Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I finally updated my blog!

Listening at McDonald's
It's been over a year since I stopped listening to audiobooks on an mp3 player and upgraded to apps on my Samsung Galaxy S4 so it's high time I changed the look of my blog to reflect how I listen now.  

I have discovered the delightful freedom of bluetooth headphones. I love my Arctic Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. I chose a blue headset because pink wasn't available.  As you can see in the photo, it goes behind my head and sits on my ears, looking a bit like Princess Leia's hair buns.  I get lots of curious looks, especially from kids.  I was sitting in McDonald's drinking coffee recently and a little boy kept smiling and waving at me. I had the feeling he wanted to ask me about the blue things on my ears. 

 I ordered my headset from Amazon because it had good reviews and 20-hour playback time. I always carry earbuds just in case, but seldom have to use them now.  

I have several apps on my phone for listening:  Audible, Downpour, One Click Digital and Overdrive (library apps), Smart Audiobook Player & Listen Audiobook Player.  Smart Audiobook player is my favorite.  The Audible app would be except it seems to constantly lose my place.  Wonder if I can transfer audiobooks from Audible to Smart Audiobook player?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Audiobook Review: Golden Handcuffs

 Golden Handcuffs
Author:  Polly Courtney
Narrator: Anne Day-Jones
Unabridged, Lengths 11 hrs 57 mins
Publisher: Polly Courtney

Publishers Summary
"A job at Cray McKinley is whatever you make of it. For the real high flyers, there's no limit to what you can achieve."
Abby is a high flyer. But she's not your average banker. Driven by something other than money and status, she has her own reasons for climbing the ladder. And so does Mike. An ambitious young graduate with an equally impressive CV, Mike is in it for the six-figure salaries and fast cars. He's got the skills, the grades and the swagger to make it all the way to the top.
But neither Abby nor Mike is prepared for the life that awaits them behind the mirrored glass doors. In a world where verbal abuse is commonplace, greed is everywhere and sexual harassment is just part of the fun, the young bankers are forced to find new ways to compete - and not just against one another.
Based on the author's experiences as a junior investment banker, Golden Handcuffs is a fresh, gripping insight into life inside a Wall Street bank and what it really means to sell your soul to the City.
©2006 Polly Courtney (P)2014 Polly Courtney

My Thoughts:
Golden Handcuffs truly paints a grim picture of the experience of working in the banking industry. The horrible greed and deceit fostered by competition to climb the corporate ladder would make it hard to trust co-workers. Any young person who wants to go into banking should read (or listen) so they'd know that the prestige of the position and the financial rewards may not be worth the abuse they would face.  I thought it would be more interesting but I'm probably not the right audience for it.  I couldn't understand why Abby put up with being treated so badly.  She didn't seem to care about the prestige or the money.  Her romantic relationship with traitorous Mike did not ring true.  I found any account of Mike and his life to be as boring as watching paint dry.  Abby was more interesting even if I couldn't figure her out.  At the end of the story I wanted to kick her. 

 Narrator Anne Day-Jones has a pleasant voice and her tone and pace were great. There are a few glitches in the production (skips, repeats, overlapping lines) but they were not her fault.  I liked her performance and definitely want to hear more of her work.  

The story is based on the author's actual experience as a junior investment banker and the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking that it would have been better as an autobiography instead of a fictional story.   I give it 3 stars and recommend it to any young person looking to get a position in banking or any highly paid corporate position. 

Review copy provided by the author. 

Audiobook Review: Going Shogun

Going Shogun
Author: Ernie Lindsey
Narrator: DJ Holte
Length: 6 hrs, 19 min
Publisher: Ernie Lindsey 6/18/14

Publishers Summary:
On the run. Out of time. A brownie recipe worth millions.
Lovable loser Chris waits tables by day and dreams of making something better of himself by night. But, under the almighty, oppressive rule of The Board and their divisive caste system, it's nearly impossible. That is until his super-geek pal and fellow waiter, Forklift, hits upon a foolproof scheme: steal their employer's ultra-popular, top secret recipes and sell them on a black market internet site.
It's all fun and games until the mysterious death of a local hacker shatters their surefire plan, sending them on a fast-paced adventure through the city's seedy underground, where they hope to salvage what's left and avoid capture by the Board Agents at all costs. Nobody comes back from that. Nobody.
©2013 Ernie Lindsey (P)2014 Ernie Lindsey

My Thoughts:
Listening to Going Shogun is the most fun I've had in ages.  I'm on my third time listening and I'm still giggling and grinning.  I love Ernie Lindsey's sense of humor and his ability to tell a story so vividly I feel as if I'm there.  I was totally entertained by the adventures of Chris (aka Brick) and his best friend Forklift and their world dominated by a controlling government agency called The Board.  Chris seems to be an ordinary young man looking to better his station in life.  Forklift, with his buck teeth and zebra striped hair stands out in a crowd, as Chris puts it "like a French fry in a basket of Tater Tots." Forklift also has a unique jargon which he seems to invent as he speaks.  I love the street slang and names that were just plain funny, like the garage band Grime and Punishment or the country band  Tale of Two Kitties. 

