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Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It

Lisa Bloom, read by the author. Brilliance Audio, , unabridged, seven CDs, 8.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-48058427-3

Attorney and high-profile television legal analyst Bloom brings passion and poise to the audio edition of her new title, which deconstructs the racial tensions surrounding the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. As an accomplished courtroom correspondent, she is particularly adept in voicing the elements of her narrative directly tied to the trial. Her delivery of the first-person experiences of the jury’s lone minority member—a Hispanic woman identified only by her first name of Maddy—is a convincing and chilling presentation of how race affects the justice system. When she tackles the expository public policy sections of the text, the narration is not always quite as spellbinding, but Bloom manages to keep the proceedings moving effectively. A Counterpoint hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

Christoper Leonard, read by John Pruden. Tantor Media, , unabridged, nine CDs, 11.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-49450071-9

In this history of Tyson Foods, veteran agriculture journalist Leonard details the impact of the company’s industrial model on family farmers, meat packers, and consumers. Pruden provides competent delivery as the narrative continually shifts from business biography to hard-hitting exposé. He is especially effective inhabiting the blunt essence of the three generations of Tyson men who, while very different in temperament and talents, all brought a bottom-line perspective to every facet of how animals reach the family dinner table. The boardroom mastery of the late Don Tyson—who took his father’s regional poultry operation and transformed it into a global powerhouse—especially shines through. Pruden, despite all of his acting skill, does not choose to tackle the full range of accents and dialects, particularly related to the racial and class transformations of chicken farming in Arkansas and surrounding states. He also handles some of the most emotionally charged content with understatement, though listeners already steeped in food-supply issues will feel sufficiently stirred by the content itself. A Simon & Schuster hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Love Life

Rob Lowe, read by the author. Audioworks, , unabridged, seven CDs, 7.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-6733-3

Lowe, a veteran actor in film and television follows up his bestselling 2011 memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, with this smart collection of personal vignettes. As a narrator, Lowe is clearly in his element. His sardonic humor shines through at some points (as when describing how he was abruptly removed as the coach of his son’s basketball team via a parental coup d’etat), while other scenes are more introspective. Some of the strongest moments feature Lowe describing himself at his weakest: mourning the loss of his longtime manager, Bernie Brillstein, or dropping his oldest child off at college. The audiobook offers the expected behind-the-scenes Hollywood sneak peeks, but with the added bonus of Lowe’s vocal impressions of his colleagues. His take on Warren Beatty is first-rate, and his impersonation of Danny Glover ordering everything on the menu is worth the price of admission by itself. This audio performance reveals someone who is (at last) completely comfortable in his own skin and ready to share his story, equal parts gossip and hard-won wisdom. A Simon & Schuster hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Lean In for Graduates

Sheryl Sandberg, read by Elisa Donovan. Random House Audio, , unabridged, eight CDs 9.5 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-553-54447-3

Donovan does a fine job of narrating Sandberg’s manifesto for women at work, here adapted for young graduates. Her voice is enthusiastic and fast-paced, brimming with savvy encouragement. Donovan also rolls wonderfully with Sandberg’s many self-deprecating moments, which pepper the book’s expert how-to advice with approachable, and sometimes funny, examples of her shortcomings. For example, she was one of only a handful of business school graduates to receive a monetary award for excellence after her first year, but she was the only winner—and, not coincidentally, the only woman—to keep quiet about that achievement. Donovan’s audio performance suffers in the expanded material near the end of the book. She reads all of it, including six new chapters by various experts (on finding your first job, negotiating for a salary, etc.) and a dozen short personal essays by those who have “leaned in.” Given the diversity of this cast of characters—and the book’s insistence that owning one’s story is vital to the ability to lead—it’s disappointing that other actors or even the contributors themselves don’t narrate those portions. A Knopf hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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President Me: The America that’s in My Head

Adam Carolla, read by the author. HarperAudio, , abridged, $29.99 ISBN 978-0-06-233202-8

Comedian Carolla delivers the down and dirty about who is really at fault for the country’s woes and how he would fix things were he president. He airs traditional conservative views, as well as his own wish list of inane and amusing changes to the country he wants to improve, such as turning lanes in California and strip clubs. As a TV show and podcast host, he is, for the most part, a perfect narrator. He nails the punch lines and knows how to keep his voice interesting. There are parts of the recording where Carolla goes off script, ad-libbing riffs off his own material, which is one of the perks of the audio edition; however, it is not always clear if he is going off script intentionally or stumbling. Fans of the Adam Carolla Show podcast will enjoy all his performance has to offer, but those unfamiliar with him are not likely to be as easily enthralled. An IT Books hardcover. (June)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Player: A Carter Ross Mystery

Brad Parks, read by Adam Verner. Dreamscape Media, , unabridged, eight CDs, 9.25 hrs., $59.99 ISBN 978-1-62923309-3

