Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where are You Reading? Challenge Wrap Up

The Where are You Reading? Challenge was hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The idea was to read a book set in each of the fifty states. I didn't make it; but I gave it an ernest effort and I had a lot of fun playing with the google map! I read/listened to 69 titles across 30 states and the District of Columbia and, posted 27 reviews:
  • AL: The Most They Ever Had (written and narrated by Rick Bragg)
  • AK: Caribou Island (by David Vann; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
  • AR: Shakespeare's Landlord (by Charlaine Harris; narrated by Julia Gibson)
  • AZ: 3:10 to Yuma (by Elmore Leonard; narrated by Henry Rollins)
  • CA: When the Killing's Done (by T.C. Boyle; narrated by Anthony Heald)
  • CA: The Haunting of Hill House (by Shirley Jackson; narrated by Bernadete Dunne)
  • CA : Psycho (by Robert Bloch; narrated by Paul Michael Garcia)
  • CA: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume #1: The Long Way Home (by Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty)
  • CO: Columbine (by Dave Cullen; narrated by Don Leslie)
  • CT: Deep Down True (by Juliette Fay; narrated by Robynn Rodriguez)
  • CT: Dead Man's Switch (by Tammy Kaehler; narrated by Nicole Vilencia)
  • CT: Unexpectedly, Milo (by Matthew Dicks)
  • CT: Happy Ever After (by Nora Roberts)
  • CT: Hellboy: Volume #2: Wake the Devil (by Mike Mignola)
  • CT: Hellboy: Volume #3: The Chained Coffing and Other Stories (by Mike Mignola)
  • DC: A Simple Act of Violence (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Kevin Kenerly)
  • DE: West of Rehobeth (by Alex D. Pate; narrated by Dion Graham)
  • FL: Nature Girl (by Carl Hiaasen; narrated by Lee Adams)
  • FL: The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady (by Elizabeth Stuckey French)
  • FL: The Shawl (by Cynthia Ozick)
  • GA: A Quiet Belief in Angels (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Mark Bramhall)
  • GA: The Walking Dead: Volume #2: Miles Behind Us (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • GA: The Walking Dead: Volume #3: Safety Behind Bars (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • HI: Unfamiliar Fishes (writtten and narrated by Sarah Vowell)
  • IL: The Last Striptease (by Michael Wiley; narrated by Johnny Heller)
  • IL: Death Masks (by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
  • IL: Blood Rites (by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
  • KY: The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • MA: A Drink Before the War (by Dennis Lehane; narrated by Jonathan Davis)
  • MA: Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (by Steven Tyler with David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson)
  • MA: The Vices (by Lawrence Douglas)
  • MA: House Arrest (by Ellen Meeropol)
  • MA: The Handmaid's Tale (by Margaret Atwood)
  • MD: Countdown (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MD: Patient Zero (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MD: Zero Tolerance (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MI: Big Girl, Small (by Rachel DeWoskin; narrated by Christine Williams)
  • ME: Carrie (by Stephen King; narrated by Sissy Spacek)
  • ME: Maine (by J. Courtney Sullivan)
  • ME: Hell House (by Richard Matheson; adapted by Ian Edgington; illustrated by Thomas Fraser)
  • ME: The Taker (by Alma Taksu)
  • MN: The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (by Joanne Fluke; narrated by Suzanne Toren)
  • MN: Shiver (by Maggie Stiefvater; narrated by Jenna Lamia and David LeDoux)
  • MO: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (by Mark Twain)
  • MO: The Adventures of HUckleberry Finn (by Mark Twain)
  • MO: Finn (by Jon Clinch)
  • MS: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (by Tom Franklin; narrated by Kevin Kenerly)
  • NJ: Hotel for Dogs (by Lois Duncan; narrated by Katy Kellgren)
  • NJ: The Plot Against America (by Philip Roth)
  • NY: Rip Van Winkle (by Washington Irving; narrated by Christian Rummel)
  • NY: The Ghost of Greenwich Village (by Lorna Graham; narrated by Nicole Vilencia)
  • NY: Live and Let Die (by Ian Flaming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • NY: Diamonds are Forever (by Ian Flaming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • NY: A Visit from the Goon Squad (by Jennifer Egan)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #3: Storybook Love (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #5: The Mean Seasons (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #6: Homelands (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: We the Animals (by Justin Torres)
  • NY: By Nightfall (by Michael Cunningham)
  • OK: True Grit (by Charles Portis; narrated by Donna Tartt)
  • OK: Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline; narrated by Wil Wheaton)
  • PA: Lily's Wedding Quilt (by Kelly Long; narrated by Christine Williams)
  • TN: The Improper Life of Bezilla Grove (by Susan Gregg Gilmore)
  • UT: Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book (by Adele Park; performed by Adele Park, Susan Paige Lane, Paige Allred, Kristen Henley, Desiree Whitehead, Garry Morris, John Gobson, Steve Coppola, Christine Hyatt, Dave Cochran, Chase Nichter, Tim Porter, Doug Caputo, RickPickett and, Guy Smith)
  • VA: The Reservoir (by John Miliken Thompson)
  • VT: Double Black (by Wendy Clinch)
  • VT: Secrets of Eden (by Chris Bohjalian)
  • WA: A Spark of Death (by Bernadette Pajer; narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner)

And this is the map!

View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map

I ended up included pins for every book I read/listened-to so there are plenty of pins set in foreign countries too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Epiphanies 2011

Instead of writing a "Best of" post, I've decided to write about a couple of the ideas that came about from my reading & listening this year and, mention some of the books that helped shape these ideas.

☆ Social Injustice: I went back to reading Atiq Rahimi (Earth and Ashes; The Patience Stone and A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear) this year with the idea of exploring "Aggregating Grief" and, instead, came away with a more clear picture of social injustice. At it's most basic, social injustice is the thing that happens under human impetus that causes you to cry out "That's not fair!" There are two possible responses: 1) "That's life" or 2) "Then I need to make it fair."

