Audio Reviews: A Collection of Crime Fiction by Women Writers, a Business Book by a Futurist and SF Author, & a Memoir of Love and Death

The latest audio reviews include Joyce Carol Oates's curated collection of crime fiction penned by women writers, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's look at the impact on technology on future industry, and Michael Korda's moving memoir about losing his wife to cancer.

The latest audio reviews include Joyce Carol Oates's curated collection of crime fiction penned by women writers, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler's look at the impact on technology on future industry, and Michael Korda's moving memoir about losing his wife to cancer.

FICTION

Chamberlain, Diane. Big Lies in a Small Town. 11 CDs. Macmillan Audio. 2020. 13:30 hrs. ISBN 9781250259929. $39.99. digital download. F
Chapters alternate in time and viewpoint, exploring the lives of two 22-year-old women. In 1940, New Jersey native Anna Dale wins a WPA contest to paint a mural for the Edenton, NC, post office and moves there temporarily. Dale endures unspeakable retribution because she invites young, Black, artistic Jesse Jameson Williams to help her in exchange for giving him art lessons. She disappears along with her creation. In 2018, Morgan Christopher is jailed for injuring a young woman while driving drunk. Lisa Williams visits Christopher and offers a deal—if she’ll repair a badly damaged mural to honor Williams’s deceased father, she’ll be released on parole and get $50,000. Christopher uncovers oddities as she works and becomes curious about the missing artist. As she listens and observes, she pieces together a tragic story. Susan Bennett’s narration enhances the well-drawn characters. Her delivery is superb: accent and class differences are flawlessly portrayed, and listeners will be impatient to learn what happens next. The conclusion is satisfying—and hopeful. VERDICT Recommend this movingly beautiful, uncommon, yet entirely believable story to patrons who enjoy historical and contemporary fiction set in the South.—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL
 
coverCutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers. 6 CDs. HighBridge Audio. 2019. 6 hrs. ed. by Joyce Carol Oates. ISBN 9781684573448. $29.99. digital download. F
Each story in this collection is unique, sharing only female centricity. Rebellious teenagers go too far in a swimming pool in “One of These Nights” by Livia Llewellyn. A grieving mother faces the boy she wishes would’ve died in Steph Cha’s “Thief.” In “A History of the World in Five Objects” by S.J. Rozan, a lonely woman expresses her love of her mother’s yellow plate in a sinister memory. In S.A. Solomon’s “Impala,” a teen girl on the run remembers her past. Especially of note are “Assassin” by Oates, who edited the collection, and “Too Many Lunatics’’ by Lucy Taylor. Some entries are funny, some sad, and some just plain scary, but all are precisely rendered by Xe Sands who beautifully handles the many accents and characters in the various locales. The book is further enhanced by several new poems by Margaret Atwood. VERDICT Great for fans of Laura Van Der Berg’s The Isle of Youth. Featuring feminist themes and an all-star lineup of writers, this collection of noir, crime, and mystery short stories is not to be missed.—Terry Ann Lawler, Burton Barr Library, Phoenix
 
Féret-Fleury, Christine. The Girl Who Reads on the Metro. digital download. Macmillan Audio. 2019. 4:47 hrs. ISBN 9781250243003. $10.99. F
Despite living in glorious Paris, Juliette’s daily life is mundane. Her real estate job isn’t fulfilling, her closest friend is flighty coworker Chloe, and her love life currently nonexistent. The day’s highlight is her Métro commute, when she can commune with books—both the ones she reads herself and the ones that allow her to attempt to decode strangers’ lives based on what they hold in their hands. When she mistakenly exits from an unfamiliar station one morning, she happens upon a rusty metal door wedged open by a book and discovers a most unusual used bookshop which doubles as home for a vibrant young girl, Zaide, and her indulgent father, Soliman. Mistaken as the next applicant for the passeur position—a messenger of sorts who matches books with people—Juliette just might have stumbled on her dream career, but the job requires unexpected responsibilities when Soliman disappears, leaving Zaide in Juliette’s care. With her light, breezy voice, her crisp British accent, her facility with French, Stephanie Racine comfortably performs Juliette’s ennui-to-energized journey. She easily adopts distinct portrayals of the supporting cast, especially effusive Zaide, unreadable Soliman, and unpredictable Chloe. VERDICT Readers on any Métro will undoubtedly find this Girl to be whimsically charming company.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
 
