Audiobooks by Durham, Grant, Grossman, Haskell, Kelly, Mackintosh, Moran, Palm, and Szabó | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 4, 2017

Durham, Kelly. Berlin Calling. 11 CDs. 14 hrs. Brilliance. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781536617290. $14.99. 1 MP3-CD. F
Durham’s (Wade’s War) historical novel of an American student in 1938 Germany includes romance, war, and intrigue. Falling in love with a German soldier, Maggie extends her stay abroad, taking a job with the German Propaganda Ministry. Questioning the information she is required to disseminate to the public and disillusioned with Nazism, Maggie becomes a spy for the Americans. Projecting a low female voice and clearly identifying multiple male characters, Christopher Lane’s calm, slow-paced, professional reading projects war-torn Germany’s atmosphere.
Verdict Will appeal to those interested in World War II and German life during those years.—Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX

Grant, Annalisa. Oxblood. 1 MP3-CD. 8 hrs. Brilliance. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781536629224. $9.99. F
Victoria Asher would do anything for her family. After her parents tragically die in a plane crash, all she has left is her older brother, Gil, who is studying in Italy. When a mysterious package arrives in the mail from her brother, Vic knows that something is wrong and flies to Italy to find him. While there, she runs into the roguishly handsome leader of Interpol’s secret division and discovers that she’s not the only one searching for Gil and that he is in more danger than she ever could have imagined. She teams up with the Interpol agents and learns the tools of the trade. She discovers that not only is her brother’s life on the line, so is her heart. This nonstop action ride is filled with intrigue, romance, and heart. Read beautifully by Hallie Ricardo, who skillfully relates the suspense with her strong yet delicate narration.
Verdict This book will appeal to older, more mature teens and adults as well.—Erin Cataldi, Johnson Cty. P.L., Franklin, IN

Grossman, David. A Horse Walks into a Bar. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. HighBridge. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781681684376. $29.99. digital download. F
One night at an Israeli comedy club, Dov Greenstein’s performance of off-color and not very funny jokes turns into a poignant memoir of his miserable childhood. He has asked Avishai Lazar, a childhood acquaintance, to attend the performance. Dov and Avi had attended military youth camp, though Dov was abruptly removed to attend his mother’s funeral. Joe Barrett does an adequate job reading the book, but he doesn’t vary his voice enough, which makes it difficult to differentiate between Dov’s performance and Avi’s inner voice.
Verdict Even though Barrett’s interpretation is a little difficult to understand, this is highly recommended for the foreign and Jewish-themed collections of all libraries. [“Grossman brings real humanity to this heart-wrenching and well-written novel”: LJ 9/15/16 starred review of the Knopf hc.]—Ilka Gordon, Beachwood, OH


Haskell, Molly. Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films. 6 CDs. 6:37 hrs. Tantor. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781515905301. $34.99. 1 MP3-CD, digital download. FILM
With an emphasis on the films rather than the man, this offering does provide a fresh look at wunderkind Spielberg. Haskell gives a multisided view of each movie, admits her personal biases, provides dissenting opinions when necessary, and seems to have a respect for Spielberg’s talents. Wordsmith Haskell shines most brightly when critically discussing the productions, their possible Freudian implications, and the social atmosphere that affects public and critical reception. Her tendency to lean toward sexual interpretations of scenes often leads her to overlook the simple. For example, Indiana Jones’s fear of snakes may well have sexual overtones, but it most certainly could just demonstrate a very common fear of snakes. Johnny Heller’s even and unassuming audio performance tempers some of the author’s humor and hubris and makes the experience pleasant for both admirers and detractors of Spielberg’s works.
Verdict While not for libraries looking for a biography of Spielberg, this will certainly interest film enthusiasts. Listeners may feel that they end up knowing far more about the author than about the filmmaker. [“Haskell’s discussion of the childlike wonder inherent in many of the director’s films and her eloquent defense of some of his riskier, less successful movies is particularly valuable”: LJ 1/17 review of the Yale Univ. hc.]—Lisa Youngblood, Harker Heights P.L., TX