Can one person solve all the social inequities? I think one person tried and literally got crucified for it; but more to the point, while one person may not be able to solve the world's problems, one person can make a difference. The idea is not to judge who may be worthy of your time, attention or money; but to act in a compassionate way to make things better. To make things fair. Maybe even just to help someone else through a couple hours that they might not otherwise be able to.

See Also:
  • Earth and Ashes and; The Patience Stone (by Atiq Rahimi)
  • Four Epiphanies (Aggregating Grief)
  • Social Injustice (Atiq Rahimi; The Medford Food Project)
  • A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens; narrated by Tim Curry)
  • The Quality of Mercy at 29k (Sports Night, TV sitcom episode, written by Bill Wrubel and Aaron Sorkin; Season 1: 1998-1999) - OK, I know it's not a book and not even something I've seen in at least 13 years; but it is a well-written, funny and relevant episode about Dan Rydell's (played by Josh Charles) choosing a charity. There's one scene in particular, wherein Isaac Jaffe (Robert Guillaume) gives money to a beggar and Dan points out that the beggar probably will spend the money on booze...)

The theme of Social Injustice will likely creep into into some of my reviews next year, though I am not choosing books with that in mind. I can see how any of Dickens' work would lend itself to the theme since Dickens deliberately chose to expose the seamier sides of Victorian London. Next year is Dickens' 200 birth anniversary, and I expect to be revisiting A Christmas Carol in both print and audio. Also, the political victimization of women would be hard to ignore for books like The Handmaid's Tale (by Margaret Atwood), and When She Woke (by Hilary Jordan; narrated by Heather Corrigan.) I don't want to be one of "those people" who always has an axe to grind, though now that I see social injustice, it's really hard to ignore.

☆ Emotional Manipulation: There have been books that have normally been taboo to me: Books that deal with the forced separation of a mother and child; the death of a child, the victimization of a child, etc. And yet, I wanted to read Ellen Meeropol's House Arrest, which is about a nurse who needs to check in on a woman who is accused of killing her daughter during a Winter Solstice rite. The potential for angst was great; but I decided that if I always "read safe" I might as well just relegate my reading to the romance titles available in my grocery store. So I read House Arrest and I was fine and I thought, I can do this, I can venture on unafraid. And then I listened to R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels (narrated by Mark Bramhall.) It's a story featuring a serial killer who targets little girls. None of the narrative takes place from the killer's point of view. Rather, the protagonist's describes what he sees and what he imagines. And I almost fainted in a grocery store parking lot.

One of the literary devices that writers employ with varying degrees of success to manipulate the reader into a specific emotional response is The Child-Killer. The Child Killer is a single-note character who cannot inhabit any morally grey or human area. The Child-Killer can do nothing but provoke rage and disgust from the reader. The Child Killer is a cheap shot, a unidimensional character who cannot evoke sympathy. I would like to say that sometimes The Child-Killer is an opportunity to explore the mindscapes of the other characters and maybe even the reader, and bring home the horror (i.e. A Quiet Belief in Angels); unfortunately the The Child-Killer now proliferates so much of our culture that it has become cliche. I prefer that my reading did not make me feel like I had been keel-hauled and left out hanging to dry, and recognizing The Child Killer for what it is, makes some of The Child-Killers less effective in intimidating me when it comes to my reading. Though I do kinda wonder about certain authors :-/

See also:

I'm hoping to include more human monsters (not necessarily Child Killers) in my reading fare next year and the idea of Nazis seems to fit the bill quite nicely. I've already worked on the epic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (by William L. Shirer; narrated by Grover Gardner) and recently read In the Garden of Beasts (by Erik Larson); and I have The Kindly Ones (by Jonathan Littell; narrated by Grover Gardner) on hand; but I'm definitely keeping my eyes peeled for the literary equivalent of Inglourious Basterds. Maybe a comic book series? Recommendations welcome :-)

☆ My Future Self: This final epiphany is not the result of my reading; but from a conversation I had with a fellow blogger. I am not happy living in a rural area; but more to the point, I'm not happy with the person I've become since moving out here (and somehow the move is connected with the person I have become...) Physically and emotionally, I'm not the person I have been in the past nor the person I want to be. But if I work towards the goals of who I want to be, I think I might be less unhappy and maybe even outright happier with who I am. One of the many goals I have towards My Future Self is to become more organized. I used to obsessively neat and organized: cleaning things that were already clean, chronologically filing all my bills, balancing my checkbook, arranging my clothes in my closets chromatically and by sleeve length... But I have become a rather indifferent housekeeper and my home office has become a safety hazard. It seems that, regardless of my efforts, entropy wins. So, in 2012, The Organization begins. I have a couple of books on hand to help: Throw Fifty Things Out (written and narrated by Gail Blanke) and The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life (by Dr. Robin Zasio; narrated by Cassandra Campbell) to start out. There will be Before and After pictures, status updates and other stuff. And you can either laugh at me, be inspired by me, or offer tips :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
narrated by Tim Curry
Ⓟ 2010,
3.5 hours