Ide, Joe. Hi Five. 10 CDs. (IQ, Bk. 4). Hachette Audio. 2020. 12 hrs. ISBN 9781549150197. $35. digital download. F
Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe is a self-styled detective in Long Beach, CA. IQ is coerced by Angus Byrne, a black-market arms dealer, into clearing his daughter Christiana from blame in a murder that took place in her Newport Beach boutique. Christiana suffers from multiple personality disorder, and no one personality saw the entire incident. To find out what really happened the night of the murder, Isaiah must piece together clues from each of the personalities. If he can’t, Angus will end the career of IQ’s new girlfriend. Zeno Robinson, a Disney voice actor, gives personality to a huge cast of characters and enables the listener to empathize and understand their motivation and entrapment in a very desperate society. VERDICT This is a fast-moving, violent story with lots of sociopolitical commentary, and is highly recommended for adult audio fiction collections.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH
 
Moore, Liz. Long Bright River. 11 CDs. Penguin Audio. 2020. 13:30 hrs. ISBN 9780593146880. $45. digital download. F
Moore presents a riveting story of two sisters. Mickey, a member of the Philadelphia police force, worries that her estranged sister Kacey might end up as a victim of a serial killer who has been targeting young women in Mickey’s district. Mickey’s investigation leads her into the center of the opioid crisis plaguing her city and to corrupt and unethical police officers who were involved in the murders, or complacently ignored them. Moore deftly creates a multilayered story that follows Mickey’s investigation into the killings and explores her dysfunctional family and their road to reunion and safety. Well written and expertly narrated by Allyson Ryan, the story pulls in the reader with the whodunit as well as reflections on modern-day familial relations and societal conditions and pressures. VERDICT This will be a hit with mystery fans who enjoy audiobooks.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel
 
Mosley, Walter. Trouble Is What I Do. (Leonid McGill, Bk. 6). 3 CDs. Hachette Audio. 2020. 3:30 hrs. ISBN 9781549121296. $30. digital download. F
Leonid McGill is a successful private investigator in NYC whose background in criminal activity and uncanny intelligence give him an edge on keeping one step ahead of the criminals and ne’er-do-wells he is hired to investigate. McGill’s mission to deliver a letter that reveals Black lineage in the wealthy family of a soon-to-be-bride becomes treacherous, as assassins and thugs attempt to thwart McGill’s every move. Throughout the story, Mosley paints a vivid picture of the geography, landmarks, and neighborhoods in which the story unfolds. The rich voice narrator Dion Graham provides authenticity to the setting and emotional context. VERDICT Wherever Mosley’s novels have been in demand, this will be a necessary purchase.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA
 
Porter, Chana. The Seep. 3 CDs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. 3:06 hrs. ISBN 9781721358601. $34.99. F
Two decades ago, the Seep came to Earth. It is a microscopic alien lifeform that provides humans with increased empathy, long life, miraculous cures, and physical alterations. Human identity has become increasingly fluid, spanning beyond sexuality and gender to race and age. Trina Goldberg-Oneka, a 50-year-old trans woman, finds her world upended when her wife Deeba chooses to leave their shared life behind by exploring a new transformation. In the aftermath, Trina navigates the tensions between the new state of universal utopia and the very human and imperfect states of love, grief, and free will. It’s dense, brisk, and thoughtful science fiction. Narrator Shakina Nayfack gives this short novel a warm, compassionate reading. VERDICT Readers who enjoyed Dune’s themes of post-human evolution or the identity questions explored in N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? may enjoy this title.—Jason Puckett, Georgia State Univ. Lib, Atlanta
 
Sayles, John. Yellow Earth. 19 CDs. HighBridge Audio. 2020. 16:30 hrs. ISBN 9781684576913. $44.99. digital download. F
The development of the Bakken Shale oil field brings chaos to the town of Yellow Earth and the neighboring Three Nations Indian Reservation. Crowds of outsiders descend, most wanting to make some fast money. Sayles expertly balances the stories and motivations of the large cast of characters. The author is a shrewd observer of human nature, and his characters demonstrate the best and worst of it. Sayles pays close attention to the effects of the boom and subsequent bust on the land and the social structure of the community, though he balances the heavy topics with humor. Gary Tiedemann efficiently handles the many characters and keeps the pace demanded by the story. VERDICT Sharp and inventive, this is a recommended addition for most library audio collections.—Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX
 
