"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
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Saturday, April 28, 2018

DEAR BOB and SUE: ONE COUPLE'S JOURNEY THROUGH the NATIONAL PARKS (audiobook) by Matt Smith and Karen Smith



Published by Tantor Audio in 2017.
Read by David Colacci and Susan Ericksen
Duration: 14 hours, 48 minutes
Unabridged

Matt and Karen Smith decided to visit every National Park in the U.S. National Park System. They decided to only visit the 58 sites that are actually named "National Park". This is important because there are over 400 sites in the park system that have titles like National Monument, National Lakeshore and National Recreational Area - so many that it is doubtful that any one person has been to them all. As if to prove this point, just after the Smiths published the first edition to this book, a new National Park was added to they system and they had to go visit it and update their own book just to keep their own record intact. 

The book is written as a series of e-mails back to their sometimes traveling partners Bob and Sue. Bob and Sue never actually accompany them on one of these trips. They alternate back and forth narrating their adventures in the order that they visited them. 

By necessity, the visits to each of these parks is merely a cursory visit and not detailed description of the park. When you do the math, it works out in this audiobook to about 15 minutes per park, minus stories of their travels to and from the parks. Some get more than that - the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns come to mind. 

Have you ever traveled with another couple? Even if you are best friends, there will be times when you are sick of them and their way of doing things. While I generally found the book to be interesting, there were times that I grew weary of traveling with the Smiths and I put the audiobook on hold for a while, like the time when Karen Smith rinses mud and horse manure off of her hiking boots in the hotel shower and then complains that the shower drain runs slow. Sometimes, their snide comments got a little old but, in the end, I enjoyed this trip through all of the parks. It made me want to get back on the road with the family and start seeing more of the country again.

The audiobook was read by David Colacci and Susan Ericksen. I thought they did a very convincing job as the voices of these two travelers.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: DEAR BOB and SUE: ONE COUPLE'S JOURNEY THROUGH the NATIONAL PARKS.

Monday, April 23, 2018

THE DEVIL'S CLAW: A JENNIFER DOREY MYSTERY by Lara Dearman



Published in 2018 by Blackstone Audio
Read by Fiona Hardingham and Ralph Lister
Duration: 10 hours, 3 minutes
Unabridged

Jennifer Dorey is a reporter on the small island of Guernsey in the English Channel. It is very close to France and, in a lot of ways, it is a unique mixture of cultures. Dorey is not like a lot of people in this little insular island society - she has left the island and been a successful reporter in London, but she has returned to the island to start over due to some horrible, mysterious event.


Everything is going well on Guernsey until a young woman is found drowned. At first it seems like a suicide, but Dorey starts to ask questions and everyone except one police officer who is about to retire thinks that she should just leave well enough alone...

This is a moody work, much influenced by both the fairly recent and the ancient history of the island. It works in a lot of local landmarks like the "fairy ring" which has the aura of an ancient landmark but is really fairly modern. 

This is the first book in what is anticipated to be a series so it does a fair amount of "world building", which slows down this first story quite a bit, but it will pay off in future books. Speaking of future books, I will be on the look out for more Jennifer Dorey books. 

The audiobook was read by two readers. Fiona Hardingham read the chapters that were primarily about female characters, Ralph Lister read the chapters primarily about male characters. It was an interesting choice, but I think it worked quite well. 

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Devil's Claw by Lara Dearman

Sunday, April 22, 2018

JANESVILLE: AN AMERICAN STORY (audiobook) by Amy Goldstein



Published by Simon and Schuster Audio in 2017.
Read by Joy Osmanski
Duration: 10 hours, 1 minute
Unabridged

Amy Goldstein tells the story of Janesville, Wisconsin after its large General Motors SUV plant closed and thousands of employees lost their jobs. On its surface, this book has the potential of being one of the most boring books that you have ever read. But, Goldstein has a real talent when it comes to storytelling and makes this story very compelling.

With the beginnings of the Great Recession, General Motors found itself in serious trouble. They had invested in manufacturing large, expensive, gas-guzzling SUV's when the price of gas was more then $4/gallon and the credit market was getting so tight that it was hard for people to qualify for loans for a $40,000 SUV.

When GM closed this plant it caused an economic shockwave to tear through the community, closing most of the other factories in town that supplied the GM facility. Housing prices fell with the housing bubble and fell even more as people tried to sell their homes and move away.

But, most didn't move away - most had a strong sense that Janesville was home and it was important to stay and try to make a go of it no matter what. Some transferred to other GM plants in other states and left their families behind and returned to Janesville on the weekends. Others tried to retrain for new jobs with the help of government grants only to discover that there weren't a lot of jobs out there, no matter how well trained you were. Others just picked up as many hours as they could in as many part time jobs as possible and GM buyout plan.

