AUDIOBOOK REVIEWS

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress
Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1
by Walter Mosley
narrated by Michael Boatman
Ⓟ 2009, Audible. Inc.
5.60 hours




Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins, a black WWII vet who has relocated from Houston to L.A., finds himself without a job; but with a mortgage to pay. Enter DeWitt Albright, a white man of suspect ethics who offers Easy a paying job: to locate Daphne Monet, a white woman who is known to frequent black jazz clubs; but who has disappeared with $30,000 in cash. The story is embroidered with black history, post war US history and, issues regarding race and prejudice. The writing is descriptive and nearly pedantic; but overall the plot is solid if without any real surprises.

Michael Boatman, noted TV actor (Pvt. Samuel Becket in "China Beach" and Carter Haywood on "Spin City" to name but two memorable roles) is the narrator of Devil in a Blue Dress. He does a good job of drawing up distinctive voices for the differing characters, both male and female and, using parenthetical interpretation to denote interior thought (versus spoken lines.) Overall, however, the narration lacks liveliness and shape. The narrator's evenness in tone and pace regardless of the scene renders the whole of the story neutered of tension or excitement.

Meh.



Easy Rawlins was caught between a rock and a hard place (no job, a mortgage to pay and a job offer from a shady character.) Even given assurances that every thing was on the up and up relatively speaking, he had his suspicions about DeWitt Albright's motivations; but took the job anyway. I could sympathize to a certain, albeit nominal degree: In the late eighties, the country was in a recession and work was hard to come by and getting harder. I had bills to pay and ended up being a telemarketer. While I worked for a legitimate company and there was nothing illegal in what I doing, it never sat well with me. It was just too... skeevy.
Have you ever done something "not quite right" just to pay the bills?



Other Stuff: Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) qualifies for:



I purchased a digital dnload copy of Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
narrated by Wil Wheaton
15.75 hours









Wade Owen Watts is a teenaged gamer escaping the reality of life in the stacks (RVs and trailers stacked one atop the other in towers) in Oklahoma City. The year is 2044 and it's the third decade of The Great Recession in America. Infrastructure has deteriorated and people look to the cost-efficient technology of virtual reality for entertainment and education. In fact, the "massively multi-player online virtual reality reality game" of OASIS has become for many, the preferred existence: a place where you can create a better version of yourself and live a more interesting life.

"Parzival" is Wade Watts' avatar in OASIS and Parzival is playing a contest within the realms of OASIS, a game within the game wherein the objective is to locate three keys that will ultimately lead to an Easter egg. The winner of this contest will inherit Jame Halliday's (co-creator of OASIS) fortune and interest in G.S.S. (Gregarious Simulation Systems) - the company that has top administrative control of OASIS. The power and revenue of this fortune and interest are immense and so the competition for each of the keys and the Easter Egg is stiff. Wade/Parzival must battle IOI, a mega-corp with deep resources, both in OASIS and IRL for the Easter Egg.

Ready Player One is the ultimate story about quest gaming and what makes it more fun is that OASIS is an homage to the 1980s - a time when computer generated gaming starting elbowing out the pinball machines in arcades. There are references to the arcade games themselves (in fact Parzival plays them - in effect becoming an uber meta-gamer in that he's playing a game within a game within a game that has IRL consequences) as well a number of other cultural references from the eighties. If you're not a gamer or not familiar with the references, you might feel like you're missing something; but most of it is sufficiently explained to ameliorate any bewilderment; but if you are familiar with gaming and/or remember the eighties, Ready Player One flows without seeming didactic.

Wil Wheaton, the eighties icon known as the actor who played Wesley Crusher in the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the narrator for Ready Player One; and he was the perfect choice. He sounds like a young adult and handles the all the time-cultural references easily and naturally. In another very cool meta experience, Wil Wheaton's name occurs within the story :-)

Ready Player One is a fun, clever story and the audio is an equally fun and clever production in its choice of narrator.


