It's sometimes easy to forget just how much fun Zorro really is, even with all the cheese of the genre and the naivete of the story. But as a lifelong fan of the character, I keep coming back time and again to sample the different versions, and invariably I walk away with a big grin when I find one like this. Zorro is best when played straight, even if the story around him is over the top, and Val Kilmer deserves high praise for pulling it off in classic style. If you know the story, have fun with this take on it. If not (how is that possible?!), this is about as good of an introduction as you could ask for.
Spy music is it's own genre, an eclectic merging of sounds from across other music genres - from swing to jazz to rock to classical and beyond - to create that definitive style that everyone knows. Any why does everyone know it? Because of "The James Bond Theme," one of the most recognizable movie themes of all time. As Bond himself put the spy craze in motion, likewise his theme put an indelible stamp on the music that defines the genre.
But the music of James Bond is far more than just that theme, and like the behind-the-scenes stories of the 007 movies, the stories behind the film scores are anything but boring. After all, the soundscape for these films are part of what kept Bond in style an updated with the times, and that means collaborations with big personalities and sometimes some big fighting.
Each film and its soundtrack are covered in-depth, and for the completists out there, this also includes the "unofficial" Bond movies, the 1967 spoof Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again. Each movie has it's own chapter, making it really convenient if you decide to revisit a chapter later. I know I appreciate that as I fully intend to go through this book again with my soundtrack albums on standby. Much like with many books about music, it'd be more convenient to have that music plugged into the audiobook, but I'm sure the licensing doesn't come cheap, and it would likely double the size of this audiobook. Makes me very grateful I have all of the movies and soundtrack albums at my disposal, but it's a missed opportunity to present the full potential of the audio format. After all, who says audiobooks have to merely be a reading of the print copy?
I only have two deep notes of criticism about this audiobook, and both are likely just the result of me being a fanboy, so pardon me while I fly that flag a bit.
The first is that this book is "incomplete" in my eyes. This book was one of the many tomes released in celebration of 007's 50th anniversary on screen in 2012, and as a result does not include a chapter on the movie that was released later that year, Skyfall. This irks me because, while the hardcover of this book is understandably missing this chapter, the paperback updated the material for it's 2014 release, which is when this audiobook was released. You'd think that maybe they could have gotten the narrator to read one more chapter, but nooooooo. Apparently that would make too much sense, especially since Adele won the Oscar and Golden Globe for her title song, and Thomas Newman got an Oscar nomination for his first 007 score. Yeah, I could see where that might be important enough to skip over...
The second issue, and this is admittedly just a gripe on style points, is the narrator. The one they got does a decent job and packs plenty of enthusiasm for the subject matter, don't get me wrong. He earned his money. But... this is JAMES BOND. When you hear "Bond... James Bond" spoken by a flat American voice right near the beginning of the book, it's the equivalent of backing a jazz ensemble with an accordian player; all the cool gets sucked right out of the room. Maybe I'm just thinking stereotypically, but I think perhaps a smooth British voice might have lent an air of class and dignity to a production like this. Extra style points if maybe they could have shelled out the money to get one of the many British actors or actresses who have featured in one of the films. Seriously, if they can re-record all of Flemings novels with top talent (and why aren't those new Audio Go recordings on Audible YET?!), then why not shoot for the moon? Yeah, I know... it's because this book won't make the money of the Fleming novels. But still, one can dream. At the very least, this is an audiobook on the sound of 007, so make it SOUND like a 007 audiobook. There are plenty of quality British narrators in the audiobook world. Simon Vance, for example, who narrates the Ian Fleming novels in the version Audible does have, would have been an excellent choice.
End of fanboy diatribe. Regardless of those two points of disorder, if you're a fan of the James Bond movies or a film score aficionado, this book is for you. It's a fun and insightful look into the music of film's greatest superspy, an absolute must for the uber-geeks out there. You know who you are.
I pretty much cut my teeth on the classic monsters of the silver screen from Universal and Hammer Studios. Those old movies in turn helped me to discover books such as this one. As a kid, I used to find myself returning to the well as often as the movie studios do, for as everyone knows... the novel is ALWAYS better. And regardless of which monster is your favorite on screen, Frankenstein is the best written of them all when it comes to the original source material. That's not just opinion on my part. That's just the very nature of the beast. Between Shelley's considerable literary gifts and personal influences, perhaps it was inevitable that this novel should stand the test of time as one of the great proto-Gothic horror masterpieces.
As my reading list has grown considerably wider since I was a kid, it's been a decade, perhaps more, since my last reading of Frankenstein. In those years, I've since better acquainted myself with Shelley's world and contemporaries such as her husband Percy, Lord Byron, Keats, et al, so I feel I've gained a deeper appreciation of the author and her circle through history and their own works. As a result, I feel it's been far too long since I revisited this story.