Schaitkin, Alexis. Saint X. 10 CDs. Macmillan Audio. 2020. 12:30 hrs. ISBN 9781250239754. $39.99. digital download. F
An affluent American family’s perfect Caribbean vacation takes a turn for the unthinkable when their college-aged daughter, Alison, goes missing and is eventually found dead. The family questions the local police’s investigation as few suspects are identified and no charges are brought forth. Alison’s death is devastating for her seven-year-old sister, Claire, who must navigate her formative years in the wake of tragedy. The loss of her sister, coupled with the lack of closure that accompanies an unsolved death, underscore Claire’s life in innumerable ways. Years later Claire will hop into a New York City taxi and realize her driver is one of the main suspects in Alison’s murder. Claire seizes her opportunity for the truth and devises a plan to get it. Schaitkin’s debut novel is a slowly burning suspense story that feels like it will transform into a frenetic thriller but never quite makes it there. Alternating character perspectives can be a bit difficult to follow, but narration by Alex Hyde-White, Bailey Carr, Dana Dae, Dave Fennoy, Dean Gallagher, Denise Nelson, Ella Turenne, Josh Petersdorf, Kate Orsini, Melinda Wade, Prentice Onayemi, Ron Butler, Ryan Vincent Anderson, and Tristan Wright makes for an immersive listen and helps illuminate the novel’s examination of privilege, race, and class. VERDICT Recommended for any fan of suspense, especially those who enjoy a deep dive into characters’ emotions and motives.—Sean Kennedy, Univ. of Akron Lib., OH
 

NONFICTION

coverDiamandis, Peter H. & Steven Kotler. The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives.
9 CDs. S. & S. Audio. 2020. 10 hrs. ISBN 9781508299523. $34.99. digital download. BUS
Futurist Diamandis and science writer Kotler tackle the questions of how to use cutting-edge technology to solve seemingly impossible challenges. The exponentially accelerating technologies explored include artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, digital biology, and sensors, and the discussion emphasizes how these technologies will converge to transform industry, impact family life, influence governmental structures, and, of ultimate concern, save the global climate. The result is a sobering, mind-altering analysis of how this evolving future may lead our species into unknown realms. Diamandis provides steadly paced narration. VERDICT Techno geeks and futurist thinkers will find this information refreshingly new. Highly recommended for university libraries supporting a business curriculum and larger public libraries.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX
 
Farrow, Ronan. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy To Protect Predators. 10 CDs. Hachette Audio. 2019. 10:43 hrs. ISBN 9781549175459. $35. digital download. soc sci
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Farrow narrates this disturbing account of his and others’ efforts to expose the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault prevalent in entertainment and media circles. Farrow chronicles his highly personal and at times harrowing journey from his assignment of a story from NBC to finally the publication of his findings in the New Yorker. Faced with threats, lies, espionage, and obstructions from NBC itself, Farrow perseveres to cultivate sources, schedule interviews, and verify facts to build the case of incessant abuse by Harvey Weinstein. Open and often self-effacing, Farrow relates his famous family’s well-documented history with public accusations of abuse as well as his challenges in offering unbiased reporting. Though well-written and revealing, the author’s recurring attempts to convey the overwhelming nature of complaints and the continual attempts at obscure facts feel more repetitive than crucial. Farrow’s vocal performance is also uneven. While the delivery of his own thoughts and explanations are accessible and appealing, his choice to read others’ words and points of view in a variety of accents and voices is unsuccessful and at times distracting. VERDICT Even with less than ideal narration, this audiobook will appeal to listeners interested in investigative reporting, gender equality, and the media industries.—Lisa Youngblood, Harker Heights P.L., TX
 
Korda, Michael. Passing: A Memoir of Love and Death. 7 CDs. Recorded Bks. 2019. 8:45 hrs. ISBN 9781980054061. $77.75. digital download. memoir
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or other terminal illness, every frightened caregiver needs a way to understanding of the human side of fighting an illness and eventually surrendering to circumstances beyond one’s control. This audiobook fulfills that essential mission. Korda courageously shares the story of his beloved wife, Margaret, and her battle with cancer. After losing strength in her right hand as well as losing her grasp of certain words and pronunciations, Margaret was diagnosed with a brain tumor. More tumors were later discovered in her brain and abdomen. Margaret bravely faced multiple treatments, but a cure was not available. Michael was at her side throughout the ordeal, always investigating symptoms and side effects, finding the best practitioners, and altering their home to accommodate Margaret’s diminishing mobility. Narrator Henry Strozier reads the story in a sober, respectful voice. Modern medicine has prolonged life with serious illnesses, thus expanding the role and duration of caregiving. This story provides support for the growing population of caregivers. VERDICT A perfect companion for books on cancer or other serious illnesses.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA
 