An image I created that mentions some of the eighties references in Ready Player One
The font is "Press Start 2P"

Are you old enough to remember the '80s?
Were you a gamer? What games did you play?

I was a teen during the eighties and I played some arcade and console games. At the arcades, I played Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man (table top), Asteroids, Galaga, Centipede and Millipede. At home I had a Fairchild Channel F console which played cartridges. I distinctly remember a tank game, Desert Fox! My sister got an Atari 2600 and we played Pac Man, Asteroids and Missile Command. I remember my-then BFF, "A" (of Amityville Horror fame) had Pong! Do you remember the gaming wars? Atari vs Intellivision!


Other Stuff:

I purchased a digital dnload copy of this book through weread4you.com. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited toauthors, narrators, publishers, vendors, hosts of challenges and/or challenges.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dispatches

Dispatches
by Michael Herr
narrated by Ray Porter
8.50 hours







"Saigon, the center, where every action in the bushes hundreds of miles away fed back into town on a karmic wire strung so tight that if you touched it in the early morning it would sing all day and all night."

Dispatches is Michael Herr's first-person account of his experience as a freelance journalist - embedded with various USMC units in Vietnam, 1967-68. It is, admittedly, an extremely difficult novel to get traction on as the opening passages seem wildly discursive. The trick is to let go of trying to parse out sentences or even whole paragraphs, and just roll with it as whole as the picture comes into focus. In many ways, Dispatches is like an Impressionist painting: best appreciated with some distance from the object rather than with intentness upon its component parts. What emerges from the writing is the inanity of The Vietnam War for all the high ideals propounded by Mission commanders. In many ways, the insensibility of the War is reflected in Herr's rambling, at times near stream-of-consciousness, prose. The images coalesce into the run-up, action of, and the end of the three-and-a-half month Battle of Khe Sanh.

As the North Vietnam Army (PAVN) feinted and eventually engaged at Khe Sanh, the Marine base there was besieged. The US committed all resources to operations at Khe Sanh, President Johnson mandating that the base be kept at all costs. Ultimately, the base was destroyed, the Marines pulled back and, the US claimed victory on the premise of casualty figures and the fact that PAVN forces withdrew suddenly afterward. PAVN forces also claimed victory, as after all, they destroyed the base and forced the Marines to evacuate. Dispataches questions the significance of the dual claims of victory and the sudden withdrawal of the North Vietnamese Army, especially in context of the Tet Offensive.

Herr's portrayals of the men who fought and reported in the war are the smaller brushstrokes that make up the bigger picture of that time and place. Herr talks and travels with Marines and other reporters, perhaps none more poignant and intriguing than that of his colleagues, Sean Flynn , Dana Stone and Tim Page. Flynn, Stone and Page were photojournalists who cut careless, romantic figures. They were each extremely intelligent, talented men whose ambitions and impulses exacted dear prices. Their legacies and fates are equally breathtaking.

Ray Porter is the American narrator who reads Dispatches. The book is either the result of giving a typewriter to an inebriated soul and/or; drugs and alcohol to a journalist. Either way, managing the text and propelling it forward had to have been a challenge. Ray Porter met the challenge, framing the material in a natural voice without caving into a hyperbolic interpretation of extreme and intense situations. There may be a mispronunciation or two ("artillery" is pronounced as "artillerary" in one instance); but over all the delivery is on point.



See Also:
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
The Things They Carried (by Tim O'Brien; narrated by Tom Stetschulte)
The Lotus Eaters (by Tatjana Soli; narrated by Kirsten Potter)


Other Stuff: Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter) qualifies for:



I borrowed a library CD copy of Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I had no involvement in the production of Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Mark of Zorro

The Mark of Zorro
based on the novel by Johnston McCulley
dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky
studio performance by a full cast starring Val Kilmer
and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor
3.1 hours