Kelly, Clinton. I Hate Everyone, Except You. 4 CDs. 5 hrs. Tantor. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781515916697. $34.99. 1 MP3-CD, digital download. MEMOIR
“I looked less like a boy than a xylophone, but I would occasionally amuse houseguests by grabbing two spoons and playing ‘Frère Jacques’ on my rib cage,” recalls The Chew’s fashion maven, who for many years cohosted the popular show What Not To Wear. Kelly is a candid essayist, never allowing the snark to detract from his stated goal of practicing kindness toward others. An awkward kid–turned–polished swan, he handles narration duties as if to the microphone born. His fluid pacing and nonbitchy delivery make for pleasant company, and he can turn a quotable phrase.
Verdict Recommended for most adult collections.—Kelly Sinclair, Temple P.L., TX

Mackintosh, Clare. I See You. 9 CDs. 11 hrs. Books on Tape. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9780804195140. $40. digital download. F
A grown-up version of “stranger danger” for regular female riders plays out on London’s commuter routes. These are not totally randomly selected victims but targets offered by mysterious classified advertisements with their photos in a daily paper. Zoe Walker discovers her own photo in an ad for and has very good reason to feel paranoid as other women are attacked. Mackintosh’s (I Let You Go) sophomore novel, well crafted and laced with tension and a number of plausible suspects, builds with polished pacing. Rachel Atkins wrings out every bit of fear and panic in her presentation without transcending believability.
Verdict Highly recommended for all mystery collections. [“A chilling addition to the mystery and police procedural genres”: LJ 2/1/17 review of the Berkley hc.]—Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo

Moran, Jan. Scent of Triumph. 10 CDs. 12:50 hrs. Dreamscape. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781520066615. $59.99. 2 MP3-CDs. F
A premise with potential dissolves into a disappointing book: an implausible story of tragedy and aristocratic riches to rags and back to riches in World War II Europe and America. The novel abounds with excessive detail and contradictions. Protagonist Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman develops perfumes. Her skill as a perfumer is meant to be her engine back to success, but the frequent pedantic asides into the world of scents and perfume making are more of a distraction than enhancement to the story. Erin Bennett’s narration is effective, but it cannot rise above the work’s intrinsic problems.
Verdict The contrived plot and cardboard characters make this a nonessential purchase.—Cynthia Jensen, Plano P.L., TX

Palm, Angela. Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here. 7 CDs. 9 hrs. Tantor. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781515916673. $37.99. 1 MP3-CD, digital download. MEMOIR
Palm grew up poor in a small Indiana town. Her childhood was painful and isolated, except for her relationship with Corey, a neighbor she peered at through her window each night and grew to love deeply. Palm dreamed of a future with Corey, but that was not to be. She moved away from home, attended college, married a pilot, had two children, and became a writer, but she never forgot her first love. When she returned to Indiana in search of Corey, she learned the shocking news that he was serving a life sentence in prison for brutally murdering an older couple who had been his neighbors. Jorjeana Marie’s narration is adequate. She reads the memoir too slowly, with too-long pauses between sentences.
Verdict Recommended for public libraries, particularly in the digital format so listeners can increase the speed.—Ilka Gordon, Beachwood, OH

starred review starSzabó, Magda. The Door. 8 CDs. 9:13 hrs. Naxos Audio. Dec. 2016. ISBN 9781781980798. $36. digital download. F
Originally published in 1987, this work is one of the few titles available in English by the late Szabó (1917–2007), considered one of if not the most prominent Hungarian writer. The aural version makes its roundabout debut this year, after two Anglophone translations, in 1995 (by Stefan Draughon) and 2005 (by Len Rix), finally arriving stateside in 2015 and now narrated three years later by Siân Thomas. The story seems simple: a writer and her husband hire a capable housekeeper to take care of the mundane details of their home lives. The reality, however, is a multilayered treatise about power, class, family, and secrets, all set against the backdrop of Hungary’s troubled political, socioeconomic, and cultural history. Disturbing, raw, and brutally revealing, Szabó’s literary achievement is further enhanced by Thomas’s narration, utterly visceral, alternating between biting control and emotional outbursts so vivid as to almost see the tightly closed face and feel the flying spittle of desperate dialog. The result proves to be as exhausting as it is illuminating.
Verdict Every global citizen with an interest in superb literary fiction will want to open this intriguing Door.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

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