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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

January 2012

by Jonathan Lowe

Short of using a lie detector, it's hard to take people at their word, these days. Especially politicians and used car salesmen. . . maybe even your boss. If you've wondered how to tell what someone is really thinking, WHAT EVERY BODY IS SAYING by Joe Navarro will teach you how to read body language: what to look for, and what gestures and postures really mean. In addition to a discussion of brain science and nonverbal cues (not just facial expressions, but also arm, leg, torso and hand positioning), a PDF file included in the audiobook illustrates the concepts discussed. Paul Costanzo reads this insightful book co-written by an ex FBI man and a PH.D.

Bruce Miles achieves a remarkable symbiosis with the main character of THE DIRTY PARTS OF THE BIBLE by Sam Torode, performing this most unusual love fantasy, which features Tobias Henry--son of a Baptist preacher--who sets off on a road trip to Texas yielding many offbeat delights. Imagine a young Garrison Keillor, minus any inhibitions, who jumps on a rail car in search of adventure, girls, and lost treasure. Tobias has been repressed, distressed, and obsessed, and now he'll discover just what those passages in the Bible really mean--and in real life--before it's too late or he turns into his father. The text is funny and quirky, with plenty of odd "Lake Wobegon" types raised on hell fire preaching, afraid to dance or drink or look at a woman's ankles. Can Tobias find life and love before he dies? Narrator Miles is on track, consistently prepared to deliver the proper tone, steering the story's arc with a wide range of emotional identities, from singing to weeping. Always believable, the audio version is a must hear.

Once again, loyalties are tested in a blasted future of brutal war which yawns between episodes of peace. In HALO: Grasslands by Karen Traviss, the franchise of novels based on the video game continues as Kilo-Five is recruited to accelerate the Sangheili insurrection. A shield world guards a treasure of Forerunner technology which may change the game, but does the game ever really change in the end? Euan Morton narrates this latest episode, which develops its own side stories at its own pace. The writing is good, regardless of how much new is learned about the Spartans and others, as the experience Traviss has in writing screenplays and other gaming franchises such as Star Wars and Gears of War comes to bear here. Scottish actor Morton, as narrator, has a sharp yet versatile English voice, lending dimension to both male and female characters. Now if only someone would imagine a universe where the basest of primitive brainstem urges doesn't propel everybody to bloodlust and power over others. But I suppose that's asking too much. What would you do with the video game controllers and fire buttons?

Richard Ferrone is an ideal narrator for THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR by Raymond Khoury, about a lost Central American drug capable of inducing a very unique experience, with FBI agent Sean Reilly and his archaeologist girlfriend Tess Chaykin facing brutal drug kingpins to uncover the truth and protect their son. Ferrone excels at crime thrillers, and his deep voice here leads intriguingly down jungle paths in a formula suspense reminiscent of Clive Cussler, beginning back in 1700s Mexico and moving to the present day to establish character relationships.

Finally, Janet Evanovich's latest novel is EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN, but somehow it just doesn't have the magic of her earlier novels, particularly the first, ONE FOR THE MONEY, which has recently been made into a Tri-Star film starring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum, and showing how she became a bond hunter after losing her job as a lingerie buyer. Vinnie, Morelli, and all the offbeat characters are spot-on in the book (and now the movie), so delightfully real and outrageous that Evanovich had women lining up by the thousand for years in book signings. Hundreds still do, but, alas, more than just one book a year since 2002 tends to overwork a character, and jade readers. If only she was up to seven now instead of eighteen, we would not now be witnessing the end of Stephanie Plum in the hearts of readers. Although the film will certainly revive interest in those unfamiliar. Just don't expect the movie sequels to reach eighteen. Costly movies are far more relentlessly focused on box office than books. My own interview with Evanovich is at Tower Review, where you'll discover which narrator Janet prefers to read her books on audio.

2012 Past Columns