Zorro, a masked figure whose mission it is is to vindicate the poor and oppressed, cuts a romantic figure against the landscape of Spanish California, circa 1806.* The governor, Luis Quintero and a local garrison commander, Captain Ramon, are corrupt martinets who disenfranchise the wealthiest and most respected families and cheat and abuse the poor - all in order to consolidate their political influence, shore up their family bloodlines and enrich themselves. Zorro tracks these villains down to redress social injustice. Exactly who Zorro is and why he must go about his missions disguised is not explained in the story; but the listener is treated to a swashbuckling tale on the order of Robin Hood
:-)


Armin Shimerman (who is perhaps best known for his television work as Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) opens the narrative from a bartender's point of view. With a story like Zorro, an iconic adventure tale that has not been innocent of advancing certain Mexican stereotypes, there is the danger of rendering the story from a cartoonish and politically incorrect voice; but Armin Shimmerman tiptoes to the edge of this caricature without giving offense and sets the tone for a fun tale of adventure and romance.

Val Kilmer (memorable for his roles as Batman in the movie, Batman Returns and Doc Holliday in the movie, Tombstone) performs the roles of two characters: the fopish Don Diego and, of course the daring Zorro himself. Val Kilmer never pulls any punches: Always delivering his lines with the verve, slyness, humor or meekness as his roles demand. His performance (and his innate sexiness and talent) make it easy to see him, in the mind's eye, as Zorro!

The supporting cast, which includes a voice familiar to many audio book aficionados - Stefan Rudnicki as the friar, all step up and complete the picture that this audio drama draws. The Mark of Zorro is slickly produced: At times it feels like the live soundtrack to a movie! The sound effects are artfully edited in and the musical scoring for the most part works (There was one scene in which Classical music plays under Lolita's lines that didn't add anything, seemed out of place and was distracting.) This was a studio production and the producers had the luxury of providing all the audio cues to prompt the listener into this world. The Mark of Zorro is an enormous amount of fun! It doesn't succumb to cheesiness, there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments and, is family friendly :-)


*Being unfamiliar with Californian history and, as the story does not provide a specific time frame, I referenced The Legacy of the Fox: A Chronology of Zorro by Matthew Baugh with updates by Win Eckert, a fan-created web-site.


See Also:


Other Stuff: The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD copy of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. The copy I received has a corrected cover from the web image above (Johnston McCulley's last name is misspelled on the cover art image featured on web-sites.) I had no involvement in the production of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Julius Caesar


Julius Caesar
by William Shakespeare
live stage performance by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson
Ⓟ 1964, 1996, Caedmon, An imprint of Harper Audio
2.50 hours







Cassius and Brutus and a handful of other Roman senators close to Julius Caesar perceive that Julius Caesar's ambitions are a threat to the Republican ideals - as remembered from the Golden Era of Pompey's reign. Cassius is the key dissenter, recruiting the others into a conspiracy to depose Caesar via assassination and install the naive and idealistic Brutus as the new Caesar. The time is the year 44 B.C.; but the interplay of politics are still relevant today.

Political Assassination: Cause and Effect

The point is made that Julius Caesar was killed not for what he had done; but for what he might have done and yet, clearly the Roman Republic represented in the persons of Cassius and Brutus felt compelled to move against Julius Caesar personally, and at this time. What was the flash point?Julius Caesar had already crossed the Rubicon, defeated the Republican forces under Pompey, and consolidated his position by marginalizing Republican politicians (and thereby repudiating Republican ideals.) Was it the Lupercalian festival conflated with Caesar's triumphal procession the "final straw;" to see the public fickleness or sheep-like willingness to go along with the prevailing authority despite their disenfranchisement? But this does not address Caesar's ambitions, which were ostensibly part of the faulty logic used to justify the assassination. Did Shakespeare, in moving the time of the declaration of Caesar as "dictator perpetuo," seek to plant this intention as the act of Caesar's ambition, vanity and arrogance to which the audience would react? Historically, the trigger was when Caesar failed to rise to meet a senatorial delegation that had come to inform him of new honors that had been bestowed upon him (he was already "dictator perpetuo.") Interestingly, Shakespeare has removed this much clearer example of Julius Caesar's exaggerated sense of self and opted for the much subtler exemplification of supposed intent.

