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MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors

Richard Hooker, read by Johnny Heller. Tantor Audio, $34.99 ISBN 978-1-4526-1767-1

Hooker’s novel—which inspired the eponymous feature film and television sitcom—follows three Army surgeons as they work together in Korea during the Korean War. As casualties rise and the conflict drags on, the surgeons find their own chaotic and darkly funny ways of coping. Veteran narrator Heller skillfully reads this memorable audio edition. Hooker’s classic black comedy features a host of quirky characters, making it the sort of novel that might require multiple narrators for the audiobook. But here, Heller is up to the task by himself. His narration is never showy; instead he uses subtle vocalization to distinguish each character. Heller’s narration captures the book’s irreverence with a conversational, brisk pace—almost as if he were recounting stories with former brothers-in-arms. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Being Sloane Jacobs

Lauren Morrill, read by Shelby Lewis and Devon Sorvari. Listening Library, unabridged, eight CDs, 9.25 hrs., $50 ISBN 978-0-8041-2389-1

Morrill’s novel features two equally flawed and fascinating characters who happen to have very similar names: Sloane Emily Jacobs and Sloane Devon Jacobs. After a chance meeting in Canada, the two girls—one is a figure skater, the other is a hockey player—hatch a plan to trade places for the summer. Narrators Lewis and Sorvari each turn in a professional performance that ably captures the book’s characters and tone. Both readers provide narration that is well paced, smooth, and engaging. And, most importantly, in this story about switching places and mistaken identity, the readers make sure listeners are never confused about which character is which. This is a charming audio edition that will appeal to young listeners. Ages 12–up. A Delacorte hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Tyrant’s Daughter

J.C. Carleson, read by Meera Simhan and Cheryl Benard. Listening Library, unabridged, seven CDs, 8.5 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-0-8041-6702-4

When her Middle Eastern dictator father was killed in a coup, Laila, her mother, and her younger brother flee the country. Now a teenager, Laila must adapt to life in the U.S. as her family tries to recover from its loss of power. Laila is slowly adapting to her new life, but her mother longs to return to the life she left behind. And now, Laila must decide what her future holds. Narrator Simhan turns in a solid performance in this audio edition. She provides Laila an appropriate Middle-Eastern accent and her tone reflects that of a teenager acclimating to a new culture. But Simhan shines brightest during the book’s moments of tension, generating a subtle range of emotions. Add in a fine performance from Benard, and the result is an audio edition that makes for compelling listening. Ages 12–up. A Knopf hardcover (Feb.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Winter Sky

Patricia Reilly Giff, read by Arielle Sitrick and Cassandra Campbell. Listening Library, unabridged three CDs, 3 hrs., $27 ISBN 978-0-8041-2140-8

At night, Siria searches for fire and sirens in hopes of catching her firefighter father at work. But when she discovers a series of fires that look like arson, she decides to find the perpetrator in an effort to protect her father. Strick provides a strong and sincere voice that is perfect for Siria, while also capturing the uncertainty and ambiguity that comes with being a young adult often left to her own devices. Sitrick deftly captures Siria’s emotional range, and though she creates believable voices for the book’s men, they pale in comparison to the voices she lends the female characters. Campbell also turns in a fine performance: her tone is lofty but hints at deeper emotions, which works well for Giff’s novel. Ages 8–12. A Wendy Lamb hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How To Train Your Dragon

Cressida Cowell, read by David Tennant. Hachette Audio, unabridged, four CDs, 3.4 hrs., $20 ISBN 978-1-4789-5400-2

Legendary Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III comes to life thanks to a spirited performance from narrator Tennant. In this first volume of Cowell’s popular series, Hiccup must, as a rite of passage, catch a dragon. When he manages to capture one—which he names Toothless—Haddock endeavors to train the creature via his own methods. In this winning audio edition, Tennant’s narration is theatrical and sure to entertain listeners of all ages. The narrator’s pacing is perfect, his character voices unique, and the accents he creates believable. An enthusiastic performance from Tennant makes this a must-listen, especially for fans. Ages 8–12. A Little, Brown paperback. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Call To Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future

Mark Driscoll, read by Mike Chamberlain. Christianaudio, unabridged, eight CDs, 9 hrs., $21.98 ISBN 978-1-61045-754-5

