Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451I had listened to this a while back but I wanted to listen to it again. It was a bit disturbing how some of it rings true to today.

Stats: Audio book – 4 discs, read by Christopher Hurt. 174 page print, published in 1953

Blurb: (Goodreads) Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

What I liked: Bradbury really makes you care for Guy Montag and you’re releaved that he things turn out (though I won’t say too much if you haven’t read it.) though do they really turn out? That would be something to debate for sure. It is a bit hard to believe we could function without books, but in this digital age, it isn’t like it couldn’t happen. And, of course, there would be hold outs. The neighbor girl is interesting and I’m not sure how “they” would have an excuse to get rid of her, so that is left vague. And I really don’t like the mechanical hound. A good – bad character. And Christopher Hurt does a great job with the narration. His voice was perfect for the story and he did well with the different voices, especially the fire chief.

What I didn’t like: Guy’s wife, though I know I’m not supposed to like her, so I should say, Bradbury did a good job in making her annoying and vacuous. So I should say there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the story other than it’s not very upbeat, but it’s not supposed to be.

Rating: 4+/5

Published in: on March 15, 2017 at 11:26pm03  Leave a Comment  
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Thrice the Binded Cat Hath Mew’d – Alan Bradley

My daughter bought this and she shared it with me once she was done with it.

StatThrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd (Flavia de Luce, #8)s: published in 2016, hardcover is smaller than most hardcover, it’s 331 pages.

Blurb: (Goodreads) In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core.

What I liked: Flavia is her usual, enjoyable self, even after eight books. Bradley has a good end to the murder mystery. Why he ended the book (not the mystery itself) is a big question, but I’m not going to discuss that so I don’t give it away. I listened to part of this (with the talented Jayne Entwistle as narrator, as usual) and read part, which confirmed that listening is more enjoyable to me. I also notice I miss less or remember more (not sure which) with audio.

What I didn’t like: This wasn’t my favorite Flavia story. It didn’t seem quite as tightly written – meaning there were things in the book I didn’t know why Bradley put it in and some odd things with the writing. For example – Flavia meets a significant character (a stranger to her) and Bradley doesn’t fully describe what he looks like until she meets him (Hillary) the second time. And when she meets him the first time, she ends up rubbing his shoulders. This seems out of character and in addition, an odd thing to do to a stranger. Another odd addition is the Horn Dance that apparently happens in town each year. It just seemed like it was stuck in there just so a character can sing at it (the reasoning of which is part of the plot). I assume Bradley didn’t tell the reader why Flavia was ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada because he’s mention this more in the next book, but it was something that felt was missing, along with the secret organization (forget the name) and what that groups goal/work is, which I thought would be discussed. I thought that was a line in his other books that he was working toward, but not with this book.

Rating: 3.5/5  As I said, not my favorite Flavia novel but still entertaining. From the ending, Bradley’s obviously going to write another one.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdI am working on book II of my Agnes Kelly Series and someone had compared Agnes (in the first book) to Scout in To Kill a Mocking Bird. I thought that was an apt description so I wanted to reacquaint myself with the famous story and character. I took the audio book of Harper Lee’s classic out of the library and listened to it. I have not read Lee’s Go Set a Watchman but I will, even though it hasn’t gotten the best reviews.

Stats: First published in 1960, print is 324 pages, audio is 9′, narrated by Roses Prichard

Blurb: (Goodreads) Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
(Cliffnotes) To Kill a Mockingbird is primarily a novel about growing up under extraordinary circumstances in the 1930s in the Southern United States. The story covers a span of three years, during which the main characters undergo significant changes. Scout Finch lives with her brother Jem and their father Atticus in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. Maycomb is a small, close-knit town, and every family has its social station depending on where they live, who their parents are, and how long their ancestors have lived in Maycomb.

A widower, Atticus raises his children by himself, with the help of kindly neighbors and a black housekeeper named Calpurnia. Scout and Jem almost instinctively understand the complexities and machinations of their neighborhood and town. The only neighbor who puzzles them is the mysterious Arthur Radley, nicknamed Boo, who never comes outside. When Dill, another neighbor’s nephew, starts spending summers in Maycomb, the three children begin an obsessive — and sometimes perilous — quest to lure Boo outside.

What I liked: Roses Prichard does a wonderful job with her narration. She is the perfect Scout, making you feel like she’s right there telling you her family’s story. Much has been said about this story and I’ve read it before, of course, but listening to it as a writer vs a reader I think it is a story of a time in history and the lives in this small southern town that Lee captures so well. Everyone remembers the high points: the trial, Boo Radley, but there are many other slower moments that illustrate the everyday lives of these characters.