Yeah, you think you know the story; but unless you've read the actual work or listened to an unabridged recording of the Classic tale, you don't. That's right, as much as the premise of this story has permeated our Western culture, you probably only know it as the tale of Mr Scrooge being visited by three ghosts, Past, Present and, Future; and how these visits transform Scrooge from a cold, miserly curmudgeon into a generous and loving soul. There's a crippled little boy who pulls at our heartstrings by refusing to be bitter and wishing all and everyone good cheer. But this story has been adapted, re-interpreted, and bastardized so often, that the original is sure to surprise anyone who ventures to try it. One element that is often overlooked when repackaging A Christmas Carol as family fare is that there are some truly scary things in it, that the story might more accurately be categorized as a Horror piece. There are careening black horses drawing a hearse, ghosts that outright terrify, visions of sick, starving and dying children, not to mention the cold-heartedness not only of Scrooge; but of Victorian England's penchant for orphanages and workhouses. While Dickens no doubted wanted to call attention to these social injustices and perhaps motivate others to rectify them, the fact is that the social commentary is often suppressed in modern re-makings of the tale, as if children no longer suffer because of [insert any country's name here] government's domestic policy or that social inequity is a quaint artifact of history. What Dickens didn't know was that, in setting his tale at Christmas, the story would be highjacked into a heartwarming, if slightly cautionary tale that limited the wrongs to belonging to just Scrooge. Whereas in the original work, Mr. Scrooge is emblematic of all that is wrong in society, very often Scrooge is now portrayed as the sole miscreant.

This particular edition of A Christmas Carol tips the listener off that it may not be the story that you might expect by starting off with a music tag that sounds more appropriate to a Halloween tale. From the intro, the audio segues into the rather lackadaisical narration by Tim Curry. If you like celebrity reads, no doubt this audio will provide its own inherent charms; but for others who are less starstruck, it's bit disappointing.

Ignorance and Want

John Leech


Wood engraving

Full-page illustration for Dickens'sChristmas Carol: Ignorance and Want

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.

Other Stuff: I dnloaded A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens; narrated by Tim Curry) from as part of a free dnload promotion for members in 2010. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies and/or challenges that are, or may be implied in this post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

His Mistress by Christmas

His Mistress by Christmas
by Victoria Alexander
narrated by Susan Duerden
Ⓟ 2011, Brilliance Audio
9.50 hours

When Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813, she created a template for many future romance novels: The male lead would be wealthy, powerful, respected/feared and, would be eventually brought to heel by someone beneath him socially; and the female lead would be a person whose attempts to cultivate a shred of dignity would be humbled. Somehow, defying accepted social norms and taking each other down a peg in the process leads to a HEA ending :-/

This romance novel differs from the P&P template in that the author has chosen instead to model the tone of His Mistress by Christmas on the 1777 Sheriden play, A School for Scandal. In fact, the farce is mentioned in the context of the story, foreshadowing the comedy of the scenes leading up to the denouement. Lady Veronica Smithson is a wealthy, sexually savvy widow who wants to be a mistress, not a wife. Her intended protector however, is Sebastien, the fourth son in a respectable family. Sebastien craves credibility in his family's eyes and one way to get that is to get married. Having met Lady Veronica, and liking what he sees, he decides that he would like to marry her. Set in 1833 and in London, His Mistress by Christmas features characters who are socially progressive which sets the stage for interesting discussions on the changing roles and identities of the early Victorian woman. The female characters are strongly opinionated and vocal while the men in the story tend to more reserved; but steadfast.

Susan Duerden gives the female characters clear, distinct voices; but the men are less carefully delineated. There is one scene in particular, between Sebastien and his best friend, the American Sinclair, where the listener may be uncertain as to whom is talking. Also, there is not a significant parenthetical drop in tone (or textual indicators like: "he thought to himself") that differentiates between interior thought and that which is spoken aloud. Susan Duerden, does however, pull off the sex scene without any noticeable self-consciousness or hitch; But the passage does use the word "cock" rather artlessly which is a slight jolt to the listening experience.

Other Stuff: I purchased this book through iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies and/or challenges that are or may be implied in this post.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

I have an obscene number of books in my home. I hoard books without apology. In five years I have amassed enough titles to cover not only the many book shelves in every room, but also some serious square footage in regard to floor space. Like Depression Era survivors who save every scrap of paper and bit of twine, I, as a result of a massive library shutdown in 2007, am afraid of another dark time in which I will not have access to books. Now steadily employed, even if the libraries were to close again, I know that I could head to the local bookstores, order online or even dnload titles to my nook; but still, the insecurity remains and I continue to acquire books. Just in case.

So the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012 is perfect for me! I have enough books even in the last three years to fulfill the Mt. Everest level of this challenge (100+ books); but I know, with the ever constant allure of new releases, I am not going to be hitting that many of my backlist titles. I'm going to start by climbing Pike's Peak, which is a commitment of twelve (12) titles. If this goes well, I'll consider moving up the various mountain ranges:

  • Pike's Peak: 12 books from your TBR pile(s)
  • Mt. Vancouver : 25 titles from your TBR pile(s)
  • Mt. Ararat: 40 titles from your TBR pile(s)
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro: 50 titles from your TBR pile(s)
  • El Toro : 75 titles from your TBR pile(s)
  • Mt. Everest" 100+ titles from your TBR pile(s)

My list, subject to change:

  1. The Religion (by Tim Willocks) - 07/24/2009
  2. Emma (by Jane Austen) - 07/24/2009
  3. The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton) - 07/24/2009
  4. Dracula (by arm Stoker) - 07/24/2009
  5. The Royal Road to Fotheringhay (by Jean Plaidy) - 07/24/2009
  6. The Little Book (by Selden Edwards) - 08/02/2009
  7. Lost Illusions (by Honore de Balzac) - 08/21/2009
  8. Agnes Grey (by Anne Bronte) - 08/21/2009
  9. The Blind Assassin (by Margaret Atwood ) - 09/11/2009
  10. The Time Traveller's Wife (by Audrey Neffenegger) - 08/10/2009
  11. The Princes of Ireland (by Edward Rutherford) - 02/13/2010
  12. Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers) - 02/13/2010
The dates listed after the title and author are the dates I entered the title on my goodreads "to-read" ist. The titles listed above are the oldest twelve, unread titles from the goodreads list. I own all the titles above. I will be posting reviews on this blog and on goodreads.