If it is true that Shakespeare wrote this play so that Elizabethan audiences could draw parallels between their own situation (For Elizabethan audiences, the English Settlement was a bone of contention as the Emancipation Proclamation was for 19th century Confederates and, the Patriot Act for many 21st century Americans. These are issue of civil liberties and rallying points for action) and that of the Roman Republic, he fails to make clear that critical "thing" upon which the play's action is impelled. In justifying the murder of Julius Caesar upon "what might be," the assassination becomes an act of envy and cowardice (Cassius) as well as naivete (Brutus.) The assassination is not a proactive move to defend democratic principles, but the last ditch effort of the fearful and desperate to gain traction with the public. It becomes more personal and less political. The assassination becomes, not the wrong thing done for the right reasons; but the wrong thing done for the wrong reasons.


Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) was performed in the theater's heyday of the 1960's. Theater had embraced the Stanislavski "method" of performance which brought a better sense of realism and believable emotions to the stage (as opposed to the more formal declamatory style favored in the 19th century.) This performance is a preserved example of this acting style; but the listener should be prepared for a lot of emoting which may seem over the top to 21st century ears. Certain lines are delivered with a very low intensity which recommends a more intimate listening environment than a car allows [I ended up listening on headphones.] For those not closely familiar with Shakespeare's works, the plays in audio format can be difficult to follow without visual cues such as the stage or even the text on hand and, this audio is no exception.


Other Stuff:
Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) qualifies for:



I salvaged a CD edition of Julius Caesar (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast starring Ralph Richardson) from a load of stuff designated as refuse from the Blackstone Audio warehouse. The paragraphs on "Political Assassinations: Cause and Effect" was originally created and posted by me to a Barnes & Noble forum/board on Shakespeare/The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Despite having seen "Julius Caesar" many times when I worked for a Shakespearean theater and, having read the play again a couple of years ago for the aforementioned B&N board, I had difficulty tracking the play from a strictly audio approach. I dnloaded a World Library, Inc. copy of the play from gutenberg.org and read along with the audio. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Ghosts of Belfast

The Ghosts of Belfast
The Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1
by Stuart Neville
narrated by Gerard Doyle
Ⓟ 2009, Audible, Inc.
11.00 hours





Gerry Fegan is a man haunted by ghosts. As a foot soldier in the strife between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Gerry was a hit man for Northern Ireland's interests, or more accurately, for the men who sought to exploit The Troubles for their own personal gains. Now, decades after the tensions have nominally ceased and the Good Friday Accords have set Ireland on the path toward a more peaceable future, the ghosts of twelve of Gerry's victims have come back. Gerry himself has spent time in prison for his crimes and only wants to be left alone in peace; but the ghosts won't let him be. "Everybody pays," so says the mother of one of Gerry's victims. This becomes the theme of the vendetta tale as Gerry seeks to expunge the curse: The ghosts will leave, but only after Gerry kills the men ultimately responsible for the each of the ghost's respective deaths.

Stuart Doyle creates an immediately sympathetic character in Gerry Fagen. At once both the cold and crazy killer and, a man who seeks the peace of a good night's sleep, Gerry must put past matters to rest before he can face an uncertain future. Remaking himself, becoming the better man, is a process that requires some dirty work before absolution and progress can be made. In this, Gerry Fagen becomes a metaphor for Stormont (the Northern Ireland Parliament) in that Stormont, even as they eagerly race forward toward the economic promises of the future, seeks to shed it violent past; but must deal with political "necessities." The Ghosts of Belfast is about Gerry and Stormont: their pasts, their presents and their hopeful futures.

The Ghosts of Belfast is Irish Noir with all the implied tragedy, grittiness and heart. This is the story of hard men doing hard things in hard times and none of it is pretty; and all of it is believably portrayed. The writing is suspenseful and even breathtaking in parts, perhaps not so much in the language used but in the emotions evoked.