What I didn’t like: When the book first came out, I wonder if anyone criticized Lee for the large words Scout uses throughout the book. As an adult, it’s entertaining to hear Scout use these words, but as a practical point, I’m not sure a six-year-old would have really known half of them. I understand her father had been reading and instructing her way before she started school, but still… The Cliffnotes explanation is that Scout is older when she’s recounting the story, but it’s not written from an adult perspective, so I don’t buy that.

Rating: 4+/5

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 11:26pm01  Leave a Comment  
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The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

This was a new audio book at my local library so I picked it up. It was marked  as YA.The Gallery

Stats: Published in June of this year. 321 print pages, 7 hours of audio. Narrated y Jorjeana Marie

Blurb: It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell . . . ?

Inspired by true events described in the author’s fascinating note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers will love.

What I liked: I really liked the idea of Rose, the woman who was closeted away from everyone, communicating via her paintings. How she would know anyone would get what she was trying to say through those paintings is another matter, but the idea is really unique and allows Marx Fitzgerald to educate the youth this book is written for without being too obvious. I have no complaints about Jorjeana Marie’s narration of the story. I cover is a little busy, but I like it.

What I didn’t like: The main thing is the author never really gives me a reason to care about Martha or Rose much. I care a bit more for Rose because she is obviously (spoiler alert!) not wanting to be where she is. I kept listening because the book wasn’t too long, and I was listening vs reading it. I can listen a lot longer to something that doesn’t particularly interest me than I can read the print version. The fact that Rose complains about her food being salty – things like tea that shouldn’t be salty – and the young maid, Martha, is the only one who checks how Rose’s food actually tastes is a bit unbelievable to me. Also at the end, everyone is so easily on Rose’s side when they have not been in all the years leading up to the big reveal. You could perhaps believe Martha’s mother, who takes care of Rose and believes Rose’s husband can do no wrong, but not all the other people in the house. And for Rose to do what she did with the paintings in the end also seems odd. I won’t give that away, but any lover of art, and art that ends up being part of why she is saved, wouldn’t do what she did, in my opinion. Overall the plot is a bit slow for the young audience it is written for (and for me!).

Rating: 2.5/5

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 11:26pm12  Leave a Comment  
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The Beautiful Mystery – by Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8)I read my first Louise Penny novel – the first one she wrote (Still Life) – thanks to an old college friend of mine. She is a big fan so she sent me a book. I did enjoy it, so when I saw this audio book in the library, I grabbed it up.

Stats: Published in 2012, print is 400 pages, audio is 11 discs (it didn’t give me the number of hours), narrator is Ralph Cosham

Blurb:
No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

What I liked: I love the setting and the idea of the setting, though a bit unrealistic perhaps, it can be overlooked for the sake of the story mostly. Gamache is a wonderful character, as is his side-kick, Jean-Guy. But the real stellar character in this story is the nasty, nasty head of the Surete du Quebec, Francoeur – though it’s really never clear why he’s there because the man doesn’t seem to know how to do anything but lie. This fact might be revealed in the next book, because things were left unresolved related to appearance. I thought Mr. Cosham did a fine job with the narration and the accents. Very enjoyable to listen to. I also love that the monks make chocolate covered blueberries!

What I didn’t like: Since I’ve only read one of Penny’s novels, I don’t know her writing style real well and I think this book is her 13th, but in this novel Penny repeated the story facts a bit too much for my liking. I get that the story was set in a place where time slowed and small things meant more than in the “normal” world – part of the appeal of where this story takes place. But I didn’t need to hear the same facts perhaps said by different people at different times. It slowed an already naturally slow story down too much. And to have the mystery resolved in part because the “inquisition” in the form of a Dominican Monk just happens to find the abby at this very time (even though the reason he has found it is because of a recording that seems to have been out a little while – time enough to hop on a plane). Again, for the sake of the story line, it can be overlooked, but it just seems a bit contrived.

Rating: 4/5 (despite the flaws)

Exposure by Helen Dunmore and The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

Exposure was new at our library so I thought I’d give it a try. The author is a “Sunday Times” best seller. The Poe Shadow was a blind library pick because I needed an audio book to listen to and I like trying authors I’ve never heard of.

Stats: Exposure: Published in  2016, print book is  400, audio book is 10′, 22″ (8 discs). Narrated by Emma Fenney,
The Poe Shadow: Published in 2006, print is 367 pages,  audio 14 discs. Narrated by Erick Singer

Blurbs: (Goodreads)
ExposureEXPOSURE: London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets.
When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested.
His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall.
She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.

The Poe ShadowTHE POE SHADOW:Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.
As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin–in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.

