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Audio Book Review
Books to read with your eyes on the road

“Violets are Blue.” No kidding. But did you know that James Patterson’s new suspense thriller is the seventh in the Alex Cross series, coming after “Roses Are Red”? Patterson told me in an interview his titles don’t really fit the plots of his books. Meaning, I suppose, titles are meaningless. Although John Grisham’s new book “Skipping Christmas” should have been skipped this Christmas. But I digress. “Violets are Blue” is true to form, and is intuitively read by Daniel Whitner and Kevin O’Rourke. The thriller will have Patterson fans, well, thrilled with this story in which brutal murders on the East Coast and in California suggest they are being committed by modern-day vampires. Patterson’s trademark short sentences and short chapters — more than 100 of them — create tension within the simple framework of his storytelling. And a bonus for fans — they’ll finally discover the identity of the mastermind of previous books. (Time Warner Audiobooks/ISBN 1-58621-198-6)

Quincy Jones, the maestro of pop music, has now joined the celebrity biography mill with an autobiography titled “Q.” Jones talks about his longtime relationship with Michael Jackson — and the development of jazz, be-bop, and rap — while over a dozen friends and family are tapped for guest comments singing his praises. It is an interesting insight into the transformation of music and musicians, and our obsession with celebrity. (Simon & Schuster Audio/ISBN 0-7435-0037-7)

Willa Cather once turned down $750 for a story, saying it was too much. Of course this was in 1911 when money was worth more than it is today. Cather is the author of one of my favorite stories of all time, “Paul’s Case,” and her classic first novel “O Pioneers!” is now on CD. This masterpiece about settlers on the harsh Nebraska plain is both poetic and moving. Cather’s characters do not spout trendy one-liners. They are real and alive, not pretending or posing. Stephanie Brush does an excellent job with the narration of this examination. “O Pioneers!” is available at many truckstops or by visiting (Books in Motion/ISBN 1-58116-146-8)

Ken Follett is nothing if not realistic and entertaining. A true storyteller, equally believable in both back and front plot lines, Follett also breathes life into all the characters who inhabit his creations. Once again he has returned to the historical era and locale where he feels most at home with “Jackdaws,” about an all-female team of French resistance infiltrators trying to sabotage the German’s telephone exchange during World War II. Peril mounts as plans are thwarted by the enemy as D-Day approaches. British actress Kate Reading gives a sensitive and engaging narration, although Barbara Rosenblat is even more dramatic with the help of Colin Stinton on the abridged version. (Penguin Audiobooks/ISBN 0-14-280003-1)

Another unusual war-related title is “Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare” by Mark McNeilly. What makes this interesting is Sun Tzu’s text, “The Art of War,” was written 2,000 years ago, and McNeilly shows how the six principles outlined have been used throughout history — from medieval times to the Civil War to Norman Schwartzkopf’s battles in the Gulf War. The first principle? If possible, win without fighting. One of my favorite narrators, the very listenable Grover Gardner, reads. (Books on Tape/ISBN 0-7366-8085-3)

Finally, when Dennis Miller isn’t hosting talk shows or doing color commentary on Monday Night Football, he’s writing books, and narrating them for audio. His latest, “The Rant Zone,” includes some of the material used in his HBO show, and covers just about everything the comedian has a beef about, including making hamburger out of many of society’s sacred cows. Is Dennis in the end zone this time out, having scored a touchdown? Or is he just ranting from his skybox? Maybe both. After all, no one’s habits or opinions are ever changed by ranting about things. Laughing sure beats crying, though! (Harper Audio/ISBN 0694526525)

To find audio books, visit Reviewer Jonathan Lowe is author of three award-winning suspense novels on audio: POSTAL (ISBN 1-57511-046-6), CARIBBEAN COUP (ISBN 1-55686-926-6) and DARK FIRE (ISBN 1-58116-173-5).