Audiobook – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in 2.5 stars, Audio, Book Review | 5 comments

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 2012 Audible Inc. Book originally published 1900
Length: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Read by: Anne Hathaway
Source: Free Audible download

The Short Version:
A tornado lands young Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz which is most definitely not Kansas.

Why I Read It:
When I got the email from Audible that they were offering this free I downloaded it. When I decided I wanted to read Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die I decided to listen to the original book first.

The Book:
From Google Books:

In the first of L. Frank Baum’s time-honored Oz novels, country girl Dorothy Gale gets whisked away by a cyclone to the fantastical Land of Oz. Dropped into the midst of trouble when her farmhouse crushes a tyrannical sorceress, Dorothy incurs the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy is desperate to return to her native Kansas, and, aided by the Good Witch of the North, she sets out for the Emerald City to get help from the legendary Wizard. On her way, she meets three unlikely allies who embody key human virtues—the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

My Thoughts:
I’m sure I read this as a kid but I sure didn’t remember much of it. I remembered it being quite different from the movie but the details have faded.

The book itself is an odd story. The interpretations of it as political and social allegory are well known but whether Baum really intended as that may or may not be true and honestly I don’t care. I was interested in the story and how it differed from the movie and to hear Anne Hathaway’s reading of it.

If I had a recommendation at this point it would be that if you want to revisit the original Baum story go the the library and pick up a print edition. Skip this audio version.

The story was quite different from the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West is almost a minor character. As in the movie there is a fair amount of violence for a children’s story. I really didn’t remember the Tin Man being such a whiner. I also didn’t remember that both the good witches make an appearance. Each area of Oz has a distinct population and is ruled by one of the witches. The munchkins from the movie are only a quarter of the story.

As for the audio production it started out OK and while I like Anne Hathaway fine as an actress but I will never listen to her narrate another audiobook. She seemed to try way too hard to give each and every character in the book a distinct voice and accent. There are far too many characters for that in this book. The Tin Man might have seemed like a big whiner to me because of the way she did his voice. The Scarecrow sounded exactly like Marge Simpson. Before Dorothy and her companions were falling asleep in the field of poppies Hathaway lost me completely. When the stork sounded like a Valley Girl out of the early 80’s I’d had enough. At that point Hathaway’s increasingly odd voice characterizations became a complete distraction from the story. The Guardian of the Gate in the Emerald City sounded like Daffy Duck and the Wizard himself sounded like an elderly Southern lady.

I only finished it because it was so short.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5 for the book

1 stars Rating 1/5 for the narration


SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

Read More

The Black Country by Alex Grecian

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in 2.5 stars, 2014, Alex Grecian, Book Review | 0 comments

The Black Country by Alex Grecian

The Black Country by Alex Grecian

Genre: Crime Fiction
Series: #2 in the Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 384
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
Inspector May and his Murder Squad are asked to help with a missing persons case in a coal mining town that turns out to be more complicated and dangerous than expected.

Why I Read It:
The first time I heard something about this book on Twitter, I was intrigued and knew I wanted to read it.I really didn’t know much about this book other than the fact that a lot of people I trust thought it was pretty darn good.

The Book:
From the Publisher:

The British Midlands. It’s called the “Black Country” for a reason. Bad things happen there.

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village—and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest—the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they’re about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave.

My Thoughts:
Both The Hubster and i enjoyed the first book in Grecian’s Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad series. The Yard was an interesting blend of police procedural and historical fiction.

This entry in the series takes the major characters out of London to investigate a missing (and likely deceased) person case in a mysterious coal mining town. The plot soon becomes too complicated with too many storylines that take too long to intersect (and in some cases do so only peripherally).

I felt like it was trying to be too many books at the same time with bits of historical fiction, crime story, psychological thriller, gothic mystery, natural disaster story, revenge based suspense, etc.

Despite all that it was an OK book. I still enjoy the banter between Inspector Day and Sergeant Hammersmith and I like the recurring characters. I just didn’t find much actual crime investigation in this one. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first and it certainly wasn’t great but there were enough things I liked that I’ll give the third in the series a try.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

Read More

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in 2.5 stars, 2014, Book Review | 0 comments

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 243
Source: e-galley provided by publisher.

The Short Version:
A noir-ish suspense story of a garbage man turned hitman set in a near future New York City.

Why I Read It:
The publisher’s description intrigued me.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.

In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap into” a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn’t ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he’s handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.

My Thoughts:
This is an odd but intriguing book. The first half felt new and different and got me interested. Then the second half became more predictable and felt like a television crime drama show and left me feeling like it could have been better.

I really had no idea what to expect when I started this one. I actually went back and started over after reading about 20 pages and getting a feel for what was going on and the author’s style. He doesn’t use quotation marks (which annoys me), but I liked the futuristic noir feel to the story.

The no quotation marks thing I could manage to cope with for most of the book. I occasionally had to go back and re-read sections to sort out who was talking and when. The story is dialog heavy and at times I felt like I was reading a play with the actors names removed. It got problematic in a couple of scenes where there were more than two people speaking.