 

What do these two books have in common and why have I put them together?
I couldn’t get past the first two discs for either book. I tried. I don’t believe all books have to capture my attention in the first few pages. I’ll even give the writer a whole chapter or even two if the up front material is inviting enough. For these two books I listened into the second disc, even though there was nothing in the first one to make me want to “read” on. But when part way through the second disc, I still was wondering why I was listening, I just gave up. I know there are so many good books out there, so I honestly don’t want to waste my time listening to something that doesn’t interest me.

I had no issues with the narrators of these tales. They seemed to be doing a fine job.

Ratings: 2/5

 

Worth Dying For – Lee Child

Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher, #15)Since I had enjoyed (mostly) the last Lee Child book I had listened to, when I saw another one at my library, I picked it up. It was orignially for my husband, who was taking a long trip out west. But he didn’t end up listening to it, so when he got home, I did.

Stats: Published in 2010, 400 print pages, 11 CDs and 14 hours for audio, narrated by Dick Hill

Blurb: There’s deadly trouble in the corn county of Nebraska . . . and Jack Reacher walks right into it. First he falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into submission. But it’s the unsolved, decades-old case of a missing child that Reacher can’t let go.

The Duncans want Reacher gone—and it’s not just past secrets they’re trying to hide. For as dangerous as the Duncans are, they’re just the bottom of a criminal food chain stretching halfway around the world. For Reacher, it would have made much more sense to put some distance between himself and the hard-core trouble that’s bearing down on him. For Reacher, that was also impossible.

What I liked: Childs is a wonderful writing. I say thing because as I listened to the story, I didn’t think about the writing of the story (much)- the mechanics of the story, I was just pulled into the story itself. To me that illustrates good writing. He is also very good at stringing the reader along. There are a few things the reader wants to find out and doesn’t really until the end, so as many reviews note – it is a page turner. Dick Hill must be the regular reader for the Reacher novels since this was the second audio Childs audio book I’ve listened to that has him. I’m not surprised because he does a superb job with this one. The voices are so right on and so distinct with each character, they seem very real.

What I didn’t like: Childs has a habit (and I’m sure it’s no purpose) of drawing out things that are happening in a particular scene, especially if it is a suspenseful scene – someone  is getting beat up or about the get beat up or about to get caught… This is a good writer’s trick, but sometimes he over does it. The one time I remember getting pulled out of the story was when Child was doing this trick. But the problem was, it wasn’t a suspenseful enough scene. He was describing a character almost closing the trunk of a car – a trunk that had his budding dead inside of it. The reader already knew who was inside and what shape the person was in, so there really was no suspense about this but Childs dragged the action of almost closing the trunk out way too long. This is a minor criticism, really and easily overlooked by all the other wonderful things about the book. The only other thing I didn’t like was the violence – there is a lot of it in this book. I’m sure that’s why some people enjoy these stories – the gratuitous violence. All the bad guys get what coming to them (and these bad guys are very bad!) – something that doesn’t always happen in real life. But it was a bit much for me. It will be while before I pick up another of Child’s books, as good as his writing is.

Rating: 4+/5

Published in: on November 20, 2016 at 11:26pm11  Leave a Comment  
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This Body of Death by Elizabeth George

This wThis Body of Death (Inspector Lynley, #16)as another blind library pick.

Stats: Published in 2010, print book is 692 pages, audio book is 21 discs/24 hours. Narrator: John Lee.

Blurb: (Goodreads) On compassionate leave after the murder of his wife, Thomas Lynley is called back to Scotland Yard when the body of a woman is found stabbed and abandoned in an isolated London cemetery. His former team doesn’t trust the leadership of their new department chief, Isabelle Ardery, whose management style seems to rub everyone the wrong way. In fact, Lynley may be the sole person who can see beneath his superior officer’s hard-as-nails exterior to a hidden–and possibly attractive–vulnerability.

While Lynley works in London, his former colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata follow the murder trail south to the New Forest. There they discover a beautiful and strange place where animals roam free, the long-lost art of thatching is very much alive, and outsiders are not entirely welcome. What they don’t know is that more than one dark secret lurks among the trees, and that their investigation will lead them to an outcome that is both tragic and shocking.

A multilayered jigsaw puzzle of a story skillfully structured to keep readers guessing until the very end, This Body of Death is a magnificent achievement from a writer at the peak of her powers.

What I liked: The writing was very good so it was easy to get into the story. The odd thing was that even though the story is set and uses UK English slang, George is an American writer – born in Ohio. I have never lived or even traveled to England but I felt like I was there. She is also very good at making characters and the story around them creepy, especially the backstory of three young delinquents that killed a little boy. All of her characters were all very real. This came out even more through John Lee’s wonderful portrayal and voice work. His accent helped put you in England as well.