Thanks to My Reader's BLock for hosting

Other Stuff: I receive no monies, goods or service in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that ar or may be implied in this post including but not limited to authors, narrators, publishers, vendors, hosts of challenges and/or the challenges themselves.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Back to the Classics Challenge 2012

I have a rather prosaic definition of what a Classic is: It's basically anything labeled as such in the Barnes & Noble Classics Series. While you may snort, and think me rather unimaginative, I find no reason to re-invent the wheel in trying to re-define what a Classic is by any other terms than that it being a public domain title with enduring appeal.

I first found out about the B&N Classics Series in 2007 when I first moved to Jackson County in Southern Oregon. Within 4 months of my arrival, all fifteen branches of the county library system shut down for six months because of budget shortfalls. It was the largest and longest library shutdown in the country at that time. Having refused to transport thousands of books across the country, a very expensive proposition, I found myself literally bookless :-(
I started raiding garages sales, friends and relatives were kind enough to lend and/or give me books and, I discovered the Classics series at the local B&N. For $6.95, I was able to pick up a copy of Pride & Prejudice and I was thrilled! I was on an extremely limited income and owning a new book was luxury.

Ever since the library shutdown, however, I have been a book hoarder! I still scour garage sales, used books stores, book exchanges and, yes I still pick up a Classic from the Barnes & Noble Series every so often. The net result is that I literally live amongst stacks of books, tripping over books that I suspect have flung themselves onto my path in sheer desperation of being noticed and in hopes of being picked up and read! And this is where the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 comes in. I have stacks of Classics, enough to do this challenge many times over I suspect; but I will limit my commitment to one title in each category and see if I can't make a dent in my TBR lists :-)

Subject to change, this is a list of the titles I have in mind to fulfill the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012:
  • A 19th Century Classic: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) - published in 1850
  • A 20th Century Classic: The Wizard of Oz (by Frank L. Baum) - published in 1900
  • (Re-read) A Classic of your choice: The Call of the Wild and White Fang (by Jack London) - I listened to the audio of "The Call of the Wild" (narrated by John Lee) in January 2011)
  • A Classic Play: Julius Caeser (by William Shakespeare; performed by a full cast)
  • A Classic Mystery/Horror/True Crime: Dracula (by Bram Stoker)
  • Classic Romance : Emma (by Jane Austen)
  • A Classic that has been translated from its original language into your language: Lost Illusions (by Honoré de Balzac) - French into English
  • A Classic Award Winner: The Age of Innocence (by Edith Wharton) - Pulitzer Prize 1921
  • A Classic set in a country that you (realistically speaking) not visit during your lifetime: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (by Lewis Carroll) - Wonderland
All of these will be Barnes & Noble Classics Series editions in trade paperback format, with the exception of The Wizard of Oz (a Barnes & Noble Classic title available as an eBook on my nook) and Julius Caeser, which is an audiobook. I will be posting reviews on this blog and at goodreads

Thank you to @SarahReads2Much for hosting

Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

South Asian Challenge 2011

I did it! I managed to complete my one book pledge for the South Asian Challenge! If you're wondering why this is such a big deal (after all, one book doesn't seem like too much to ask) it's because, well... it's Gregory David Roberts' fault! A few years ago, he wrote a book called, Shantaram. It's an amazing epic adventure about Lin, an Australian convict who escapes to India. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Humphey Bower and, quite simply, it is one of the most amazing books, ever. That's right. Amazing. Ever. In Shantaram, the listener basically falls in love with Lin as he makes his way through the different echelons of India's cultures, forms relationships and, experiences what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land. Encouraged by Shantaram, I eagerly signed up for the South Asian Author Challenge in 2010 and promptly dived into the critically acclaimed White Tiger (by Aravind Adiga.) This was the first of three books I had pledged to read that year; and the only one I finished. I was incredibly disappointed in White Tiger. Maybe it's because, as a native writer, there was much that Aravind Adiga took for granted or didn't think the reader would be interested in; but after having all the exotic senses appealed to in Shantaram, White Tiger felt flat. After that early disappointment, I lost interest in the South Asian Author's Challenge. But when the 2011 edition was announced, I felt a need to redeem myself somehow. @SKrishna made it easy by slightly modifying the rules: There was a one (1) book pledge level; and the author didn't have to be South Asian (hence the challenge's subtle re-naming.) I seriously considered re-listening to Shantaram - that's right, all 42.6 hours of it (it's that good); but on the other hand, I had cached a few books for the 2010 challenge that I hadn't gotten around to.

The one that I ended up picking was actually the one that, for years, I had been intimidated by! The Satanic Verses (by Salman Rushdie) had such a reputation preceding it, that I wondered if I was intellectually capable of "getting it!" I had this idea that Salman Rushdie's writing was as obtuse as Umberto Eco's; that I needed to be more erudite on Muslim theology; that I was overreaching. What caused me to screw my courage to the sticking place and pick this title over the other South Asian titles in my stacks was simply a sense that it was time to do so. Not very epiphanic; but there you have it. I dnloaded The Satanic Verses in audio (narrated by Sam Dastor.) Very quickly, I was engaged and fascinated by the story and laughing at myself for ever having been afraid of this novel!

I finished The Satanic Verses last week and I've been thinking about various aspects of it since: The imagery of William the Conquerer as he landed in Britain; the dreams/time-traveling/hallucinations of Gibreel as he encounters The Prophet and, the Butterfly-clad Ayesha in particular. There were many things I could have written about in regard to The Satanic Verses: magic realism, identity, redemption, good and evil...; and I chose last week to touch on magical realism; but in the future, as I suspect I will be returning to this novel again, I may come back to one of these themes or uncover (a) whole new level of meaning(s).