But chances are, if you're reading this review, it may be that you're ready to read this story for the first time, and so you naturally want to know what to expect. Above and beyond all of praise I heap upon it, this book is a product of its time and place. It reads with all the flowery prose of the early 19th century, but it's by no means difficult reading as some novels of that time may be for modern readers. As to the story itself, Frankenstein has the distinction of not only being the source for so many fun horror movies, it's also the very science fiction novel. When this was written, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and the boundaries of what was possible culturally and scientifically were being pushed all the time. Long before Jurassic Park, Shelley dared to ask if humanity should open the doors we dared to open simply because we could. This classic is born of fear and despair, which is as real as the ink that flowed from Shelley's pen. Because of pop culture, it's so easy to take this story for granted, but it's precisely for that reason that this book needs to be experienced. It's depth will surprise you as you come to know Dr. Frankenstein and his equally intelligent Creature. If anything, for all of our social media, I find that the perceived isolation of our current generation is something that will likely resonate with modern readers.
For this particular edition from Audible, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens is an excellent choice for narrator. He lends his own brand of class and gravitas to this tale in a way that just works for me. He brings this venerable tale to life with the same depth and perception gifted to the Creature.
Wanted to like this one as Caterina Sforza is easily one of the most fascinating people in Renaissance Italy, but I couldn't finish it. For starters, the book isn't about her, and that's my own fault for not taking other reviews to heart first. It's about her fictional, intolerably new-agey handmaiden Dea. I didn't pick this book to read about Dea, and I especially don't care about Dea's tarot readings as a plot device.
At some point I may come back to this one and give it another try now that I know what to expect, but right now... so many better books await.
Wanda McCaddon, by any name she uses, is always a superb narrator. Her talents are wasted on this one, but you can't win them all. I trust she got paid well anyway.
This would have been a 5 star work, save for the extreme repetition of facts. Ironically, the author thanks his editor up front, who probably should have been fired. This is such an issue that it probably could have reduced the size of the book by a third without loss of content.
That said, this book is a wonderful companion work to J. W. Rinzler's equally incredible "Making of" volumes. This work covers the creative story development of the 6-film saga in full in such a way that no stone is left unturned, and gives us insights into the lives of the people involved, especially that of creator George Lucas. This work is so detailed that it breaks down every single version of the scripts, stage by stage. In this regard, this book is an absolute MUST for the die-hard uber-fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Not covered are the technical aspects, such as special effects, sound effects, or the musical scores.
What is casually glossed over in the history is the infamous 1978 Holiday Special. There is some basic information on the Ewok movies as well as the Droids and Ewoks cartoon series, but nothing in-depth for these either.
One point of weirdness: the narrator attempts impersonations of the various people who are quoted in interviews or various characters quoted in scripts. Some of these are passable and even respectable, and others are so far off base so as to be screwball if you know what the person is supposed to sound like.
Since reading this one, I've been trying to figure out exactly what it was about this book that should have worked but didn't. I've come the conclusion that it's not any one thing in particular. The story is a simple and effective one, but I somehow I get the feeling it should go through more development. The concept is pretty straightforward, the accidental creation of a woman from pure magic. I almost hate drawing the comparison, but it's sort of the anti-Anakin Skywalker, created from the Force. And yet, I think this is where the trouble lies, not with the comparison, but with this book's overall story arc. Things seem far too easy for Gala, and I suppose they would as those in the world are completely unprepared to deal with someone of her magnitude. She almost seems like the perfect woman, with the exception of that extreme attitude switch when she doesn't get her way or feels challenged. And that's where the comparison to Anakin Skywalker comes in. It's not just the origin, it's the belief in his power. Remember, Skywalker started as a good kid too, and look how that turned out. The reason I draw this comparison is because when it comes to genre stories, many of them follow this kind of hero's journey or hero's fall and/or redemption. Gala has the potential to be sorcery's answer to Wonder Woman (who was also created by magic) or to be scary beyond all comprehension in a way Vader would envy. Both paths, or even something in between, offer a multitude of challenges in this world that we've not seen yet. Right now I don't have a bearing on where her trajectory is headed. I know where she'd like to go, but that's not really the same thing.
On the whole, I didn't hate the story, but it didn't grab me either. It's like cooking - you start out with the idea of a quiche and end up making scrambled eggs because you're hungry now. The execution isn't nearly as big as the concept, and that may be because it suffered from being more of a romance novel and less of a fantasy novel with elements of romance in it, or it may be because of what I've already mentioned above. The other characters in the story... their backstories are more or less in place, but I'm not drawn to any of them yet. This is where I think further development would have helped. But having said that, I don't feel like I can give up on this one either. There's some untapped potential that could be harnessed, turning this series into something special. It'll take some work, but I don't think it's beyond grasp. Curiosity for Gala's future will bring me back someday.
