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Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Kirby Larson, read by Lyssa Browne. Scholastic Audio, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 6.5 hrs., $45.99 ISBN SBN 978-0-545-91097-2

It’s 1910, and Audacity “Audie” Jones is living in a home for “wayward girls” in Swayzee, Ind., when a frequent donor, Commodore Crutchfield, arrives asking for a volunteer for a secret mission. Sharp-witted and well-read, Audie has her doubts about a man “who seemed to have no idea that mainsails were never lashed together with ropes” and “that the rank of commodore had last been used by the United States Navy eleven years prior,” but she also has a taste for adventure, and the commodore is headed to Washington, D.C. It quickly becomes clear that the commodore and his associates have nefarious plans regarding President Taft, plans for which they need Audie. Audie is too smart to do bad things, but what can one orphaned, wayward girl do? It is a good thing she knows how to make friends quickly. Browne narrates with cheerful energy, embodying a wide variety of characters. Some of the smaller wayward residents are snuffly. The commodore sounds a bit like Foghorn Leghorn; bad guys are nasal and impatient, while Audie is cheerful and spunky. The story moves along at a good pace, but never too fast. Though some listeners may find Browne’s character voices over the top, the story is never dull. A Scholastic Press hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Tru and Nelle

G. Neri, read by Catherine Taber. Listening Library, , unabridged, 5 CDs, 5.5 hrs, $40 ISBN 978-0-7352-0738-7

The real-life childhood friendship of authors Harper Lee and Truman Capote takes center stage in this middle grade novel, featuring an entertaining performance by actress Taber. As a native of Georgia, Taber comes by the regional accent honestly and does not exaggerate it simply for effect. Her voice conveys the main characters’ excitement as they sleuth around their small Alabama town to solve a mystery. Taber nails the fierce tomboy nature of Nelle (Harper Lee) and offers a breathier, more high-pitched voice for Truman, who sometimes drops his voice to nearly a whisper. And if the adult characters all sound more or less the same, isn’t that how children perceive grown-ups? Middle-grade readers and their parents alike will enjoy this charismatic audio performance. Ages 7–10. A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Raymie Nightingale

Kate DiCamillo, read by Jenna Lamia. Listening Library, unabridged, 4 CDs, 4.5 hrs., $30 ISBN 978-1-101-91741-1

Set in 1975, DiCamillo’s tender novel tells the story of three very different girls who become fast friends while partaking in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Raymie’s father recently ran off with a dental hygienist, and she hopes if she wins, it will somehow make him come back; Louisiana is an orphan who lives with her grandmother and gets through hardships with made-up stories and fantasies; Beverly is streetwise and angry at the world. They end up having some oddball adventures, involving trying to retrieve a lost library book and rescue a cat, and in the process learn about supporting friends and dealing with painful losses. Narrator Lamia’s warm, compassionate reading perfectly fits the uplifting tale, and she uses her voice to bring out the many humorous and quirky moments. All the characters have Southern accents, yet Lamia is able to give each a distinctive and memorable voice that reflects each character’s personality; for example, Louisiana sounds dreamy and vulnerable, whereas Beverly sounds tough as nails. Lamia is the perfect narrator for this bittersweet yet ultimately comforting audiobook. Ages 10–up. A Candlewick hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Jane Mayer, read by Kirsten Potter. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 17 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-0-307-97065-7

This sprawling narrative from New Yorker staff writer Mayer traces the origins of a well-funded libertarian brand of conservatism led by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their network of deep-pocketed, like-minded allies. Voice actress Potter resists the temptation to present the provocative portions of Mayer’s extensive research with broad-brush caricatures. Rather, she lets Mayer’s complex historical and biographical story threads take shape gradually, allowing actual character development. The Koch brothers come alive, complete with their many eccentricities and rivalries. Other figures who—thanks to the compelling blend of Mayer’s prose and Potter’s narration—leave an especially memorable imprint include Art Pope, a North Carolina discount store magnate; and Richard Mellon Scaife, the late heir to banking and oil fortunes. Granted, the quotations from Pope—whose hundreds of stores are staffed by, and patronized by, low-wage workers—about poverty being mostly a matter of individual choice will inflame progressive readers, but Mayer and Potter work to develop a broader perspective beyond easy sound bites. A Doubleday hardcover.(Jan.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Orphan X

Gregg Hurwitz, read by Scott Brick. Brilliance Audio, unabridged, 9 CDs, 11.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-4915-5194-3

This series opener by Hurwitz (Don’t Look Back) features as its protagonist a former licensed-to-kill member of the government’s covert Orphan Program, who has been on the run from his homicidal ex-associates since he broke free. Known by his foes as the Nowhere Man, he has given himself a new name, Evan Smoak, and has constructed an elaborate technological security wall around himself. He has also decided to atone for past homicides by helping those in need—in this case Katrin White, a gambler whose father will be killed unless she pays her gambling debts. Considering his past life, it’s understandable that Smoak is a dark, moody guy, a point underlined by reader Brick’s chilly, no-nonsense approach to the character. Likewise, his sustained dramatic delivery effectively adds power to the action-filled and suspenseful moments. However, it also highlights the book’s somewhat distractingly detailed descriptions of weaponry, technology and products; these undercut scenes such as Smoak having to deal with his condo board, which offer needed light relief from the novel’s ultra-noirish mood. A Minotaur hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Turn of the Screw