Driscoll’s book urges various Christian factions to end their quarrels and unite around a common appreciation for God and Christ. Narrator Chamberlain reads the author’s broadside with a great deal of conviction. His narration is crisp, clear, and impassioned. And while his performance has verve, Chamberlain often sounds excessively nasal. Additionally, during more intense moments of the book, the narrator becomes overly aggressive. Some listeners will long for a more moderate performance and more vocal variety to temper Driscoll’s rhetorical fire. A Resurgence hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World that Made Him

David Henry and Joe Henry, read by Dion Graham. Tantor Media, unabridged, eight CDs, 9 hrs., $42.99 ISBN 978-1-4526-1557-8

The Henry brothers cover the life of Richard Pryor from his childhood in a flophouse to his final days in a mansion. Focusing mostly on his comedic genius of the 1960s and 1970s, the authors trace his progress, his set-backs, his influences, and his more extreme mishaps. Cumulatively, they show both the greatness and limitations of Pryor and his lasting impact on comedy and culture. Narrator Graham provides an standout, moving performance. His deep and projective voice commands listener attention and guides them through the highs to the lows of Pryor’s life. Graham also nails the emotional tension of the book, and provides solid voices for the different people quoted throughout the book. However, most of Graham’s impressions of Prior are so perfect that listeners may wonder whether they are listening to Graham or Pryor. This blend of narration with impersonation makes the audiobook successful. An Algonquin hardcover. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Hero

Rhonda Byrne, read by the author and multiple narrators. Simon & Schuster Audio, unabridged, four CDs, 4 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-4423-6969-6

This short motivational work by Byrne employs first-person testimonials to show how the principles the author espoused in her international bestseller, The Secret, have been put into practice by a dozen of the world’s most successful people. In this slick audio production, Byrne functions as narrator while 12 actors portray the book’s various rags-to-riches cast members. The success stories include Michael Acton Smith, the British founder of Mind Candy; John Paul DeJoria of John Paul Mitchell Systems hair products; Romanian-born beauty magnate Anastasia Soare; American football coach Pete Carroll; surfer-activist Laird Hamilton; and homeless-to-Harvard wunderkind Liz Murray. The most natural performance is by Kim Jackson, who portrays Australian surfer Layne Beachley; she is entirely believable in this relentlessly upbeat role. Kirby Heyborne and Moira Quirk turn in enjoyable performances as well, with Quirk doing a very competent Eastern European accent. Original music is interwoven between segments and at the beginning and end of each CD, its dramatic New Age sensibility counterbalancing the book’s otherwise buoyant mood. An Atria hardcover. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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How to Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have, It’s What You Do With What You Have

Andy Stanley, read Jon Gauger. Oasis Audio, unabridged, three CDs, 3 hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-61375-581-5

According to Stanley—whose book draws upon his own life and the Bible—most people need not aspire to become rich, because most are already wealthy. What’s important, the author asserts, is redefining wealth in a broader context and knowing how to understand what wealth really looks like. Narrator Gauger provides jovial and powerful narration that remains consistent throughout this audio production. His timing skillfully captures the author’s tone and amusing asides, providing listeners with the occasional chuckle. However, Gauger’s energy and enthusiasm is at times over the top, and he comes across as excessively cheerful. And while this might suit Stanley’s book, it can prove exhausting for listeners. A Zondervan paperback. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year

Demi Lovato, read by the author and Katie Schorr. Macmillan Audio, unabridged, five CDs, five hrs., $19.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-5142-8

In this gentle self-help book, pop singer and actress Lovato encourages her fans with 365 daily affirmations, one for each date of the year. The affirmations are a mix of general platitudes and inspiring quotes from famous people running the gamut from Aristotle to Lil Wayne. Each affirmation is followed by either a fuller explanation of its meaning or a relevant reminiscence from Lovato’s own life, and then a specific goal for the day. Both Lovato and Schorr read in a warm, earnest, and sincere tone, and young fans may well take comfort from this audiobook’s words of encouragement. However, to use the book as instructed (consulting it each morning for that specific day’s affirmation and goal), it would be easier to do so with the print version—with the audiobook finding the right entry for each day could be challenging. A Feiwel and Friends hardcover. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 03/28/2014 | Details & Permalink

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