The Ghosts of Belfast is graphic in its violence; but never gratuitous given the nature of the story. There is a dogfighting scene that may seem superfluous and a bit too intense for some; but it works, especially if one views it as another metaphor for Gerry and Northern Ireland.

Gerard Doyle is the voice of Irish Noir and exceptionally good in The Ghosts of Belfast. Some lines are delivered in chilling softness and others in aggressive clarity that all deliver the moment at hand with the tension, tenderness and/or suffering as the story's scenes dictate. The narrator conveys the mood and the characters with astuteness and skill, and there is no sense anywhere throughout the novel that Gerard Doyle misinterpreted the intent of the story or a line of dialogue. All characters are given enough of a distinction so that there no doubt as to who might be speaking in any given dialogue; and the females are all respectfully represented - without any penchant to delivering their voices in a falsetto. If there's any quibble at all, it has nothing to do with the narrator's performance per se - only that there was what sounded like a bit of booth noise a couple of times; but it was very subtle and most listeners will not notice it.


Other Stuff: The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) qualifies for:



I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Ghosts of Belfast (Jack Lennon Novels, Book #1; by Stuart Neville; narrated by Gerard Doyle) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 9

Well, this is it! My work is not yet done; but what is left is the off camera sorting of bins. For the next 6-8 weeks, I will continue to further sort and disposition the remains of the Great 48 and; then move on to sort bins that are in a storage locker. One of the interesting things about this process has been how it carries over into other parts of the house, car and office. I find myself taking care of the little things now before they snowball or create avalanches!

Today's post is about some of the little things that have helped in the process of de-cluttering and organizing my spaces. The first one has to do with "going"paperless" or at the very least limiting the paper that that circulates in my environment. We've already talked about Paper Demons; but this is about saving documents that you don't necessarily have room for. I decided against desk drawers and file cabinets in my home office for the simple reason I tend to use them to hide things. Out of sight, out of mind! Also, there really isn't room to archive everything I want to keep; so I've been scanning certain documents, storing them on a thumb drive and on a cloud. The most important papers go on a Swiss Army flash drive so that in case of an emergency, it's all there in the kit.

One of the things I picked up at IKEA a couple of weeks ago was a Bärbar tray (pictured below, top left.) I placed it atop my non-fiction shelves and, use it to empty out my pockets (see below, top right.) This prevents stuff from going into the wash that should not... say like an iPhone (Did you know that an Otterbox will protect your iPhone from many things but it won't save your iPhone from drowning in the wash and rinse cycles of a Maytag?) Anyway, the tray has proven to be very handy in keeping track of things. I know where my keys, wallet and iPod are all the time now :-)

In the top right photo, you'll see a couple of other things that have been helpful in keeping my stuff together:
  • The tin in the top left corner of the photo contains a lot of old marbles. It's pretty heavy and I use it as a book end for the row of audiobooks that sits across the top of my NF shelves;
  • There are two watches (top left of the tray) one yellow and one black. One is set to standard time and the other to daylight savings time. Each cost less than $3.00 at Rite Aid. No more fussing with re-setting my watches or wondering if my time is correct! Even though I carry an iPhone which carries the correct time always, I've been in a situation or two where my iPhone was unavailable (see drowned iPhone incident above) and having a watch was very handy.
  • The wallet (bottom right of the tray) was a gift from a friend who was sick and tired of me using a raggedy pink thing from Target. Unfortunately, as much as I love black, the wallet was always difficult to find when it slipped under the car seat or come other equally dark and mysterious place. So I got a little leopard print duct tape and slapped some on the wallet. Now the wallet has greater visibility and can no longer lurk in the shadows undetected.