I described the first book as the X-Files meets James Bond, Steampunk style. The sequel surprised me in that it kept up the pace and really expanded on the world and the characters, cementing this series' place as one of my favorites, and certainly my favorite Steampunk series to date.
This third book... a little less X-Files, a lot more 007 - Roger Moore era, to be exact - and it's a glorious ride! As Books and Braun make their way to the rough and tumble United States, they join forces with their American counterparts to take on their scariest assignment yet. Someone has seemingly built Tesla's theoretical death ray, causing the destruction of dozens of ships in recent days. Our heroes have to fight the bad guys, the supergenius who's using them to his own aims, and each other, which forces the obligatory use of plenty of ammunition and explosives. Morris and Ballantine have knocked another one out of the park. It's impossible not to have fun with this series. I'm chomping at the bit for the 4th book, due out next year.
Langton's voice performance is a bit - ok, a lot - cartoonish for the women, but once you get used to it, it works for the Roger Moore / Wild Wild West tone of the story. There are a couple of points where I noticed he'd use the wrong voice here and there, but given the seat-of-the-pants nature of the story and the number of characters he's juggling in certain scenes, I have to say I'm deeply impressed on the whole. There are some narrators that might not try that hard, and others that maybe wouldn't convey the sense of dramatic comedy this book carries. Besides, he narrated the first two, so it just wouldn't be the same without him.
Like so many, I grew up on the TV series and have seen the movie. This is my first encounter with the novel that started it all. I was by no means disappointed. It plays out pretty much as I expected, being that they used parts of it across the movie and a handful of episodes, and I readily enjoyed the scenes that remained unfilmed. The characters were both new and familiar at the same time, and by the end of it I felt I gained a greater appreciation for the story behind the story I thought I knew.
If you've heard Verily A New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back, you already know what to expect. This falls right in line and completes the trilogy in its greatness. For those who have not yet experienced this... you're in for a treat. Shakespearean puns and mangled quotes run amuck through the galaxy far, far away, accompanied with all the ham-fisted, Monty Python style acting. And yet, there is another level of experience, as one would expect from reading the Bard's original works, so all of the drama and gravitas of the story is there to be had. Add in the familiar sound effects and classic John Williams music you remember, and this most unlikely mashup becomes a few hours of pure fun.
But then, having enjoyed the previous two, I'm already biased. You've not experienced Shakespeare until you've heard him in the original Huttese, and the songs from Jabba's band and the Ewoks just drive this performance over the top. It's a blast.
In gearing up for the upcoming July 4th holiday, I decided to revisit the Colonial effort for Independence. These days I think the hardest thing about finding a book that covers this subject is that politics often comes into play. Either the Founders can do no wrong, and their mission was ordained by Providence, or the story's focus will shift to spotlight the atrocities of the era such as slavery or the incompetence of command decisions. Fair and balanced is something that's difficult to find sometimes.
But that's why this book impressed me. The personalities, the triumphs and tragedies, the tactics, the motivations, and the possible x-factors are played out with an emphasis on fact, assessment, and perspective. The character and backgrounds of the people involved are touched upon, but with just the broad strokes so as to keep the narrative going. What was especially invaluable to me was learning of the mindsets and political entanglements that led to the Boston Massacre and other such preliminaries, giving a more holistic look at events otherwise glossed over in most history classes. When the war is engaged, the logistical problems faced by the Continental Army are examined in terms a lay enthusiast can understand, with politics taking a back seat and filling in gaps.
It could be argued that more detail could go into this book, and while I agree that it does leave a lot to be discovered, this volume is more dense than a simple beginner's history. There is nuance and detail to had here, which makes it an effective overview of the Revolution and its players. Any reader who wants more will be able to know easily what they felt was missing and what they want to delve into further. Again, what impresses me most is the balance. This isn't a dry book of basic facts, even if the battlefield issues occasionally overshadow other parts of the narrative. Where this book excels is by examining the questions and beliefs that we sometimes take for granted, reminding the reader what was at stake in the name of Revolution.
Dracula tells his own version of the familiar tale with a healthy dose of snark and conviction as he tries "once more" to set the record straight and redeem himself in the eyes of humanity. The result is a lot of fun. It's a considerably less serious take on the original Stoker classic, told in a manner that would almost seem like a parody of both the original novel and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, except it never really crosses into parody territory despite the humor. All in all, I'm now curious enough to see where the rest of the series goes.
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