O’Brady, Colin. The Impossible First. 8 CDs. S. & S. Audio. 2020. 8:30 hrs. ISBN 9781508299509. $29.99. digital download. memoir
This relatively short work is an unexpected gem of a production. O’Brady is an endurance athlete and explorer who has performed such feats as reaching the highest point in each of the 50 states in 21 days and climbing the highest point on each continent in less than a year. This account focuses on his quest to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent alone on his own power. O’Brady is not an especially polished reader, but he does a splendid job of reading his own work. He is intense and as focused on telling his story as he was on crossing the ice of Antarctica. His life demonstrates how much one can accomplish through determination. VERDICT This work would do well in public libraries where other endurance memoirs circulate well.—Michael Fein, Central Virginia Community Coll. Lib., Lynchburg
 
O’Connell, John. Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life. digital download. Tantor Audio. 2020. 6:44 hrs. ISBN 9781541442795. $49.95. lit
Three years before his death, music icon David Bowie published a list of the 100 books he counted as his favorite and most influential works. Music journalist O’Connell presents an essay about each title on Bowie’s list, with commentary about the titles’s cultural significance, as well as when and how it might have fit into the artist’s personal and creative life. The range of books on display from Bowie’s personal library ranges from Japanese and Russian literary fiction to nonfiction historical essays, esoteric occultism to comics, with a heavy emphasis on English and American novelists. O’Connell finds interesting questions to ask about each book on the list, speculating about what the titles might have said about Bowie the man and the artist, and ends each short essay with suggested pairings: a Bowie song to accompany each title, and a recommended title to read as a followup. Simon Vance lends a tone of warmth and intelligence to the narration. VERDICT Recommended for rock history and criticism readers who are fans of Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me and Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs.—Jason Puckett, Georgia State Univ. Lib, Atlanta
 
Simon, Carly. Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie. 5 CDs. Macmillan
Audio. 2019. 5:30 hrs. ISBN 9781250245410. $29.99. digital download. memoir
Simon (Boys in the Trees) writes about her friendship with the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in this intimate memoir. The two women were neighbors on Martha’s Vineyard and developed a close friendship after meeting at a party. Later, they worked together on a series of children’s books written by Simon (Kennedy Onassis was an editor at Doubleday). The two bonded over reminiscences of mutual friends, especially film director Mike Nichols, whom both women were infatuated with. Simon weaves some amusing anecdotes into the narrative, such as a nightmarish formal dinner party given by Katherine Graham, who required the guests to face the center of the table and take turns giving their opinions on NAFTA. Simon’s writing is rich and florid, and she is quite frank when writing about herself but carefully avoids revealing any gossip concerning Kennedy Onassis. However, she manages to convey a great deal about Kennedy Onassis’s personality through the conversations they had (she obviously had very old-fashioned views about women and men and tried to convince Simon to leave her then husband, writer James Hart, because he didn’t have a “real job”). Elizabeth McGovern narrates and captures the personalities of the speakers. VERDICT A revealing and captivating memoir that will appeal to fans of both women.—Phillip Oliver, formerly with Univ. of North Alabama, Florence
 
Theroux, Paul. On the Plain of Snakes. 17 CDs. Recorded Bks. 2019. 20 hrs.
ISBN 9781980063230. $123.75. digital download. travel
Well into his eighth decade and lamenting America’s stereotype of the elderly—“mocked” and “parasitical”—Theroux defiantly sets out in his Buick to explore a land he deems likewise disparaged: Mexico. Traversing the U.S.-Mexico border, then heading south toward Chiapas, the self-described “old gringo” recounts both guidebook-worthy pleasures—local cuisines, monumental architecture, a mezcal distillery tour, a butterfly migration—and documentary fodder: chilling encounters with police extracting bribes, conversations with Border Patrol agents, a Zapatista party conclave. Theroux shares eye-opening historical context and moving stories: villagers, hitchhikers, artisans, and many others relate desperate border crossings, lonely sojourns as undocumented workers in the U.S., systemic corruption among police and military, cartel-sponsored terrorism and exploitation, and struggles to sustain families and educate children with meager social infrastructure. Joseph Balderrama’s narration lends immediacy to those accounts, seamlessly incorporates Mexican place names and Spanish dialogue, and keeps Theroux’s cinematic descriptions and observant (sometimes opinionated) prose front and center. VERDICT Attesting to the complexity of Mexico’s culture and probing the realities underlying misperceptions and immigration issues, Theroux’s travelogue is provocative, compassionate, and timely. A must-buy for Theroux’s fans and important for library collections.—Linda Sappenfield, Round Rock P.L., TX

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month