  • At my workstation I have a few items that need to recharge overnight. In the mornings, when I would pull whatever fully charged item(s) I needed, the cables had a propensity to slide behind my desk. There is a bulletin board over my desk, so I jury-rigged some hooks from tacks and they seem to be doing the trick! (see above, bottom left photo)
  • As for all the writing implements and scissors and bookmarks and chopsticks that I own, I placed many of them in pen holders which were formerly cake frosting containers. The highlighters went into a wire penholder that actually couldn't hold anything else as everything else kept slipping through the openings :-/ Anyway, the four pen holders then got put on a 12" lazy susan which in turn got placed in one of the cubbies at my work station. The whole things saves space and keeps all that stuff convenient and organized!
Well, that's it folks! We've gone from a dark and dangerous place to a viable work space in two months! The things I've learned to do in the past few weeks have been helpful in other areas of my life and even though there won't be too much happening that's blog-worthy, the process continues off camera. In a couple of weeks I'll be returning to an IKEA to pick up an office chair; but if I happen across anything else helpful, I'll be sure to update!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Armchair Audies: The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition


A couple of weeks ago, the APA announced the finalists for its 2012 Audie Awards Competition. Out of the 28 categories and 140 titles, I have listened to exactly... two. And neither of them was for the company that I work for. To make matters worse, my DH was also nominated for an Audie for another company, and I haven't listened to that one either. So, in order to make some amends for being a #bademployee and a #badwife and also because @lithousewife has set up a fun and informal Armchair Audies Challenge, I have decided to listen to as many of the Blackstone- and Grover Gardner-nominated audios as possible before the actual awards (which are in NYC on June 5, 2012.) I will not be able to attend this year's events; but I'm still going to dress up and hopefully Skype in to someone, somewhere and at sometime during the festivities :-)


These are the two Audie-nominated audiobooks that I have listened to:
BUSINESS/EDUCATIONAL
HUMOR

These are all the audios I am going to attempt to listen to before 06/05/2012:
AUDIO DRAMA
The Mark of Zorro (based on the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)





We're Alive: Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - I will most likely post the review for this in May (Zombie Month)





BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
My Dog Tulip (by J.R. Ackerley; narrated by Ralph Cosham; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)






FANTASY
Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Bronson!






MYSTERY
One Dog Night (by David Rosenfelt; narrated by Grover Gardner; Listen & Live Audio) - This could be tricky because I haven't listened to the two titles in the series that precede this one and, I'm the kind of person who listens to series titles in order; but I'm going to try and get all three in :-)



NON-FICTION

The 4 Percent Universe (by Richard Panek; narrated by Ray Porter; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)






My Korean Deli (by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Bronson again!






ORIGINAL WORK
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Vol. 3 (by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane; performed by a full cast starring Stacey Keach; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Hmmm, I didn't really like the first volume; but the second volume got an Earphones Award and now this. Maybe I need to re-visit.



PACKAGE DESIGN
One Grave at a Time (by Jeanine Frost; narrated by Tavia Gilbert; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Actually, I won't be listening to this one! Since it's about cover art, I probably post something related to graphics :-)




THRILLER/SUSPENSE
The Bone House (by Brian Freeman; narrated by Joe Barrett; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Oh good, this is non-series title (so no backlist listening required)





Out of My Head (by Didier van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - More Bronson!






Silent Screams (by Karen Rose; narrated by Marguerite Gavin; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) - Karen Rose's canon of works have recurring characters; but stopyourekillingme.com avoided using the word "series" to describe her work. This may be like Carl Hiassen's world where order doesn't matter. At least I hope not :-/



I will be posting honest reviews of what I listen to. And maybe risk getting fired and/or divorced in the process; but at least no one will be able to accuse me of playing false or being a tool :-)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hater