Some families make it work. Others struggle mightily and come up a little short. Some just disintegrate and a few parents literally leave their children to fend for themselves while they move out and start over - a shocking development for a town that prides itself on its family connections, generosity and industriousness.


Goldstein tells the story with much sympathy. She keeps her politics out of the story for the most part (tough to do when 2012 Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan  is Janesville's local political star and his run for VP comes right in the middle of this story).

Janesville: An American Story goes nicely with two other books that I have listened to in the last 15 months: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis and White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Something is clearly not working for the American working class.

I rate this audibook an enthusiastic 5 stars out of 5. It was read well by Joy Osmanski - she helped make this story come alive.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Janesville: An American Story.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

VICIOUS CIRCLE (A Joe Pickett Novel) by C.J. Box



Published in 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons.

In 2015's Endangered, C.J. Box introduced his readers to the Cates family. The Cates family was a dangerous group by anyone's standards - likely to poach wildlife, cheat business partners or maybe just get in a fight for the sheer fun of it. The most dangerous members of the family are the mom and the golden child Dallas. Dallas is also a champion professional rodeo star and should have been a real celebrity in his hometown of Saddlestring, except for the fact that no one can stand him or his family.

Joe Pickett helped break up the Cates family crime ring and in the process most of the family was killed. Dallas Cates and his mother went to jail. His mother is serving a life sentence. In the process of her family being taken down she broke her neck and is now paralyzed.

Joe Pickett has a problem. Dallas Cates has just been released from jail and it's clear that he wants revenge. He hasn't made a move yet, but it is obvious that he wants to punish Joe by taking out his family, just like Joe took out his.

And, to make matters worse, Joe Pickett's mother-in-law is back in town...

This was a great entry in the long-running Joe Pickett series. It was a return to the basics for Joe (no international plots as in one of the more recent books). Just a story of revenge told well. A very modern version of a classic Western theme.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Vicious Circle by C.J. Box.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

THE AVENGERS: EVERYBODY WANTS to RULE the WORLD (audiobook) by Dan Abnett



Published by GraphicAudio in 2015
Read by a multicast
Duration: about 6 hours

Captain America is called to Berlin to uncover a Hydra plot. Iron Man is called to Washington, D.C. to confront Ultron. Thor is in Siberia confronting a magical threat of immense proportions. Dr. Banner is investigating a mystery of his own with SHIELD. And, Black Widow and Hawkeye have their own problems confronting A.I.M.

The Avengers are each pulled into their separate top-level emergencies - each of which could result in a worldwide disaster. Soon enough, the Avengers discover that each of these threats has arisen in response to a much larger threat - if only they can figure out what it is in time...


Usually, I really enjoy GraphicAudio's adaptations of comic book novels. Their use of sound effects and multiple actors remind me of an old-time radio show.

But, this one was so crowded with 5 separate plot lines that none of them were properly developed and the whole thing seemed half-baked throughout. It was a hurried mess that would have been better if it were simplified even more (drop out one or more of the plot threads) or greatly extended in order to properly tell each of the stories. 


The voice actor that played Tony Stark/Iron Man deserves special recognition for sounding exactly like the actor that plays the character in the Marvel movies, Robert Downey, Jr. The actor that played Quicksilver had a bizarre accent that sounded more like Katherine Hepburn's accent than his sister's. Truly an odd choice by the GraphicAudio team.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: THE AVENGERS: EVERYBODY WANTS to RULE the WORLD (audiobook) by Dan Abnett.

Monday, April 16, 2018

ROGUE STATE: FRACTURED STATE, BOOK 2 (audiobook) by Steven Konkoly



Published in 2017 by Brilliance Audio.
Read by Timothy Andres Pabon.
Duration: 9 hours, 21 minutes.
Unabridged

The action surrounding embattled water engineer Nathan Fisher and his family in the year 2035 continues in Rogue State. In the first book, Nathan witnessed an act of terrorism designed to egg on a tense situation between the government of California and the federal government. Now, he and his family are being hunted by a mysterious group funded by a group of oligarchs that are determined to manipulate this situation to their advantage.

In the second book of this series the action factor gets ratcheted way up. In many ways, the main story line of the book is one giant chase scene across a series of rural and urban desert landscapes - but it is a heck of a chase scene. We also learn a lot more about the bad guys and the messed up version of America that Konkoly has created for this book (which I found at least as interesting as the chase scene thread).