I have the Kindle version and I had to check it to determine if the adventurers are going to Urine Town or You're-in-Town.  But reading Going Shogun it and hearing DJ Holte's performance is  like the difference between watching a black and white movie on a 19" TV  and then watching it at the theater in full color with surround sound. His performance is perfect with a unique voice for each character.  He is able to capture the emotion of the moment, whether the characters experiencing danger,  excitement or romance.

The review copy was provided to me by DJ Holte.   Below is a review video he created. 

I give Going Shogun  5 stars and highly recommend it with a warning:  Every audiobook you listen to afterward will seem mighty dull. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Audiobook Review: Authority: Southern Reach Triolgy, Book 2

Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 2
Author: Jeff Vandemeer
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Unabridged, 10 hrs 35 mins
Publisher: Blackstone Audio 
Release date: 5/6/14

Publishers Summary:
The bone-chilling, hair-raising second installment of the Southern Reach Trilogy.
For 30 years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X - a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the 12th expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (a.k.a. "Control") is the team's newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves - and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he's promised to serve.
©2014 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.   

My Thoughts:  
The second installment of this trilogy was not at all what I expected.  The story is told from the prospective of John Rodriguez who has chosen to be called Control,  a nickname from his childhood. Authority was confusing and surreal and at first I found it hard to keep my attention on the story.  Control has been sent to the Southern Reach to replace the previous director who was also the psychologist in charge of the last expedition to Area X.  After listening to the story a second time I realized confusing aspect was deliberate on the part of the author.  It showed the state of mind of  Control, who didn't really seem to have any control over himself or events.  As the replacement director, he didn't seem to have any real authority at the Southern Reach either, partly due to the animosity of his assistant director, Grace.   He is working undercover to find answers about Area X and makes his reports by phone to an unknown handler that he refers to as the Voice.  There are strange clues such as a squashed mosquito on his windshield and blocks of time he has no memory of, but Control finally learns some truths about what is happening to him.  There are plenty of unexpected plot twists and an ending that I didn't expect.

The best part of Authority was Bronson Pinchot's excellent narration.  He is great at performing the different voices, especially the voices of creepy Whitby, odd Cheney and the moody biologist.   Pinchot has the ability to make a creepy scene even creepier with his tone and inflection.  While listening to the scene with Whitby and his weird art, I felt cold chills down my spine.  

I didn't like Authority quite as much as AnnihilationI give it a B  for story and A+ for narration.  Branson Pinchot is now one of my favorite narrators.  I can't wait for the final installment of the trilogy.  

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Audiobook Review: Phantom Canyon

Phantom Canyon
Authors: Susan Bridges, Jeffrey Thorne, Jeffrey Bridges
Narrators: Pendant Productions 
Unabridged, Length 2 hrs, 35 min
Publisher: Pendant Productions 2/27/14

Publishers Summary:
Sam, a guilt-ridden blacksmith, gets a telegram from the woman he left behind, asking for help. He returns to his hometown to find the "afflicted" roaming the streets, and discovers that letting go of the past is even more difficult than battling supernatural hordes. 
©2014 Pendant Productions (P)2014 Pendant Productions

My Thoughts:
This audio drama was truly a treat for me.  As an old fart who dates back to BT (before television) I can remember sitting with my ear glued to the radio so I wouldn't miss a second of CBS Suspense! or Gunsmoke.   I am not usually a fan of westerns or horror however Phantom Canyon is a combination of both genres that I found intriguing.  But was not the weird western horror tale that drew me in right away.  It was the humor.  I've listened to and laughed out loud several times at this line, "And what? Finishing that sentence is liable to get you told to selfcopulate."   I really enjoyed the story and the sound effects were outstanding, especially the zombie sounds.  Very creepy.  The writing and acting is topnotch.  I highly recommend Phantom Canyon to anyone who likes a good creepy story but my recommendation comes with a warning.  If you love to listen everywhere you go like I do, you just might find yourself in the grocery store with your hand clamped over your mouth so you won't appear to be walking around laughing out loud at nothing.  I had to listen to that part again when I got home.  