Hater
The Hater Trilogy, Book #1
by David Moody
narrated by Gerard Doyle



Hater is the first in the Hater Trilogy and originally an online novel that the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro sponsored into print (and purchased the film rights to.) It's a horror novel about outbreaks of unprovoked violence that have reached pandemic levels. The aggressors have been labeled as "Haters" by the media and the government has warned all unaffected people to bunker down. Danny McCoyne, frustrated worker at a Parking Fine Processing office, henpecked husband, and exasperated father, bears witness to the early stages of the outbreak; and when it becomes clear that the social fabric of his town has been rent, he secures his family in their home. The sections where Danny is locked in, cut off from media interpretation of events and not knowing what is going on, are reminiscent of I am Legend (by Richard Matheson) in that we see the protagonist undergo the psychological change of the besieged; but the main interest and appeal of the story lies within the chapters in which there is a fundamental change in perspective. This is where moral certainty disappears and the reader/listener wonders who the true villains of the piece are. Unfortunately, the ending of the novel is poorly executed in terms settling up on the score of moral equivocation (Is a preemptive strike morally correct?); and unsatisfactory in terms of a denouement. The latter may be to entice readers onto the next installment in the series, Dog Blood; but by the end of Hater it is doubtful whether the listener could care as to what happens next to either Danny or anyone else.


Gerard Doyle is the Irish narrator of Hater. The setting of the story is never specified; but it can be inferred that Hater takes place somewhere in the UK and an Irish setting is as good as any for the story. GD does a great job of narrating the role of the beleaguered, whiny, spineless Danny and taking us through the changes in Danny's life as he becomes more assertive. The pacing of the narrative matches the character's development: Doyle starts off with a lazy, slow pace; but quickens as the tension and action mount.




See Also:
I am Legend (by Richard Matheson; narrated by Robertson Dean)



OTHER STUFF

Hater (by David Moody; narrated by Gerard Doyle) qualifies for:




I borrowed a library CD edition of Hater (by David Moody; narrated by Gerard Doyle) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I received no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product or mentioning any persons, companies or organizations that are or may be implied in this post. I originally picked up this book because I thought it was a zombie novel; but it turns out that zombies are only mentioned in it as a passing reference and do not exist as characters in the novel itself. And probably not outside the novel either :-D

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blood Rites


Blood Rites
The Dresden Files #6
by Jim Butcher
narrated by James Marsters
Ⓟ 2010, Penguin Audio
13.10 hours









This is an odd and disappointing book in The Dresden Files series. The writing, copy-editing and narration are poor, non-existent and "off" respectively. One of the things that Jim Butcher has done very well in the forerunners to Blood Rites is create interesting characters, i.e. Harry Dresden, the only practicing wizard in the Chicago phone book, is full of pathos and moral equivocation and; Murphy is the steadfast, if repressed, police officer in charge of the special crimes unit. In a series, it is understandable that authors wish to avoid having their characters become static or flat. Seeing a character evolve over the course of time is a great reward for series readers; but having the characters change into completely different people is something else again. The core of a person doesn't really change. This is why after years of not talking with your best friend, you can meet-up and take up as if no time had elapsed at all. It's a special chemistry or synergy that is very much like the relationship with the reader to his or her favorite characters in a series. So when Murphy goes from being a dependable, pragmatic friend to a buxom sex symbol with emotional uncertainties, she has become unrecognizable. Harry too, in Blood Rites, has regressed to an adolescent version of himself. Instead of reaping the benefits of his experience and exhibiting some emotional stability, he has been imbued with some seriously lame cliches. Actually the whole of the book's world is nothing but cliches whether it be dialogue, characters, action sequences or settings.

What is this world? It is an industrial park outside of Chicago where porn films are made. Harry Dresden is hired by a film director to investigate why the film's starlets are being killed off by "The Evil Eye." Harry takes on the assignment at the behest of Thomas, a White Court Vampire. Why would Harry do something for a vampire? Ostensibly because Thomas has been a friend to Harry in the past; but of course there's more to it than that and; the relationship between Harry and Thomas becomes defined if not fully realized in this book.