What I didn’t like: That creepy backstory was a bit long. I’m not sure why she gave it so much text since the book is very long as is. This backstory plays a role in the main story, but I don’t think it needed as much copy as she gave it. George also over does some details – e.g., the landlady going on about recycling – that I’m guessing was to flush out her personality, but since she plays a minor role, it really could have been relegated to one sentence or two.

Rating: 4/5  It’s worth your time, if you have time, because it’s a long one. I’d recommend listening to it.

Published in: on November 2, 2016 at 11:26pm11  Leave a Comment  
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Speakers of the Dead by J. Aaron Sanders

Speakers of the Dead (Walt Whitman Mystery #1)

This was a new audio book in my library and since I writing a mystery (Book II in my Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure Series), I am “reading” mysteries to keep my head in the game, so to speak.

Stats: Published March, 2016, Audio book is 7 discs, approx. 9 hours, print 307 pages

Blurb: (Goodreads) Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel centering around the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman, in which the reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City’s body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge.

The year is 1843; the place: New York City. Aurora reporter Walt Whitman arrives at the Tombs prison yard where his friend Lena Stowe is scheduled to hang for the murder of her husband, Abraham. Walt intends to present evidence on Lena’s behalf, but Sheriff Harris turns him away. Lena drops to her death, and Walt vows to posthumously exonerate her.

Walt’s estranged boyfriend, Henry Saunders, returns to New York, and the two men uncover a link between body-snatching and Abraham’s murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry descend into a dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. With no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham’s involvement with the Bone Bill—legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business—seems to have led to his and Lena’s deaths.

What I liked: I could tell Sanders did his homework when researching this book, and he even tells some more about his research and what he “played” with as far as historical facts as an author. I always appreciate this since I like history and historical fiction. I don’t know enough about Walt Whitman to have any preconceived notions about his life so having him working on a mystery wasn’t too hard to wrap my head around. Sanders does make you believe most of his characters are real, putting them in real situations for the time, 1843 New York. The story flows and has good dialogue other than what I mention below. Sanders artfully addresses Whitman’s sexual preferences so as not to offend or ignore what is know, which I appreciate as a writer.

What I didn’t like: It really wasn’t much of a mystery. The Whitman character is trying to find out who killed and framed his friends but the answer seems to obvious early on (once you learn about all the characters involved). It was also irritating how many times Sanders – through his characters – talks about the how the use of dead bodies is needed to advance medicine. Since we live in a time when we know this is true, beating this idea into the readers heads is not needed. I understand the characters of the time would be thinking otherwise, but there are other ways to get that point across than say the same thing over and over. No complaints with Mark Bramhall’s performance. He does a wonderful job portraying the male and female characters alike.

Rating: -3/5

Published in: on September 26, 2016 at 11:26pm09  Leave a Comment  
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The Serpent On The Crown by Elizabeth Peters

I have not read any of Elizabeth Peters’ books before, but I like mysteries, so I thought I’d give this one a try.

Stats: First published in 2006, print is 496 pages, audio is 11 discs or 12.25 hours. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.The Serpent on the Crown (Amelia Peabody, #17)

Blurb: (Goodreads)

The Emersons have returned to the Valley of the Kings in 1922 and Amelia Peabody and her family look forward to delving once more into the age-old mysteries buried in Egypt’s ever-shifting sands. But a widow’s strange story — and even stranger request — is about to plunge them into a storm of secrets, treachery, and murder.

The woman, a well-known author, has come bearing an ill-gotten treasure — a golden likeness of a forgotten king — which she claims is cursed. She insists it has taken the life of her husband and unless it is returned to the tomb from which it was stolen, more people will die.

Amelia and her clan resolve to uncover the secrets of the statue’s origins, setting off on a trail that twists and turns in directions they never anticipated — and, perhaps, toward an old nemesis with unscrupulous new designs. But each step toward the truth seems to reveal another peril, suggesting to the intrepid Amelia that the curse is more than mere superstition. And its next victim might well be a beloved family member … or Amelia Peabody herself.

What I liked: The ending was quite good, though it took a long time to get there. Each mystery was revealed slowly in the end, which was fine, but I got confused about what character had done what because of how it was drawn out.  I really enjoyed the narrator, Barbara Rosenblat. She was a perfect choice for a story about an English archaeologist family in Egypt. I don’t know how many different voices she did, but there were many and all done well. The writing was good, and as a reader, I could visualize the area and situation.

What I didn’t like: It’s a bit slow – the whole way through, from the question of where the statue came from to when the dead body showed up and who the murder was. If you’re looking for a slow, entertaining summer read, this would be it. If you want a fast-pasted mystery, pick some up something else.

Rating: 3.5/5 (a bit too slow for my taste)