I recently had occasion to check the print version online (I was looking for a reference while briefly discussing this book with someone else who had read it, albeit a few years ago) and I was struck by how great a job Sam Dastor did in narrating The Satanic Verses. He kept the story moving. Looking at the text, I think I might have been overwhelmed if I had tried to tackle reading it in print. There is an omnipresent invitation to worry over every passage, to wring out of it all meaning before moving on. I think I would have been mired in it very early on and not finished it. But I did finish it and I'm very glad I did!

Thank you Swapna for hosting The South Asian Challenge 2011 :-)

See Also:

Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's in a Name? Challenge #4/What's in a Name? Challenge #5

I've been shuffling and sorting through my stacks, seeing what books that I already own that also might qualify for the challenge. The good news is that I
Yay! @BethFishReads has announced the categories for the What's in a Name? Challenge #5! I've spent some time sorting through my stacks, determining what books would work for the various qualifiers and, I'm pleased that I have something from my TBR stacks that will work for every category! This is good news because I would love to make a dent in my hoardings :-)
Without further ado, this is my tentative list for the challenge:

  • [Topographical Feature]: Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson);
  • [Something You See in the Sky]: A Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Housseni)
  • [Creepy Crawly]: The Reptile Room (by Lemony Snicket)
  • [Type of House]: Cleaning Nabokov's House (by Leslie Daniels)
  • [Something You Carry in Your Purse, Pocket or Backpack]: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathanial Hawthorne)
  • [Something You'd Find on a Calender]: Year of Wonders (by Geraldine Brooks)

Of course, my selections may change. One thing I learned from this past year's challenge was that I should be flexible and; NOT drink while blogging. I had this idea last year that I was going to be über-creative and do cross media entries (e.g. a book and it's sequel in audiobook.) It didn't quite work out that way and many of the titles I had set aside for the challenge went unread while other titles I tackled qualified quite nicely. That is not saying I won't get creative; only that I shouldn't strait-jacket myself into a reading list or marry a concept, thus make reading a chore! I think this year I might use the books to create a theme for the month in which I'm reading it. It's just an idea I'm considering right now and we'll see how it plays out. The most important thing is that this should be fun :-)

For the curious, this is what I read for the What's in a Name? Challenge #4:

Thanks to @BethFishReads for hosting

Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses
by Salman Rushdie
narrated by Sam Dastor
Ⓟ 2009, Whole Story Audio
21.50 hours

The Satanic Verses is a brilliant, ironic - nearly absurdist, accessible and, engaging novel about two men who fall from a plane that has exploded over The English Channel. From the onset, images of surreal and intense quality flash before the mind's eye, not unlike Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The pictures and language pour out as quickly as a stream of consciousness, at the same time moving with the deceptive slowness of a dream. "Magical realism" is a term that has been applied to this book; but the magic in The Satanic Verses is not really blended with reality so much as we are seeing the mind of each of the protagonists trying to make sense out of the mundane-but-nearly-inexplicable things that happen in their lives. In this way, the idea of creating images to help the person ingest what they are seeing, projecting meaning into events, deconstructing and reconstructing identities and, re-creating our world in a natural and god-like fashion, brings to the fore the question the amount of magic realism that each of use employs at any given moment. Whenever an individual imbues meaning onto a person, a place or thing, they are using their imagination to create a magical realism bubble of their own making and in which they reside. As individuals, we create our values from a subjective space, from within this bubble. We can share our visions whether it is in a common language, family history or, appreciation for a work of art. It is no coincidence that the two protagonists, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha are actors, a film star and voiceover performer respectively. These two men live an extreme version of magical realism, being paid to superimpose other peoples visions, to channel a creative idea and, proselytize another's perspective.

For those who are grounded solely in Western, Christian or atheistic cultures, the metaphors with Eastern, Muslim and Indian cultures may be lost upon them; but the novel remains accessible regardless. The outsider glimpses enough of Farishta's and Chamcha's worlds to understand their living contexts and; the concepts of existentialism are universal. For those who have been exposed to or, are a part of Eastern, Muslim and Indian culture, the inherent cultural metaphors are obvious and those listeners will unquestionably get more out of the allegorical devices within the story. Anyone's interpretation of The Satanic Verses is a part of their own magical reality.

Sam Dastor narrated The Satanic Verses. His British accent, light comic delivery and his deftness with the material combine for an engaging audio experience. His pace prevents the listener from becoming mired or overindulgent with the text without treating any of the writing as superficial.

Other Stuff:

This title qualifies for the What's in a Name? Challenge #4 hosted by @BethFishReads. The Satanic Verses is an audiobook with [Evil] in the title, "Satanic."

This book also qualifies for the South Asian Author Challenge 2011:

I purchased this title from I receive no goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product, mentioning any of the persons or companies named in this post (including but not limited to the audiobook publisher, the vendor from which I purchased the audiobook, author, narrator and/or, the hosts of the challenges) or, the challenges for which this book qualifies.

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
--- Sigmund Freud

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Pink Chair: Q4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of: $ __________

4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of:
$ __________

Today, I'm going to try and answer the last of four questions (see above) that were posed in a letter of inquiry from a narrator candidate. Before we go there, you should probably go back and review the pay models in question one (click on the link above).

4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of:
$ 0 - ...

Well, now we come to the heart of the matter don't we? Let's face it: times are really rough economically speaking and, many people are hoping to leverage whatever skill sets they might have for money. Perhaps you've been told you have a really nice voice. Or maybe you've been volunteering as a story teller at your local library. Maybe you have some voice over experience. Maybe you've listened to audiobooks and said, "I can do that" or even, "I can do better than that." And maybe, you can; but let's be perfectly candid here: as a beginning narrator, your compensation levels are going to going to be fairly low. If you are currently unemployed however, anything is something or; if you're looking to narrate for a little extra cash, baby could probably get a new pair of shoes :-)

You're probably looking at the answer I gave to question 4 above and going "WTF? That's no answer!"; but it is actually the most accurate one that can be given. Please also keep in mind that, for the finished hour rate, different companies expect different things from their narrators besides simply reading. Pre-reading the book, doing your homework, some preliminary editing (home studio narrators should be delivering product without double takes, etc) and corrections are not figured into the finished hour rates.

