Posts Tagged ‘Audiobooks’

Book Review:The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

AuthorNeil Gaiman 
TitleThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Publication Info: [New York] : Harper Audio, 2013.
Previously read by the same author:

Summary/Review:

This novel is a mix of fantasy and horror, as a seven-year-old boy’s life is turned upside-down by a supernatural being that invades his home by way of his body taking the form of the superbly creepy Ursula Monkton. Fortunately, the equally mysterious but benevolent Hempstock women live on a farm nearby, and he’s able to go to them for aid.  The book is full of mystery and atmosphere, and captures the feel of childhood when new things can be a source of joy and discovery and the familiar can suddenly be horrific.  Neil Gaiman’s narration on the audiobook is excellent as his diction and delivery add to the feel of a child experiencing the horror and mystery.

Favorite Passages:

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyways.”

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, and I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

“Oh, monsters are scared, said Lettie. That’s why they’re monsters.”

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

“Different people remember things differently, and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not.”

Recommended books: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Boneshaker by Kate Milford.
Rating: ****

Book Review:A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
Title: A Storm of Swords
NarratorRoy Dotrice
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2012)
Previous books in the series: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings
Summary/Review:  The high fantasy series continues with the grim and deadly doing of Westeros, a place where weddings are more dangerous than battlefields and being a king doesn’t offer much job security.  Dotrice’s narration continues to make the series for me, providing an old-time storyteller’s feel to the tales of adventure, intrigue, betrayal, and occasionally friendship and love.  I’ve watched the tv series, and it appears for the most part that the tv series has only depicted events up to the end of this books, so I look forward to reading the next two published books completely unspoiled.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Grandma Gatewood’s walk : the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

Author: Ben Montgomery
TitleGrandma Gatewood’s walk : the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail
Narrator: Patrick Lawlor
Publication Info: Tantor Media, Inc., 2014
Summary/Review:

In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood of Ohio set out to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Completing the hike, Grandma Gatewood became the first woman to through-hike the entire 2168-mile trail and became a pioneer for both elderly and ultralight hikers.  With the hike as the centerpiece, Montgomery tells the life story of the proper and hardy farmer’s wife, a life in which she endured severe domestic abuse.  Grandma Gatewood’s hike also captures a time when the Appalachian Trail was poorly maintained, little-used, and through-hikers were in the single-digits.  Grandma Gatewood’s celebrity would help bring attention to the AT.   Montgomery also does a good job of setting the historical mood of 1955 America, when Gatewood set out on her walk.  Highlights of the book include Emma Gatewood hiking through Hurricanes Connie and Diane, and sharing a cabin with a church group from Harlem which Gatewood never realized were actually members of rival street gangs.  The 1955 is the focus of the biography, but Montgomery also writes about Gatewood’s two later hikes on the AT, her cross-continental walk on the Oregon Trail, and her uneasy relationship with the attention she got for her walk.
Recommended booksThe Appalachian Trail Reader by David Emblidge, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, and Wanderlust; a History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

Author: Armistead Maupin
TitleThe Days of Anna Madrigal
Narrator: Kate Mulgrew
Publication Info: New York : Harper Audio, 2014.
Summary/Review:

This may be the last in the series of Tales of the City stories, although we’ve heard that before.  Recent novels in the series focused on characters Michael Tolliver and Mary Ann Singleton, and this volume follows the model by centering on Anna Madrigal, now 92 and increasingly fragile.  Unusual for the series, there are extensive flashback scenes to Mrs. Madrigal’s childhood as Andy Ramsey, growing up in a brothel in the Nevada desert.  Pretty much every other character is planning and eventually attending the Burning Man Festival, with it not being much of a surprise that they will all come together.  Brian’s new wife Wren offers some wry commentary on the series’ penchant for unlikely coincidence and general nuttiness, which also doubles as exposition for anyone not able to remember incidents in the early books. Having Kate Mulgrew narrate the audiobook is the most perfect casting decision since Olympia Dukakis played Anna Madrigal in the film miniseries. It’s not a perfect book – Maupin uses on of his favorite tricks, a serious Michael Tolliver illness to create tension – but if it is the final book, it is a good farewell to a cast of beloved characters.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
TitleA Game of Thrones
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Publication Info: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2004
ISBN: 9780739353370
Summary/Review:

My wife has been reading A Song of Ice and Fire for years, including on our honeymoon, but I’ve always been intimidated by their length.  Having binge-watched the television adaptation Game of Thrones, I figured it was time to give the books their due.  The audiobook narration by Dotrice is a good way to enjoy the book because his gravely British accent makes me feel like I’m listening to an epic storyteller.  The book does a great job of laying out the politics and intrigues among the seven kingdoms while simultaneously setting up for a graver confrontation with stories of the North beyond the wall, and the Targaryen’s in the East.  Amazingly the first season of  tv show remained faithful, if condensed, to this book.  Worth the read/listen and I’ll be moving on to the second book.

Recommended books: Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Unruly Places by Alastair Bonnett

Author: Alastair Bonnett
Title: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
Narrator: Derek Perkins
Publication Info: Tantor Media, 2014
ISBN: 1494505827
Summary/Review:

Dr. Bonnet collects a compendium of curiosities in geography, places in the world at the borders, no-mans lands, enclaves, dead cities, floating islands, and ephemeral places.

Destinations include:

  • Sandy Island, marked on maps in the Indian Ocean for over a century despite the fact that it never existed.
  • The historic Old Mecca, destroyed to make way for amenities for pilgrims.
  • Alan Sonfist’s artistic creation of pre-colonial plantings in New York called Time Landscape.
  • The lost Aral Sea, now the Aralqum Desert.
  • Kijong-dong , the North Korean “Peace Village” along the DMZ with South Korea.
  • Pripyat, the city abandoned due to the Cherynobyl disaster.
  • The intriguingly named Archaeological Park of Sicilian Incompletion  in Giarre.
  • The interlocking Dutch and Belgian enclaves of  Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog .
  • The micronation of Sealand.
  • Spray ice islands used for petroleum exploration in the Arctic
  • The RV park in the LAX parking lot which serves as the permanent home for many air carrier personnel.
  • Nowhere, the Burning Man-style art event in northeast Spain

Derek Perkins voice lends a curmudgeonly world explorer gruffness to the narration.  A fun book and informative.

Recommended booksMicronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Self-Proclaimed Nations by John Ryan, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John R. Stilgoe, and Lights Out for the Territory: 9 Excursions in the Secret History of London by Iain Sinclair
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Author: Robin Sloan
TitleMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Narrator: Ari Fliakos
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2012)

Summary/Review:

A young man named Clay is out-of-work in San Francisco and ends up taking a job at a bizarre book store with an eccentric owner.  It turns out to be a front of a shadowy organization and Clay’s favorite fantasy book series is a key to its mysteries..  With the help of a girlfriend who works at Google, and a nerdy childhood friend who’s become wealthy as a game developer, Clay is able to advance well into the organization.  I found this book moderately interesting, with a bit of mystery, some book lore, and a lot of product placement for Google.

Favorite Passages:

“The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk.”

Recommended booksThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Rating: **1/2

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