"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
Fifteen years reviewing books, audiobooks, graphic novels, movies and music!

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

CAR TALK CLASSICS: NO FACTORY RECALLS. SO FAR. by NPR



Published by HighBridge in April of 2015.
Multicast Performance.
Duration: Approximately 3.5 hours

After 35 years on the air, there are no more Car Talk episodes being made.Tom has passed on and Ray Magliozzi is retired. But, they still are broadcast on NPR stations across the country. NPR is also going back and searching for great episodes to sell. This is a four episode collection that probably dates from the late 1990s, based on the cars that they were discussing. 

In these episodes Tom and Ray weigh in on the following:

-The lady in Alaska whose truck only goes up hills in reverse (and how she ended up in Alaska in the first place).

-The woman whose husband bought a car to rebuild and restore that only worked in reverse.


-The woman who had 33 different cars in the last 15 years.

-The astronaut who called from the space shuttle and knew Tom and Ray when he used to go to their shop back when he was in college.

-The freshman student who was suffering from intense philosophical malaise. Features Tom and Ray's discussion on adulthood and the meaning of life in the real world.

-The dog that rode on the roof of the cab of its owner's truck as she crossed the country.

-Goats and cars.

If you like the radio show, you will love this collection. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 
[(Car Talk Classics: No Factory Recalls. So Far.)] [Author: Tom Magliozzi]
I rate this collection 4 stars out of 5.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

RESERVOIR ROAD by John M. Spafford



Published in 2009.

A store front in historic Irvngton

I picked this novel because I am a sucker for books set in my adopted hometown - Indianapolis. The author is a resident (or, he was when he wrote the book) and you can really tell that he knows his way around the East Side of Indianapolis (I am a West Sider but I have been all over town).

The book starts with a lovely couple who buy a fixer-upper on Indianapolis' East Side (Irvington) and he starts a career as a teacher. They have a baby and then he loses his wife and son in an unexplained double murder in Covington, Kentucky. The surviving husband doesn't even know why they were in Covington and the murder is never solved.


He cannot deal with this and tries to solve the murder himself. He just cannot. But, he is moved to do something. While on the Crime Stoppers website (If you are not familiar with Crime Stoppers, they offer reward money for tips that lead to arrests and convictions) he realizes that there are so many victims like him - and decides that if he cannot solve his own case he will solve another.

So, he prepares himself and heads off to Little Rock, Arkansas to solve a mystery...


(Note: I keep saying "he" because, for the life of me, I cannot find the protagonist's name in the book. I believe that he is unnamed.)

With the exception of the very clunky treatment of the murder of his wife, this book is well done. I realize that the murder of his wife is supposed to be jarring, but this was just confusing. But, I very much enjoyed the rest of the book, including the little details about how he prepared himself, rented his apartment in Little Rock and generally began his re-entry back into society as he hunted for a murderer in Little Rock.

Quote from the book:


"His summer project had suddenly turned very dangerous. This was not the world that he was used to. He was a stranger in this culture of robbery, torture, threats, and murder. Now he was dealing directly with men who were prepared and experienced with using guns in their everyday pursuits. Men who did not hesitate to use deadly force to get what they wanted.

"Men like the ones who had already destroyed his life."

I rate this novel 4 stars out of 5.

This novel can be found on Amazon here: Reservoir Road

Monday, October 12, 2015

AFTER LINCOLN: HOW the NORTH WON the WAR and LOST the PEACE (audiobook) by A.J. Langguth



Audio edition published by Tantor Audio in September of 2014
Read by Tom Perkins
Duration: 13 hours, 29 minutes
Unabridged

Years ago, when I reviewed Doris Kearns Goodwin's monumental history of the Lincoln Administration, Team of Rivals, I noted that it was way too long and that I wished she had made it even longer by continuing to write about this team as they transitioned into the Andrew Johnson Administration. This book is similar to Team of Rivals in that it looks at individuals in the Lincoln Administration (and thus covers a lot of territory covered more thoroughly by Doris Kearns Goodwin) but it does continue on.
Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877)

The book is mostly detailed through a series of biographies, ranging from Lincoln to Charles Sumner to the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination to O.O. Howard and even to Nathan Bedford Forrest. After Lincoln covers a lot of ground without really coming up with anything new, at least not for this serious student of the Civil War.

Most histories of Reconstruction talk about the Freedman's Bureau and the African-Americans that were sent to Congress and then just kind of drift off to some discussion of carpetbaggers and the Ku Klux Klan and the deal that ended Reconstruction without much discussion or insight into what happened to change the national mood and let Black Americans lose so much of what they had gained.

This book offers no new analysis, either. It does pick a few people, some famous, some infamous and some relatively unknown and follow them throughout the lead-up to the Civil War, through the War and into Reconstruction. Sometimes, their stories are interesting, sometimes not so much.

I listened to this as an audiobook so it is difficult for me to measure exactly how much space was devoted to the three segments of the book that I mentioned before: Before the war, the war itself and after the war. By far the most interesting, and I think the most detailed section was the first one. The end of the book felt rushed and the rich story-telling just was not there like it was in the first part.


Tom Perkins read the audiobook. He did a good job, including actually creating voices for some of the historical personalities.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here:  
After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace


Thursday, October 8, 2015

BLUE HEAVEN (audiobook) by C. J. Box



Published in January of 2008 by Macmillan Audio
Read by John Bedford LLoyd
Duration: 11 hours, 58 minutes
Unabridged

The first C.J. Box book to make it to publication that did not feature Joe Pickett, Blue Heaven is set in north Idaho. The story can easily be classified as a modern version of a classic western story. 

The story starts with a highly respected local rancher, a lifelong resident of the area, who is in danger of losing his beloved ranch to the bank. Newcomers, including an especially large number of retired police officers from Los Angeles, are moving in and local realtors want to take advantage of his financial troubles and turn his ranch into a series of McMansions with mini ranches so that the new residents can play at being cowboy.       

Meanwhile, two kids get mad at their mom and decide to take her boyfriend's expensive fishing equipment out for a fishing trip that he promised to take him on but "forgot" about. Before they even get to their fishing hole they stumble across a group of older men in a campground who surround a member of their group and shoot him with pistols. The kids run and are pursued but are not caught.

From this point the book becomes a race against time - will the children get caught before enough police and volunteers flood the area and find them? But, if they are found, can their rescuers actually be trusted? 

Of course, the stories of the children and the rancher do intersect and when they do a lot of deeper themes come to play such as old ways versus new ways, city vs. rural and commitment to family and justice. 

This is a good story, but needlessly over-complicated and overly-populated. There are a couple of dozen characters, many of them taking a stint as the lead for at least a chapter or two. It is fairly difficult to juggle that many characters when you are reading the book and it is even more challenging to do so when you are listening to it as an audiobook.

Luckily, the book was read by John Bedford Lloyd, a talented reader who was able to create a number of accents and cadences that were distinct enough that I was able to keep up. 

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found here on Amazon.com: Blue Heaven