$0 - $49/finished hour: We start at "$0" because there are narrators who will do a book for free. The narrator maybe volunteering for a company like Librivox which provides free dnloads of public domain titles. It's a way for some people to get some experience. At slightly above "$0" are the narrators who work speculatively on a title, hoping for a cut on the unit(s) actually sold in a revenue or royalty sharing scheme. If you are working on an rShare project, it should be because you really love the story and feel you could do it justice. [Before the rShare crowd starts sending me e-mails about how this model is still developing and, that there are success stories, wherein a narrator can make more than s/he would make in flat fees, I say put up or shut up. There has been one confirmed success story. I know who it is; but more importantly, I know more people for whom this has NOT been a success story.]

$50 - $124/finished hour: I've heard of a studio that pays its narrators $50/finished hour. The narrators come in to the studio and narrate. I do not know who does the engineering or post or; what other support services may be provided (e.g. research) so maybe the narrator does more than narrate and so the $50/finished hour rate may be an inflated figure. I know of another studio that pays $100/finished hour. The narrator comes into the studio to record; but they are also expected to self-direct, self-engineer and, are responsible for their own research. The studio also charges the narrators $500 to learn how to use ProTools, though they are not a ProTools certification or training center. Also at the $100/fh mark is the stipend offered by ACX (the Audible Creative Exchange program) in lieu of rShare. The narrator provides the finished product to ACX and uploads the book from his/her home studio.

$125 - $199/finished hour: I recently read a story wherein a home narrator was being paid $125/finished hour; but he was not only narrating but was doing the post-editing and cutting the masters as well, which helped bring his actual rate down to $37/finished hour. It made me wonder what else he would do for the money/experience :-(

Generally, however, narrators working in this range are goto readers. They pre-read, do their look-ups ahead of the sessions, either work from home or come into a studio and, do the corrections sessions. Their work is solid and reviews are generally good. At Blackstone Audio, Inc. the narrators have their research provided for or their own research is paid for; technical assistance is available (no charge); post engineers handle the processing, editing and cut the formats; and proofers go over the audio with their bat ears. This is not the same model every audiobook publisher uses however, and you, as a narrator, should ask what exactly is expected of you when you take on a job for an audiobook company.

$200 - $350/finished hour: Narrators working in this range have experience, name recognition, industry awards. They work regularly and play well with others. It's nice place to be. Per finished hour rates that exceed $350/finished hour (maybe even those that exceed $300/finished hour) are disappearing; but it's nice work when you can get it :-)

Flat fees: I have heard of a couple of incredible flat fees paid to some celebrity readers. I cannot confirm them, so I'm not going to offer them up for discussion; but really, it's so outside of the business norm that they really shouldn't be considered in the mix. Chances are, the person who wrote me wasn't using a pseudonym to cover his/her megastar status so we'll throw the celebrity fees out of the equation. An author read, however, is not the same as a celebrity read (unless the author also happens to be a celebrity.) In this case, the author is paid a flat fee for his work; but that is a privately negotiated deal and, again, shouldn't be considered in terms of what a good narrator makes in a year.

What a good narrator makes in a year, depends on what pay model s/he is working for (see questions one), how many books the s/he completes in a year (see questions two and three) and, what rate s/he is working for (see above.) It completely varies from person to person and from audiobook publisher to audiobook publisher.

I know of very few narrators at any skill level who "just" narrate audiobooks. Many have other revenue streams including acting, voice over gigs, teaching, selling insurance, lawyering.... As little or as much money as you may make in audiobook narrating, I might suggest that you not quit your day job :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Go the F*ck to Sleep

Go the F*ck to Sleep
by Alan Mansbach
narrated by Samuel L. Jackson
Ⓟ 2011, Audible, Inc.
6 minutes

In general, there seem to be two types of parenting models when either of the parents are engaged with their child or children:

The first model, involves bringing the child into the parent's or parents' orbit. The parents bring the child along on their errands and outings. Example: Dad has Little Mary for the day. He takes her to Home Depot, The Guitar Center, to the car wash. He lets her punch in the four-digit security code when checking out items and paying with a debit card. Or maybe Mom brings Junior along on the grocery shopping trip, to the veterinarian's office or the library to pick up some holds. She lets Junior scan the library books. The parent is involving the child in the parent's routines, showing him or her how things are done in the grown up world.

The second model is child-centric. The parent or parents are pulled into the child's orbit. The day's activities focus on the child. Example: Mom takes Little Mary to Little Mary's favorite playground, takes Little Mary out to lunch at McDonald's because the Happy Meal premium is a Little Pet Shop Toy or, takes Little Mary to the bookstore to buy the next title in the The Tiara Club series. Or maybe Dad attends all of Juniors football practices, teaches his son how to cast a perfect fly or, they build a bird house together. The parent sublimates his egocentric goals to the interest of the child.

Go the F*ck to Sleep appeals strongly to the parent who holds to the first model, a person who is trying to fit parenthood into his/her schedule rather than the other way around. In an effort to watch a grown-up movie, the father (in the story) tries to get his child to bed and asleep. His frustration mounts and, profanity in storybook verse ensues.

