentle, clear tones that perfectly express Jane’s meek personality, this is a very charming performance. Other characters are equally well distinguished by accent and inflection. It is, however, only fair to note that there are a number of other recent recordings of Jane Eyre currently available and this does not include the (usually lower-quality) copyright-free readings. Warmly recommended for classic novel readers.
Verdict Definitely not an essential purchase for any library that already owns one of the other audio versions of Jane Eyre.—I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Ames, IA

Foster, Alan Dean. The Man Who Used the Universe. 8 CDs. 10 hrs. Dreamscape Media. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781520052182. $29.99. SF
manuniverse031717Kees vaan Loo-Macklin has the drive to succeed at whatever he does. Initially an underling in a crime syndicate on a planet of the United Technological Worlds (an intragalactic federation of multiple species cooperating economically, socially, and politically), he quickly advances to head the organization, amassing tremendous resources. Even more quickly and nefariously he transitions to legitimate businesses, garnering even greater wealth and social and political influence and partnering with a species warring with the UTW, known as the Nuel, to overtake his own species. All the while, he maintains few close relationships and a noticeable lack of interest or discernible motivation for his ambitions. Only through persistent, decades-long investigation does one alien even come close to understanding Kees vaan Loo-Macklin. Narrator Paul Ansdell does an excellent job of adapting his cadence, tone, and voice not only to individuals but also to species, embodying the cultural differences in an appealing, immersive way.
Verdict A surprising political/sf thriller that literally keeps you guessing until the last sentence. Highly recommend for libraries with passionate sf readers.—Jeremy Bright, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta

Gregory, Philippa. Three Sisters, Three Queens. 17 CDS. 21:15 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Aug. 2016. ISBN 9781508211563. $49.99. F
Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England (Henry VIII’s first wife); Margaret, Queen of Scotland (Henry’s older sister); and Mary, Queen of France (his younger sister), are sisters and enemies. Stories of Tudor England always include passion, intrigue, and murder, and Gregory tells this one mostly from the perspective of Queen Margaret and brings the Tudor period to life with Henry as a secondary (although important) character. Bianca Amato is an excellent narrator; her perfect British accent keeps the listener spellbound until the end. Her narration maintains the tension of the queens’ stories and portrays their lives as opulent but limited because they were female.
Verdict This lengthy audiobook is highly recommended for public libraries with a demand for Gregory’s novels or other historical fiction.—Michele Lauer-Bader, formerly with Half Hollow Hills Community Lib., Dix Hills, NY

Griffin, W.E.B. & William E. Butterworth IV. Curtain of Death. (Clandestine Operations). 9 CDs. 10:28 hrs. Brilliance Audio. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781491588796. $69.97. digital download. F
It’s 1946, and the underground German organization code-named Odessa is sneaking Nazi war criminals out of Germany and into Argentina. An astute 22-year-old junior officer, Capt. James Cronley has the classified top-secret presidential mission of ascertaining how the smuggling is accomplished. Already chief of a nascent CIA, the prodigy teams with compatriots and Cold War rivals to unravel the mystery, gather intelligence, perform heroic deeds, and romance a pistol-packing WAC and a sassy female journalist. Griffin’s own military background and connections form the mortar of his writing. The plot—delivered largely through dialog—advances at rat-tat-tat speed and is peppered with acronyms, abbreviations, jargon, insignia, vehicles, firearms, and a procession of new characters and locations. Absent the written page, listeners with military knowledge and familiarity with the previous two series episodes have an advantage. Actor Alexander Cendese has the voice needed to incarnate a post–World War II cast of characters.
Verdict The novel will be most at home in the hands of military history buffs and fans of this prodigious, best-selling author duo’s six other military series.—Judith Robinson, SUNY at Buffalo

Landers, Michael. Culture Crossing: Discover the Key to Making Successful Connections in the New Global Era. 4 CDs. 5:11 hrs. Dreamscape Media. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781520063232. $19.99. SOC SCI
Landers, founder and president of consulting business Culture Crossing, Inc., takes a macro approach to cultural understanding in his first book. While he does talk about specific ways a visitor could make an impolite gesture, he looks at entire societies and the main cultural differences, namely, he reveals that some nations (China and India, for example) are very “we-based,” while European and North American cultures are more “me-based.” Essentially, some societies are more concerned about the group rather than the individual. One of the more interesting discussions occurs around different proverbs and idioms from diverse legacies. Landers’s expertise grew from his own background: he was born in America, spent his childhood in South America, and has worked in Japan. Tom Dheere narrates with average skill, but at times speaks robotically for no apparent reason. Also, the audiobook mentions “figures” that are clearly images in the book, but no PDF is available, so the listener is unable to view and follow along.
Verdict Those who are trying to improve their cultural literacy and understanding will find some useful information here.—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

Pattakos, Alex & Elaine Dundon. Prisoners of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work. 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Dreamscape Media. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781520063263. $39.99. digital download. SELF-HELP
Pattakos and Dundon have distilled respected psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s writings into seven “core principles.” Frankl (1905–97), a Holocaust survivor, is best known as the founder of logotherapy, a psychoanalytic practice focused on humanity’s search for meaning, and as the author of Man’s Search for Meaning (1959). In the substantially expanded third edition of Prisoners of Our Thoughts, Pattakos and Dundon endeavor to show how Frankl’s principles can impart meaning to one’s vocation and personal life. It also features four new chapters that contextualize Frankl’s principles in relation to what the authors term modern society’s “crisis of meaning.” Also new to this edition are “meaning reflections” at the end of each chapter that help reinforce the chapter’s lessons. Narrator Jeff Holt’s measured but compassionate delivery is a good fit for the subject matter. His sympathetic voice translates the authors’ encouraging tone well. With a lengthy foreword by Stephen R. Covey.
Verdict Recommended for readers who are experiencing a “crisis of meaning” or who are interested in psychology. This book would be a good companion to Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People.—Julie Judkins, Univ. of North Texas, Denton

White, Karen. Guests on South Battery. 11 CDs. 13:14 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781501930621. $123.75. F
The fifth book in White’s Tradd Street titles finds Melanie Middleton married to Jack Trenholm, the new mother of twins, and ready to return to work. On her first day back, Jayne Smith walks into the realty office to discuss selling the house that she has just inherited in historic Charleston, SC. Jayne doesn’t know why she was chosen as the heir; she doesn’t even like old houses. Her family mystery will open up unexpected wounds in Melanie’s history as the guests in the house on South Battery turn out to be ghosts. Melanie’s reluctant psychic abilities and her husband’s research skills are now in demand. Aimee Bruneau has read all the Tradd Street novels (including Return to Tradd Street). Her attractive voice successfully portrays Melanie’s cluelessness; however, Bruneau stays in soprano range, and all the high-pitched voices had this reviewers ears begging for some variety. Furthermore, her pacing doesn’t quicken for potentially tense ghost scenes. Instead of imparting excitement, the narrator’s slow drawl turns the action into a spoof.
Verdict Purchase only for demand.—Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA

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