James Marsters continues in his narration of this series; but all the characters seem slightly less than their normal selves. Bob, the ancient Anglo/British spirit that resides in a skull in Harry's lab sounds less British than in books #1-4 and; Harry & Murphy sound like there's a forced naturalness to their voices. The characters are given expression in a conversational range; but there is no subtlety and the dialogue comes off as oddly superficial, like they are all acting onstage in a community theater :-/ Blood Rites was recorded out of sequence of The Dresden Files (recorded at approximately the same time as Changes (#10) and Dead Beat (#7 ) and the listener may wonder if Marsters has telegraphed some of what he learned from future books back into Blood Rites.

In every series, there is the one book where the writer has run amok. Things are never quite the same after that and for those who not of the most optimistic and ardent fans of The Dresden Files, Summer Knight (#4) is a good place to leave on good terms with the series. Death Masks (#5) starts to show the cracks and is passable; but the massive continuity errors (too numerous to list), cliche infested passages, and the strange narration makes Blood Rites almost unbearable.

For the hardcore Dresden Files fans though, Blood Rites is a necessary evil: The relationship between Harry and Thomas will become integral in future titles; and Butcher brings into the series another strong female antagonist. Plus, there's a dog :-)


See Also:
Flashback Friday: Storm Front - Discussion Questions and Answers about the first title in The Dresden Files series
Death Masks - Audiobook review about the fifth title in The Dresden Files series


Other Stuff: Blood Rites (The Dresden Files #6; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) qualifies for:



I purchased Blood Rites (The Dresden Files #6; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) from weread4you.com. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 8

Ah, The Great 48 - the forty-eight cubic feet of stuff that occupied the center of my home office/library has officially been virtually eliminated. I won't say that it has been vanquished yet; but the morass of papers-and-things has been sorted down into six small bins. My idea is to tackle each of these bins in the coming weeks (off camera) and make them disappear altogether. The solution to some of the paperwork will be to scan and store the documents; while in the case of some children's books and toys that I want to keep around will find a home on a birch bench that I plan on acquiring for the space beneath my window; and still yet still more stuff will be "let go." We talked a little bit about letting go last week, in that in many cases pragmatism must win out over sentimentality when clearly hanging on to stuff works against us. When stuff is taking up space and not doing us any good, it's time to let it go. This week I want to talk about another kind of letting go: This is about Projects. Maybe it's the Scout training we got when we were kids; or maybe it's watching too much of The Home Improvement Network; but you know how it goes. We see a Project and we think: I can do that! I should do that! I want to do that! In the excitement, we get the stuff together to start the Project and then... something happens. Or more accurately, nothing happens. For whatever reason the project stalls and the stuff lies around gathering dust, getting lost, getting damaged, and taking up space. For me, the projects ranged from making bottle cap fishing lures, to creating gift baskets for my niece, to making an iPod recharger from an Altoids tin. It's time to let go of all that. While it is true that I can or should do certain projects, the fact remains that I simply do not have the time. I work full time and have a family and dogs. When I do have spare time, what I like to do is read. Albeit, in the past few weeks I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to read, owing to this project; but the fact remains that once my time is freed up, I am going to be somewhat less inclined to about gilding mirror frames than I am going to want to catch up on my reading. And so, the Projects go: The bottle caps and Altoids tins get thrown away, the baskets get donated to a charity, the used clothing fabric I was saving for quilting project will become rags, be donated or thrown away. I need to stop thinking that "one day" I'll get around to it. I need to Let Go :-)

The Great 48: Ten weeks ago


The Great 48, much diminished and up against a wall:
Four weeks ago (left ) & Three weeks ago (right)


The wall space this morning (left) and;
The remnants of The Great 48: Six bins full of sorted materials (right)

Last week, I mentioned talking about "Going Paperless;" but I think I'll talk about it a bit next week when I talk about some other "Details." And you know what? That's it! Next week will be the last post in this series! Originally I had planned on this running 13 weeks; but things have moved along much faster than I had anticipated and; the stuff I'll be doing off camera will be a constant ongoing thing: Sorting and dispositioning items. Boring but necessary and extremely satisfying!