The audiobook was read by Timothy Andres Pabon who read the first book as well. Once again, he did a great job except he cannot say the word "chassis" correctly.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: ROGUE STATE.

See the review of Book 1 in this series here: Fractured State.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

FRACTURED STATE: A POST-APOCALYPTIC THRILLER (Rogue State Series #1) (audiobook) by Steven Konkoly



Published by Brilliance Audio in 2016
Read by Timothy Andres Pabon
Duration: 10 hours, 9 minutes
Unabridged

In the year 2035 America is almost unrecognizable. Environmental collapse due the abuse of aquifers and mountain run-off in the West has caused the governments of many Western states to practically collapse. The highway systems have become "No Man's Land" and the Arizona border has practically been overrun by drug cartels who often act as a brutal de facto government in some areas.

California has escaped this fate due to a strict resource protection regimen that limits travel, and strictly watches how much water and electricity each household consumes. The relationship between the strict (yet successful) government of California and the often ineffectual federal government is strained to the point that there is an open and active movement that is pushing for California to secede.

Political assassinations and the sabotaging of a critical power plant make the political situation all the more tense. This is where the main character, Nathan Fisher, stumbles into the story. He is on a public beach loading sea water into big water bottles. He does this frequently because he owns a personal desalinization unit so he is able to augment his family's official water allotment.

But, while he is loading up his water bottles he sees something he shouldn't see - he sees the military unit that attacked the power plant and he realizes that the official story is not the truth. And, he realizes that they know that he saw them and they are coming for him and his family in order to shut him up...

The author, Konkoly, slowly gives out the bits and pieces that make up the political backdrop of this story. But, he quickly gets into the exciting cat and mouse chase as Nathan Fisher and his family try to figure out who they can trust and where they can go.

The audio version of this book was read by Timothy Andres Pabon, a veteran actor and prolific readers of audiobooks. It was quite good except for an occasional mispronounced word. The author uses the word chassis several times and the Pabon mispronounced it every time (he pronounced it like it is spelled rather than "chassee"). It struck me as weird every time.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Fractured State.


See my review of Book 2 in this series here: Rogue State.

Friday, April 6, 2018

THE GOOD COP (Carter Ross #4) (audiobook) by Brad Parks



A Review of the Audiobook

Published in 2013 by Dreamscape Media, LLC.
Read by Adam Verner

Duration: 9 hours, 18 minutes
Unabridged

Carter Ross is an excellent reporter in the newsroom of a slowly dying newspaper in Newark, New Jersey. When he hears of the death of a police officer, he immediately rushes to the family and convinces them to talk to him about the officer and the kind of life he lived. Ross is certain that he has the makings of a top-notch human interest story - the kind of story that he would be proud if the family saved it for the officer's tiny baby son to read someday.

But, when Ross calls in the good news to his editor he is immediately waved off of the story because the Newark police are telling everyone that this officer killed himself after he got drunk on the job. But, that sounds fishy to Ross so he starts his own investigation into the case - and soon he finds that he has more suspects than he can possibly investigate...

Brad Parks has a way of making a serious crime book funny and serious all at the same time. When things go wrong, Carter Ross digs harder, makes even more wisecracks and makes the reader enjoy the book even more.

Adam Verner nails the tone of Carter Ross perfectly. The only down thing about the book is that there are too many "soap opera" touches to the book concerning Carter Ross's romantic entanglements. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable audiobook experience.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: THE GOOD COP by Brad Parks.

Monday, April 2, 2018

RUEFUL REGRET (audiobook) by Steve Vernon



Published by Stark Raven Press in 2017.
Narrated by Charles Craig.
Duration: 3 hours.
Unabridged.

Bass Clayton is a bounty killer, basically a paid assassin, in the Old West. He has had no qualms about doing this job - at least he didn't until he tried to kill Silver Grimes. He fired blindly into Grimes' cabin with a shotgun, wounding Grimes and splattering Grimes' girlfriend all over the bed.

Clayton walks away from his bounty hunter gig and becomes the town drunk in a town called Rueful Regret. His plan to slowly drink himself into oblivion is going well until Grimes walks into the bar...


I did not enjoy this audiobook. The book was full of too many folksy expressions and was surprisingly slow-paced considering that it was just a three hour audiobook. But, the worst aspect of the book was an overly detailed description of animal cruelty and bestiality that did nothing to advance the plot. All it did was provide a few minutes of padding in an already slow story in a misguided attempt to add a bit of humor.

Charles Craig was a good choice to read a Western. He has the correct sound for the genre.

I rate this audiobook 2 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Rueful Regret.

Note: I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author in exchange for an honest review.