Samuel L. Jackson, famous for his expletive-rich vocabulary, narrated the audio edition of Go the F*ck to Sleep. He delivers the irritation of the story's disgruntled father well, tip-toing on the edge of resentment without actually going there. Samuel L. Jackson is a strong personality for the book, bringing his bad-ass reputation with him and, the question as to how this no-nonsense figure would let things go this far; but there it is :-)

Other stuff: I dnloaded Go te F*ck to Sleep from

I receive no goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product, mentioning any of the persons or companies that may be named or implied in this post (including but not limited to the audiobook publisher, the vendor from which I purchased the audiobook, author, narrator and/or, the hosts of any challenges that this title may qualify for) or, the challenges for which this title may qualify.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pink Chair: Q3: Per year, the number of books a narrator submits is: ▢ fewer than 10 ▢ greater than ten (on average)

A few weeks ago, I received a letter of inquiry from a potential narrator. It contained four questions that the person wanted answered:
3. Per year, the number of books a narrator submits is:
▢ fewer than 10 ▢ greater than ten (on average)
4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of:
$ __________

Today let's look at question three:

3. Per year, the number of books a narrator submits is:
☑ fewer than 10 ☑greater than ten (on average)

That's right, the answer is both! But before we get to the explanation, we need to go back to the idea of the quota which seems to underpin this question (reference the word "submits.") There is no narrator factory of people churning out titles to meet a quota. Books are cast, meaning that the casting director looks at the book and determines who might be the best candidate(s) for that title and then, either arranges for auditions or, contacts the narrator to check on the narrator's willingness and availability. If the casting director has six Amish Romance novels on his desk, chances are that s/he is not going to be calling a British male narrator to get them done. The casting of an audiobook is primarily based on the appropriateness of narrator's voice for the book at hand; not on producing six titles per se.

It's also a mistake to tie the idea of narrator excellence to the number of books that s/he read in any given year. Scott Brick, Grover Gardner and, Simon Vance have each recorded more than ten titles in 2011; but Jim Dale, Anthony Heald and Kevin Kenerly have narrated less than ten in 2011. There are also a lot of sucky narrators (who I am NOT going to name - and please if you're a narrator reading this and you don't see your name mentioned, that does NOT mean I think you're sucky! Or maybe it does... Anyway... ) that seem to getting work as well. Any number of factors drives the number of titles that they produce for any audiobook publisher, including but not limited to:
  • appropriateness of voice to the material
  • narrator availability
  • narrator willingness
  • author/publisher approval
  • narrator/studio cost
So yeah, more than ten? less than ten? It all depends on the books and the narrators.

Next week on The Pink Chair :

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Pink Chair: Q2: A quota is imposed on a narrator: ▢ True ▢ False

A few weeks ago, I received a letter of inquiry from a potential narrator. It contained four questions that the person wanted answered:
1. A narrator is paid by the: ▢ hour ▢ page ▢ book ▢ other
2. A quota is imposed upon the narrator: ▢ true ▢ false
3. Per year, the number of books a narrator submits is:
▢ fewer than 10 ▢ greater than ten (on average)
4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of:
$ __________

Question one was answered last week; and now we move on to tackle question two:

A quota is imposed on a narrator: ▢ True ☑ False

The answer is "False": To the best of my knowledge, no audiobook company imposes a quota upon a narrator in terms of books submitted. In fifteen years, I've never heard of a publisher requiring x number of books from any of their narrators; So when I read the question the first time, my reaction was puzzlement. I also happened to have briefly entertained visions of myself on board a slave galley ship with a megaphone and whip in hand, yelling "READ!" to a bunch of narrators furiously reading while seated on benches, while a big drum sounded out a beat in the background... :-)

But do audiobook publishers impose other kinds of quotas? I heard that one audiobook publisher required it's potential narrators to have narrated x number of audio books for other companies; and to have earned x number of Earphone Awards; but looking at their roster online, it's clear that if that was ever true, it's certainly not now.

An imposed quota implies that it is the narrator's responsibility to draw assignments and complete them. In reality, the studio director casts the audio book and checks to see if a narrator is willing and able.

Can a narrator narrate too many books for an audiobook publisher? Yes. When a name appears with too much frequency in a catalog, it signals to customers, librarians and others a lack of diversity in the talent pool, a lack of casting creativity and/or suspicions that the audiobook publisher can't get anyone else.

On the other hand, if you put ourself out there as a narrator; but keep turning down assignments for whatever reason, then the probability of you being called again is negligible.


UPDATE: As le0pard13 pointed out, this is actually Ben-Hur, NOT Spartacus;
but you know what? From where I'm standing on deck,
"READ, SPARTACUS, READ!" sounds better than "READ, BEN-HUR, READ!"
I dunno why, maybe it's the /t/ and /k/ sounds, more aggressive somehow
Anyway, I'm keepin' it :-)

Next week on The Pink Chair:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War
First in the Kenzie/Gennaro series
by Dennis Lehane
narrated by Joanathan Davis
Ⓟ 2011, Harper Audio
8.8 hours

Patrick Kenzie, and by extension his partner, Angela Gennaro, are private detectives hired to retrieve documents stolen from a state senator's office. Except that the documents aren't really documents and, what these "documents" are and why they are important, provide the link to a story which highlights a Boston beyond what tourists see: Racial tensions, extreme economic disparity within blocks and, political corruption. Dennis Lehane has written a hard, truthful story about a city, about a culture within the context of a fictional thriller. Black vs White racial tensions are the biggest axe that Lehane grinds in A Drink Before the War. The politicians are white, the cleaning lady is black; blue collar workers hole up in dives in black neighborhoods and, count the number of black players on opposing football teams on TV; the gang wars are drawn along geo-racial lines: the blacks of The Bury (Roxbury) and the white kids of Dorchester; even a newscasting team on television consisting of a white newsman and a black newswoman, show up the racial lines drawn in the racist city. The economic inequality is played out across the neighborhoods in and around Boston: An obsequious doorman pulls open the doors to posh restaurants and hotels and, Copley Square is a testament to the gaudy splendors of the monied; but in Dorchester, the the lower middle class watches as the dual forces of gentrification and urban decay obliterate their homes into the dust and; in Roxbury, the tenements and sagging homes fall prey to entropy. The environments do not encourage correlative levels of crime, only better cover for the crimes in the better neighborhoods. The dome of the capitol, it turns out, provides better protection against punishment than the streets of Roxbury. Lehane's key protagonist, Patrick Kenzie, has the self awareness to recognize how the city has informed him and; despite his attempts to rise above his circumstances, the scars of his past are ever-present both literally and figuratively. Kenzie's internal struggle to identify his moral dilemmas and excoriate his ghosts add dimension to a character that could all too easily been rendered a mere action figure.