Verner’s lively narration makes for an entertaining ride for the fifth novel in Parks’s series chronicling the adventures of Newark Star-Ledger reporter Carter Ross. The story centers on a shady urban renewal project plagued by environmental misdeeds and cover-ups, as a sordid family conflict surrounding a recently murdered real estate developer unfolds. Verner brings a compelling first-person voice to the protagonist Ross, who finds himself juggling the caper with the demands of his complicated love life and the stresses of print journalism in an increasingly digital age. Verner’s tone conveys both Ross’s earnest commitment to try to do right by his conflicting obligations and his sometimes bumbling nature. The juicy cast of characters provides Verner with ample opportunities to shine. His turn as the murdered developer’s gruff father—an aging slum lord with a few tricks up his sleeve—is especially memorable. A Minotaur hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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After I’m Gone

Laura Lippman, read by Linda Emond. HarperAudio, , unabridged, nine CDs, 10.5 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-0-06-226525-8

Lippman’s latest crime novel begins as more of a family drama, focusing on shady businessman Felix Brewer. The story opens as Felix flees suburban Maryland to escape the law, leaving behind his wife, Bambi; three daughters; and a mistress, Julie Saxony. When Julie disappears 10 years later, it is assumed that she joined Felix. The whodunit aspect of the narrative kicks in when her skeletal corpse is discovered in one of the city’s favorite body dumps, Leakin Park. Enter Sandy Sanchez, a retired Baltimore police detective who supplements his pension by closing the department’s cold cases, who reopens the investigation of Julia’s death. Emond reads the character-rich story with just the right amount of emotion, catching Bambi’s youthful infatuation, her smug comfort in a seemingly idyllic marriage, and, finally, her disillusionment. The actress is just as effective in portraying Felix’s brash scoundrel’s charm and the various moods of the very different daughters. As for Sandy Sanchez, the guy’s a dogged sleuth who saves his emotion for his work. Emond catches his faux empathy in interviews, his elation in uncovering decades-old clues, and his determination to get the job done. A William Morrow hardcover. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Without Warning

David Rosenfelt, read by Jeff Steitzer. Listen & Live Audio, , unabridged, $29.95 ISBN 978-1-59316-667-0

Rosenfelt’s latest hapless hero, Jake Robbins, is the police chief of Wilton, Maine, a job that becomes considerably more difficult after a powerful hurricane and flood unearth the town’s 50-year time capsule about 46 years prematurely. It was put in the ground several months before Jake’s wife, Jenny, was murdered. Inside, Jake finds are skeletal remains and a set of predictions about future crimes that accurately describes Jenny’s death along with several other murders. Narrator Steitzer, who has recorded several of Rosenfelt’s recent novels, uses a strong, resonant voice for the stalwart Jake. The police chief narrates much of the book, starting out casually and naturally, but becoming more emotional as the mysterious killer tightens the frame. Steitzer takes an appropriately more detached approach to the objective chapters. The men who work for Jake speak in different shades of gruff. The unsympathetic mayor sounds like the boisterous phony the author describes. Reporter Matt Higgins is aggressively ambitious. The result is a entertaining whodunit. A Minotaur hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Warriors

Ted Bell, read by John Shea. HarperAudio, , unabridged, 12 CDs, 14.5 hrs., $44.99 ISBN 978-0-06-234785-5

In Bell’s latest international thriller, China seeks world domination by sending minions to America to kidnap Bill Chase, the scientist responsible for every recent weapon of war that has kept the U.S. in control of land, sea, and air. Five years later, the Chinese military kill the sitting U.S. president and begin to display the fruits of Chase’s new designs, among them a humongous armed drone that nearly takes out the new president. Enter handsome, dashing Lord Alex Hawk, an upper class clubman-spy with “pirate’s blood in his veins” and James Bond’s fire in his loins. He is unwittingly seduced by the main villainess, China Moon, a stunningly beautiful but cold-hearted assassin. There is a very thin line separating Bell’s old-school thriller prose and new wave satire, and narrator Shea’s energetic, if not entirely successful, attempt at accents, ranging from British Etonian to American ebonics, comes bloody well close to erasing that line. A William Morrow hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Target

David Baldacci, read by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy. Hachette Audio, , unabridged, eleven CDs, 13 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-4789-5248-0

Baldacci’s new thriller features Will Robie and Jessica Reel, secret agents licensed to kill by the U.S. president. Their officious superior hates them, but they’re just too darned good to dismiss. The novel unfolds in a segmented but connected series of their adventures, several of which lead to a dangerous incursion in North Korea and involve a ferocious hit woman. Aiding and abetting Baldacci’s characters are narrators McLarty and Cassidy, two total pros who have collaborated on other recent Baldacci audios. Here, the former is given the lion’s share of work, narrating the novel and, using minimal shading, providing the voices for Robie (usually calm and collected), the president (unyielding, with just a hint of self-doubt), the head of the CIA (combative, sour, fearful), among others. Cassidy supplies Reel with a steely self-confidence, shifts to a halting Asian accent for the infamous hit woman, and uses a similar but higher-pitched accent for the assassin’s young ward. Bottom line, McLarty and Cassidy get their job done as successfully as Robie and Reel. A Grand Central hardcover. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/27/2014 | Details & Permalink

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