Review copy provided by Jeffrey Bridges and Pendant Productions
You can find Phantom Canyon on Amazon and iTunes

Friday, February 28, 2014

Audiobook Review: Annihilation: Southern Reach Triolgy, Book 1

Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Jeff Vandemeer
Narrator: Carolyn McCormick
Unabridged, 6 hrs.
Publisher: Blackstone Audio 
Release date: 2/4/14

Publishers Summary:
If J. J. Abrams, Margaret Atwood, and Alan Weisman collaborated on a novel…it might be this awesome.
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: An anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist - the de facto leader - and a biologist, who is our narrator. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers - they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding - but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
©2014 Jeff VanderMeer (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.   

My Thoughts:
Annihilation is just way too short so I'm glad it's the first in a trilogyIt's intense and riveting and left me with many questions. I wanted more and hoped I had only downloaded part of it.  I checked and rechecked but, alas, I'll have to wait for the second installmentSo, I listened to it again.  It seemed to me that the group of women were already annihilated before they began the mission.  They were stripped of their names and identified only by their respective skill set.  And they knew there was a good chance they would not come back from the mission.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the biologist.  Even in the beginning, her viewpoint is different from the others.  What the others describe as a tunnel, the biologist sees it as a tower.  She is changed even further by the accidental ingestion of spores from the creeping fungi (which is writing words on the wall).  The biologist's reason for joining the expedition is also different; her husband was a part of the previous expedition.  

Carolyn McCormick delivers the biologist's detached observations of people and vivid descriptions of Area X with perfection.  McCormick has been a favorite of mine since I enjoyed her performance in The Hunger Games.  There are plans to make The Southern Reach Trilogy into a movie (read about it here) but I want to hear Carolyn McCormick read the next two installments to me before I see the movie.  

I highly recommend Annihilation to anyone who enjoys dystopian science fiction.  I give it an A+ for story and narration.

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Audiobook Review:The Pink Tarantula: A Novel in 9 Episodes

The Pink Tarantula: A Novel in 9 Episodes
Author:  Tim Wohlforth 
Narrator:  Stephen R. Thorne
Unabridged, Length 6 hours
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc 12/30/13

Publishers Summary:
In this novel of nine closely related episodes, we join Crip and Henrietta, as unlikely a detective duo as ever hit the streets.
Crip and Henrietta aren't your typical California private eyes. For one thing, Crip's real name is Tom Bateman. His sometime sidekick with body piercings and spiked green hair, Henrietta, calls him "Crip" because he's in a wheelchair. When she isn't mocking him, Henrietta grows marijuana, hangs with jailbirds, and brings in cases that reek of trouble - and weed - at first sniff. Henrietta's idea of a favor? Well, a couple of crazed fighting dogs need a home.
In these episodes, we watch Crip and Henrietta's relationship grow as both characters struggle to bridge chasms of bitterness and mistrust. The private eye business in California hasn't gotten this kind of a reworking since Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler planted their gumshoes onto these mean streets. 

My Thoughts:
The episodes in The Pink Tarantula would make a fantastic adult animated series starring this unusual detective team, Tom Bateman, a private eye on wheels and Henrietta, with her green spiked hair, green nails and green panties showing through ragged jeans.  Henrietta calls Tom "Crip" and enjoys insulting him.  Tom doesn't actually like Henrietta but finds life without her dull.  She is constantly dragging him into unusual cases, such as an investigation into the murder of her friend Jesus Christ who had been living in her bushes.  One of the reasons I chose this book was its unusual title.  The Pink Tarantula Beauty Salon shows up in the eighth episode as a murder scene.  The murdered hairdresser is Henrietta's friend so naturally she calls Crip.  The unusual duo are colorful and interesting but seem one dimensional. That may be why I kept visualizing their actions in a comic book or adult animation. 

 Narrator Stephen R. Thorne has a perfect voice for Crip but not so much for Henrietta.  If this novel is ever made into an animated series, they should get Thorne to do Crip's voice.  

I would give The Pink Tarantula three stars all around.  There was a lot of repetition and it didn't really hang together as a novel, but man, would I love to see it as an adult animation! It would have to be rated R, of course, due to the graphic violence and Henrietta's language.  Henrietta would need a nickname too, perhaps Hinx.  The series could be named "The Adventures of Crip & Hinx." I'd be hooked from the first episode. 

Review copy provided by Blackstone Audio