Jonathan Davis gives a solid, nearly neutral and careful reading of the text. He gives the story a very light, somewhat Ben Affleckian Boston accent, and affects an appropriate Irish accent to the equally affected state senator with a deliberate and near comic manner. A light Boston accent is better than a bad Boston accent; but there are inherent risks in that approach because authenticity is sacrificed. Davis slows his meter down to create an illusion of a deepened register for the black characters, but the street cadence is missing. We always know who's talking; but all the voices are slightly "off" either in measure or in idiom. One also has to wonder if Davis has a sense of humor in the literary or narrative sense: Some lines could have benefited from a quicker, more ironic delivery.

Recommendation: For those who like grittier fare a la Adrian McKinty (The Dead Trilogy: Dead I Well May Be; The Dead Yard and, The Bloomsbury Dead; or Richard Price (Lush Life.)

Other Stuff: I received a digital dnload copy from Harper Audio for review purposes.

Also, it turns out that the narrator is the nephew of a consultant for the company I work for. This fact did not inform my review on any conscious level.

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. A Drink Before the War takes place in Dorchester and Boston, Massachusetts.

View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Pink Chair: Q1. A narrator is paid by the: ▢ hour ▢ page ▢ book ▢ other

A couple of weeks ago, a letter of inquiry from a potential narrator crossed my desk. This letter was unique in that it did not include a resume or curriculum vitae or, a sample of the candidate's works or, even a link to the person's web-site. Instead, it was a hand written letter that contained four questions that the candidate wanted to have answered before s/he took the the time to create a demo:

1. A narrator is paid by the: ▢ hour ▢ page ▢ book ▢ other
2. A quota is imposed upon a narrator: ▢ true ▢ false
3. Per year, the number of books a narrator submits is:
▢ fewer than 10 ▢ greater than 10 (on average)
4. A good narrator can expect an annual income of:
I'll admit that when I first read the letter, I... :
Ⓐ Rolled by eyes and had a head-desk moment
Ⓑ Wanted to have it framed for the elegant simplicity of it
Ⓒ Wanted to write snarky comments to all the questions
Ⓓ Actually sit down and answer each question in earnest
Ⓔ All of the above, simultaneously, which caused my brain to nearly implode

And the answer is ; but I have decided to go with Ⓓ! Now, there is an outside chance that someone is pulling my leg; but I think not and so, I'm going to answer these questions to the best of my ability this month, starting with Q1 today:

A narrator is paid by the: ☑ hour ▢ page ▢ book ☑ other

Many narrators are paid per finished hour. This means that the narrator gets paid his hourly rate times the length of the finished audiobook. If the narrator's fee is $200 per finished hour and the completed audiobook is ten hours long, then the narrator would earn $2000 for that book:

$NR x FH = $$$$
NR = Narrator Rate; FH = Finished Hour

There are some models out there wherein narrators are paid by studio hours. This means that the narrator would be paid for the time he or she actually spent in the studio to record the book. So, if it took the narrator 25 hours to record a ten hour book, and charged $200 per studio hour, then narrator would earn $5000 for that book:

$NR x SH = $$$$
NR = Narrator Rate; SH = Studio Hour

The studio hour model is not used with those who have home studios because there is no way to confirm how much time a narrator actually spends on recording a title at home.

You may have heard about revenue sharing or royalty sharing. This is a model wherein the narrator basically works on spec, earning no fees for his work. If the audiobook sells, then the narrator gets a percentage of the sales. Iambik, Steerforth Press and Crossroads Press are three audiobook companies that offer revenue sharing agreements and,'s ACX program offers a royalty sharing option. There's no universal or industry equation for this model as it depends on the company; but if I were a snarky person I might put out something like:

(((GS - DT)/50%)/7) !@#$ = $0
You don't really need to know what all the variables mean, just that the number on the right hand side equals zero

Now, I have been told that there are a couple of success stories as far as rShare is concerned; but I haven't met them yet and quite frankly I have my doubts. What I am hearing is that it's not really working out for the narrators and that the rShare publishers are still working on it to make it work. We'll see. rShare has it's champions and we'll talk more about it in a future post. (For more about a narrator's experience with ACX, check out Johnny Heller's blog, Abbreviated Audio: FOR THE HELL OF IT: Special Edition: ACX and Me)

There is one other model for payment that I've come across and that is the straight fee or flat fee. The narrator, usually a celebrity, is paid a set fee for a title or a series and, can run anywhere from four to seven figures:

FF = Flat Fee

On the other end of the flat fee spectrum, a narrator can be paid to come in to do some piecework. Piecework can be a narrator coming in to re-read a section that has been re-written since the last final was submitted or; marginalia or title work or, even end scripts. These fees are usually a couple of hundred dollars and are comparable to an honorarium paid to guests on late night talk shows:

ff = flat fee

So basically, it comes down to this:
A narrator is paid by the: ☑ finished hour ☑ studio hour ☑ rShare ☑ flat fee

Welcome to the 1099 world, my friend :-)

Next week on The Pink Chair: