It's with great sadness that I finished '21' the final, unfinished adventure of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin in the Master And Commander Series. I think of all audio books, the UNABRIDGED versions of these must be considered the gold standard.
Let's begin with the books themselves. If you've never read one, these are the adventures of two best friends, Captain John "Lucky Jack" Aubry and Stephen Maturin, M.D. during the Napoleonic wars. Each book is filled with adventure, comedy, romance, intrigue and history. The characters are drawn wonderfully, consistent enough to create comedy in their reactions, but inconsistent enough to ring true as humans. The details of nautical life are amazing. Author Patrick O'Brian's ear for dialog, dialects and nautical idioms was beyond brilliant.
Then there is Patrick Tull, the British actor who brings these books to life on tape or MP3. Mr. Tull is that rare book reader who actually reflects on every word he reads. Each character has their own voice and dialect, not an easy thing to pull off over a span of twenty-one books. Even the female characters and love scenes, often a pitfall for even the best narrators, are pulled of wonderfully.
Do yourself a great favor. Download the UNABRIDGED version of Master And Commander as read by Mr. Tull. See why so many people have followed this series from its beginning. See why we feel so sad that there won't be a twenty-second book. This is as good as audio books can get.
Elevating Overman by Bruce Ferber is a rarity, a genuinely comic novel made even better by the narration of a brilliant comic actor, Jason Alexander. Ira Overman is a nebbish, a loser, a car salesman perpetually harassed by his boss, a divorcee alienated from his family. He seems condemned to a life of loneliness and take-out deli food. Then one day a miracle happens… a bargain priced eye surgery not only corrects his sight, but gives him powers that seem almost, super-hero like. No, he can’t leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but he can get that pretty waitress in the deli to slip him her phone number.
But even Superman can’t undo the past, (Or maybe he can. I haven’t read one of those comics since they cost a dime.) And when Overman tries to atone for something haunting him from his past, the story turns very real and touching.
Elevating Overman reminds me of Bruce Jay Friedman’s wonderful novels, Stern and A Mother’s Kisses in its hilarity, its unembarrassed depiction of Jewish Americans and the very real emotions behind the laughs.
Add to this wonderful novel the vocal talents of Jason Alexander, Seinfeld’s buddy, George Costanza, and this is a singularly enjoyable audiobook.
Brendan Reilly, M.D. is a man with a lot to say, all of it fascinating, insightful and beautifully said.
Using story after story from his own experiences as a physician in hospital and private practice, Reilly laments the depersonalization of modern American medicine as it struggles to become more cost efficient and profitable.
Reilly calls himself a dinosaur because he still believes people should have their own doctors, someone who knows them, their health objectives and their end of life choices. He criticizes the way existing systems let patients' records fall through the cracks, And in doing this, he is harder on himself than anyone else.
But don't expect dry prose or clinical jargon. Dr. Reilly is a terrific story teller. He's gifted with a lovely way with words, a feel for dialog and a great love for his profession.
Download this book and I promise you won't be disappointed.
I'm a retired TV writer and from time to time young people ask me how to get their careers started in entertainment. In the future, I'll refer them to this book.
It's loaded with great advice, much of it good for people beginning any kind of career,all of it illustrated with examples from Ms. Leifer's life.
While I'm sure most people don't need to be reminded to bathe or to show up for job interviews on time, the best advice she gives is to be fearless and relentless.
If you're beginning your career, as my children are, I think you'll get a lot from reading Ms. Leifer's book.
First things first... if you like show business memoirs, this is a fine one. It gives you some insight into the creation of a wonderful comic genius, Tim Conway, and is loaded with funny anecdotes. This is a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
BUT... Tim Conway does not narrate this book. After a warm and generous forward by Carol Burnett, Mr. Conway does a minute or two of introduction, explaining that he read the book once and does not intend to read it again. At that point, the narration is turned over to Dick Hill.
DICK HILL!!! The man who reads all those hard boiled detective novels. The voice of Harry Bosch and Jack Reacher. Hill is easily among the best narrators on Audible, but it was jarring, to say the least, to hear Jack Reacher telling stories about his wonderful years working with Carol Burnett. You kept waiting for him to narrate how he beat up the entire cast of McHale's Navy!
Sorry, Mr. Hill, but you've got a typecasting problem.
That aside, if you've loved Tim Conway's work on television and in movies, you'll enjoy this book.
It seemed like a "can't miss" selection. Martin Short, the funniest man on the planet being interviewed by Dick Cavett, a brilliant interviewer, wit and raconteur. But Mr. Cavett seemed to forgot that he was the interviewer, not the interviewee. He acted as if he were on the stage to amuse Mr. Short with his own anecdotes.
It would have been so easy to let a brilliant comic like Short loose with all his incredible energy and characters. Everyone would have gone home thinking how brilliant Short was and what a wonderful job Cavett did showing off Short's brilliance. Best of all, I wouldn't be writing this review.
But instead Cavett blocked Short at every moment, recounting stories about entertainers of an era long before Short's (Milton Berle, Fred Allen, Richard Loo?!)
Let's be fair and say Mr. Cavett was having a bad evening, or he and Mr. Short didn't have any chemistry. It happens. But that's no excuse for selling this debacle to Audible's subscribers.
I assure you I will survive very well without my 99 cents, but I should have it back just on principle..