The story has already been sold for a movie and will probably lend itself well to that format. I also read that a second Spademan book is planned. I might read it because there was a lot I liked about this book but I just felt like the latter part didn’t surprise me nearly as much as the first part.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 for the first half and a 2 for the second half so I’m rounding that out for my final rating.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

Read More

Audiobook – The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in 2.5 stars, 2013, Audio, Book Review | 6 comments

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2013 Audible Inc.
Length: 3 hours, 39 minutes
Read by: Jim Dale
Source: Free Audible download

The Short Version:
A novella often included with Dickens’ Christmas stories is a tale of Victorian home life with a guardian angel and Shakespearean misunderstandings and mistaken idenities.

Why I Read It:
When I got the email from Audible that they were offering this as a free download I considered it. When I saw that it was Jim Dale narrating it I downloaded it.

The Book:
From Google Books:

The Cricket on the Hearth is the third in Charles Dickens’ series of Christmas classics that started with his beloved A Christmas Carol. In this tale the Peerybingle and Plummer families find themselves at odds with crotchety toymaker Mr. Tackleton, who hates children as much as he hates making toys.

My Thoughts:
I have discovered that with older classics I often do better listening to them than reading them. I’d never read this story by Dickens and the fact that Audible was offering it for free just before Christmas worked well for my listening plans. I was close to finishing my last audiobook and something short to listen to during Christmas week was perfect.

The narration by Jim Dale was the thing that made me download it. I could listen to him read me the dictionary.

It’s a light charming and predictable story but that’s exactly what I wanted to listen to this past week. I’m not sure why it’s considered a Christmas story since Christmas is never mentions and the only time indicator puts the story in January but whatever.

It’s a Victorian Shakespearean melodrama complete with an evil villain, a good hearted toymaker, his blind daughter and a few other characters who range from likeable, to unlikeable and downright funny.

It was a good diversion to finish out the year and besides . . . Jim Dale.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5 for the book

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the narration


SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

Read More

The Drops of God Vol. 3 by Tadashi Agi

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in 2.5 stars, 2013, Book Review, Tadashi Agi | 2 comments

The Drops of God Vol. 3 by Tadashi Agi

The Drops of God Vol. 3 by Tadashi Agi

Genre: Fiction (Graphic Novel)
Publisher: Vertical
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 402
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Two rivals continue their competition to determine who will inherit their father’s estate by searching out twelve outstanding wines.

Why I Read It:
I loved the first volume of this series and while the second was still excellent it left me wondering whether the third in the series would be able to continue the level of the first one.

The Book:
From the publisher:

The hunt is on! Shizuku and his adopted brother Issei have both selected their choices for the First Great Wine Apostle. Now they have to actually acquire these wines. Crossing the globe to meet with the winemakers and critics that know these casts inside and out. But will either one of these two know why Yutaka Kanzaki selected the winning wine? The message behind it may shatter the conscious of at least one challenger, for there is more to wine appreciation than just wine value. There are messages attached to these heaven sent wines. Shizuku’s father selected them to help bring his family closer together through wine, even if it meant having to do so while he was no longer on this plane. The blood and wine will continue to flow, but who will appreciate it the most in the end?

My Thoughts:
The first book in this series was my introduction to Japanese Manga. It surprised me how much I liked it and how much I actually learned about wine and wine tasting. The second volume was still good but it left me wondering how things would progress with the series. My concern was whether the pace of the series would pick up or not,

Now that I’ve read the third volume I have my answer. Unfortunately that answer is “No”.

The long term story of this series is finding and identifying and finding twelve amazing bottles of wine. Here we are in volume three and only one of twelve has been identified. The other problem I’m having is that the side stories are becoming repetitive. I loved the first book. I liked the second book but I think the third book will be the last in this series for me.

My vote is read the first one and call it done.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

Read More

Cross by James Patterson

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in 2.5 stars, 2013, Book Review, James Patterson | 0 comments

Cross by James Patterson

Cross by James Patterson

Genre: Mystery
Series: #12 in the Alex Cross series
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 377
Source: purchased

The Short Version:
When a new case might have connections to the still unsolved murder of his wife, Alex Cross joins his friend and ex-partner to investigate.

Why I Read It:
I am unapologetic about the fact that I enjoy the occasional James Patterson book and this series and the Women’s Murder Club series are my go to choice when I need a palate cleanser between books.

The Book:
From the back cover:

Alex Cross was a rising star in the Washington, D.C., Police Department when an unknown man gunned down his wife. But his need for vengeance was placed on hold as he raised his children himself. Years later, Alex leaves the FBI to work as a full-time psychologist. His life finally feels like it’s in order–until Cross’s former partner, John Sampson, gives him a chilling phone call. Sampson is tracking a serial rapist whose brutal MO includes threatening his victims with terrifying photos. Now Cross and Sampson need the help of the rape victims to stop the predator. When the case triggers a connection to his wife’s death, Alex may finally catch the murderer. Is this a chance for justice at long last? Or the culminating scene in his own deadly obsession?

My Thoughts:
This was pretty much exactly what I expect from an Alex Cross book by James Patterson. It was a quick read that didn’t require much attention or thought. It was the book version of channel surfing until I landed on a formulaic detective show to watch.

This time around the investigation leads to hints that the sick and twisted killer they’re tracking may be connected to the unsolved murder of Alex’s wife. Finally through some flashbacks the story of her death is told in more detail than in any of the previous 11 books in the series. All the other typical elements of an Alex Cross story are there. It’s all formulaic at this point and the only departure this time around is the focus on Alex and his family.

The ending of this one really annoyed me so it’ll be a while before I continue with this series.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

Read More