Henry James, read by Penelope Rawlins and Ben Elliot. Naxos Audiobooks, unabridged, 5 CDs, 5 hrs., $34.98 ISBN 978-1-84379-938-2

An unnamed narrator recalls a Victorian-era Christmas Eve gathering at an old house, in which guests share ghost stories. One guest, named Douglas, presents the group with a faded old manuscript, purporting to be the firsthand account of a young governess who was hired to care for two orphaned children. She arrives at a secluded country estate and soon becomes aware that the ghosts of the former groundskeeper and the children’s previous governess haunt the house and its surrounding grounds. The governess is convinced that the malevolent spirits are out to harm the young children, and it is up to her to thwart their evil intent. Both narrators offer fine performances of this classic story. Elliot presents the book’s prologue in an appropriately British stiff-upper-lip style that contrasts perfectly with Rawlins’s narration, which fully embraces the emotionally charged turmoil and desperation of the governess as she slowly unravels at the escalating horror around her. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack

Robert Knott, read by Rex Linn. Random House Audio, unabridged, 7 CDs, 8 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-451-48529-8

Chosen by Robert B. Parker’s estate to carry on the author’s work featuring Appaloosa’s police team of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, Knott creates new plots for Parker’s people and places in his own series. Those who love Wild West outlaw/lawmen books can run right through the pages of Blackjack to the surprise ending. For listeners, however, it’s a slower, more irksome story. Reader Linn voices all the characters in the same low voice with a slight Southwestern twang. But it doesn’t matter—the listener always knows who’s speaking because every line of dialogue is followed by “I said,” “Aly said,” “he said,” “Virgil said,” etc. As these folks generally converse in very short sentences, the repetition in this dialogue-heavy plot might drive listeners insane. A Putnam hardcover. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl in the Red Coat

Kate Hamer, read by Antonia Beamish. HighBridge Audio, 12 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-62231-970-1

Beth is a divorced mom in England who lives in fear that her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander, will go missing. Her nightmare comes true when a wily, fanatical preacher kidnaps Carmel and takes her to America. The chapters alternate between Beth’s heartbreaking search for her daughter and attempts to continue life without her, and Carmel’s strange adventure and struggle to adapt, survive, and maintain her identity far from home. Voice actress Beamish’s narration is superb, particularly in Carmel’s chapters: at first, she narrates in a child’s voice, but gradually she begins to sound like a teenager, and then, eventually, she starts to speak in an American accent. Beamish also perfectly conveys Carmel’s personality and thought process: she is a naive child, yet also observant and intelligent, trying to piece things together and learn the truth, and determined to hold on to her true name, identity, and memories no matter what. In Beth’s chapters, Beamish vividly conveys the heartbreaking sorrow, fear, hope, and guilt of a mother who has lost her child. The excellent voice narration makes this riveting novel even more powerful on audio. A Melville House hardcover. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Journey to Munich

Jacqueline Winspear, read by Orlagh Cassidy. HarperAudio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-0-06-244399-1

Cassidy is the perfect voice for Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs adventures. It’s 1938, and Maisie has returned to England after a time in Spain working as a nurse in that war-torn country. She’s still mourning the death of her husband, and her future is unclear. She accepts an assignment from the government to travel to Munich in the guise of Edwina Donant, whose father, Leon Donant, a British engineer of great military importance, is being held in Dachau. The Nazis will only release Donant to a family member, and the engineer’s only relative, his daughter, is too ill to travel. In addition to her official assignment, Maisie reluctantly accepts a second rescue mission, one with a more personal connection. In Germany, Maisie discovers that both missions hold their own intricacies and dangers. One wrong move could mean the difference between life and death. Cassidy is completely comfortable depicting Maisie’s world. Her clear English delivery moves the intriguing and suspenseful story along at a smooth, steady pace. At the same time, she easily juggles a diverse, multinational array of characters, each with their own distinctive accents and personalities. A Harper hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Year of the Runaways

Sunjeev Sahota, read by Sartaj Garewal. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 14 CDs, 16 hrs., $44.99 ISBN 978-1-6816-8024-8

Garewal begins the audiobook of Sahota’s Booker-shortlisted novel awkwardly; it sounds as if he’s reading word by word rather than narrating the sentences. As soon as he gets into dialogue, however, he becomes livelier, and his narration takes on an easier, more conversational rhythm and tone. Three Indian men are thrown together in Sheffield, England, where they desperately try to survive and avoid getting deported. Finding jobs to make enough money to live and send to their distraught families is a nightmarish challenge. Tochi, a former rickshaw driver from a low caste, is badly scarred, physically and emotionally. Avtar, a middle-class Punjabi on a student visa, seeks only to sustain himself and his now-impoverished family. Randeep is a “visa husband” who has contracted for a one-year marriage to Narinda, a young woman who only wants to do good deeds despite the family conflicts this engenders. Garewal handles a variety of Indian accents quite handily. A Knopf hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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