First things first, Richard Price is an extraordinary writer. His work in movies "Clockers" and in television "The Wire" speaks for itself. His novels are wonderful. He reminds me of Tom Wolfe in his eye for subtlety and detail. His characters talk like human beings, not puppets set up to say glib things to show off how clever the writer is.
Joe Morton, the narrator, is a world class actor and narrator. Among his acting credits is John Sayles "Brother From Another Planet" where he starred in a feature film without saying a word of dialog. He often narrates the "American Experience" series on PBS.
But the production on this book leaves me torn. The use of music cues is kind of a turn off. It's not as bad as the audio book of "Huckleberry Finn" I bought on Audible a few months ago with its cutesy banjo and harmonica music, that tried to turn one of America's two greatest novels into a carefree, nostalgic romp, but I prefer my audio books unadulterated.
Finally, had I noticed that this was an abridged book, I probably would not have bought it. Richard Price's writing is too winning to be cut down with an editor's machete.
I know it sounds horribly boring, a book about good people trying to do kind things, but Nevil Shute’s Trustee From The Toolroom charmed me and made me feel good about being human. And that is a lovely thing.
The story concerns Keith Stewart, a gifted machinist who makes his living writing for a hobbyist magazine called Miniature Mechanic that teaches other hobbyists how to make projects in their home machine shops. That's a little nook of civilization I never knew existed and Shute explores it wonderfully.
Though disappointed that they could not have children, Keith and his wife live modestly and contentedly in a poor suburb of London. When his sister and brother-in-law die in a boating accident near Tahiti, they are willingly tasked with the role of raising their daughter.
To recover the modest money left for the little girl's education, Keith must leave the comfort and safety of his home and bum his way around the world to his sister's shipwreck. In his travels, he discovers that, because of his articles in Miniature Mechanic, (and his generosity in taking the time to answer readers' letters) he has a vast network of friends and admirers everywhere eager to help him in his quest.
Listen, I love listening to Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch kicking ass. I love the violent naval battles in the Master And Commander books, but sometimes it's nice to read a book about nice people doing nice things. I was charmed.
Imagine if Richard Brautigan wrote a book about an erotic Disney World. That would be Nicholson Baker's "House Of Holes."
I listened to this entire book (or should I say "hole" book?) waiting to see what the author was getting at, and at the end, it seemed he was getting at nothing. "House Of Holes" is just not about anything. Instead of a strong narrative to pull me along, Baker uses titillation which got quite tedious after a couple of hours.
Jeff Woodman’s narration was good, but his character voices were too cartoony. He made everybody sound like libidinous idiots, especially the women.
And speaking of women, I couldn’t help noticing that all the rave reviews for this book were written by men. I’d be curious to see some reactions from women.
Would somebody on this forum please help me out and tell me what this book is about? Show me what I missed. Let me in on the joke.
If you know anything about current books, you know that this book is brilliant and well worth your time. It's one of most important books of the year. The New York Times rave review was written by Bill Clinton.
But something must be said about Grover Gardner's mastery of the English language. It's missing. It's not that he's a bad reader. In fact he would be pretty good if it weren't for one thing... The man is constantly, annoyingly and distractingly mispronouncing words.
Mr. Gardner needs a producer or a director... someone who can tell him to take a moment and check the pronunciation of the words he's reading.
A quick search of Audible reveals Mr. Gardner's name on 285 titles. That's thousands of hours of recordings. Perhaps he's too busy recording books to check pronunciations. Perhaps Audible has kept him so busy that he hasn't slept in 12 years and can't concentrate. Perhaps he records books in his sleep.
My point is not to attack Mr. Gardner, but rather that a brilliant and important book... a publishing event if you will, like The Passage Of Power deserves a lot more care taken with its audio version. We would certainly not be pleased with this book if it were filled with mis-spellings and typographical errors. Grover Gardner's mispronunciations are the audible equivalent.
A few weeks ago Audible had a sale and I picked up 5 books thinking, “What the hell. If I hate it, I’m only out $4.95.” Well, with "Shadow And Fog," I picked a winner.
It’s been years since I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries and I won’t try to pass myself off as a Baker Street Irregular, but I do love a good mystery and this one more than qualifies. Author Lindsay Faye builds on a conceit I first encountered in Nicholas Meyer’s “Seven Percent Solution.” He places the Holmes and Watson characters in the middle of an historical event or among historical characters. In Meyer’s book, Holmes is tricked into going to Vienna to be treated for his cocaine addiction by Dr. Sigmund Freud. In this story, Holmes finds himself matching wits with Jack The Ripper.
Sherlock Holmes and his companion/biographer, Dr. John Watson are unquestionably among literature’s most enduring and beloved icons. Faye captures their voices perfectly. A lesser writer might have made Dr. Watson sound like the buffoon Nigel Bruce played opposite Basil Rathbone in the Sherlock Holmes films. Faye creates a number of those wonderful moments when Holmes’ dazzles someone with the conclusions he draws about them, moments that have always left me as impressed with the writer as Holmes’ clients are with his observational powers. And Faye adds a cast of memorable characters, in particular Mary Ann Blunt, a streetwalker with an unexpected talent for sleuthing.
Simon Vance deserves special credit for his wonderful performance. He certainly seems to know his London dialects neighborhood by neighborhood. Very impressive.
My conclusion… “Shadow And Fog” is great fun and well worth your time.
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