Tuesday, April 28, 2009

“The Demon Awakens – part 1” The Demon Wars Saga By R. A. Salvatore

“The Demon Awakens – part 1”
The Demon Wars Saga
By R. A. Salvatore
Multi-cast production
Produced by Graphic Audio
Approx. 7 hours

It’s a beginning of a new era in part one of the high fantasy saga of the Demon Wars by R. A. Salvatore. The Demon Dactyl awakens and begins to put together an army to destroy the land of Corona. R.A. Salvatore created a saga that runs through seven books and is the basis of the role-playing game “Demon Wars.” Now teamed up with Graphic Audio these books come to life as “A Movie in Your Mind.” In order to do justice to the books Graphic Audio is producing the saga in parts. The First book “The Demon Awakens” begins with this part one audio book.

To start the book off the demon “Dactyl” awakens and the sounds of his coming back to life after spending an eon encased in stone are extremely well done. The creative staff at Graphic Audio bring to life the sounds of this awakening.

In “The Demon Awakens – part one” the listener is introduced to the main characters of book one. Elbryan and Jilsesponie (Pony) are a couple of 13 year-olds that live in the village of Dundalis. They go out to welcome back the village’s hunters as they come back from their annual big hunt. To their shock one of the kills being carried is a goblin. This brings horror and awe to the minds of the villagers as goblins have been unheard from in so long that many of the villagers don’t know anything about this race of evil beings. Elbryan and Pony seem to be just falling in love in this peaceful time in the land of Corona. But just as they begin to explore this love their village is attacked by a goblin and giant raiding party. Elbryan and Pony are separated as their village is destroyed, each one believing they are sole survivors.

Once again the audio production quality along with the music will put you on the edge of your seat as you hear the village being destroyed and the villagers fighting back.

After the destruction of Dundalis, Elbryan is followed by some elves that have a history with his family. He is taken in by these elves to be trained as a ranger. This training will continue until Elbryan is strong enough and skilled enough to defeat the strongest elf in the clan.

Pony has more of a dark future ahead of her. She is found wandering and dirty in a nearby village and without memory of the attack on Dundalis or her past. She is taken in by a couple of colorful pub keepers who give her the name of Cat deStray, where she is employed in the pub as a barmaid. Pony/ Cat is not fond of the unwelcome approaches by the pub’s patrons and at one point is cornered by 3 drunkards who are upset that she turned them down. In a quick brawl she defeats the 3 drunks to many of the people’s surprise.

Another main character introduced is Avelyn Desbris, a freshly graduated monk who is taught the magic of the stones that fall from the “Halo” that surrounds the planet. The “Halo” at given times in history drops the stones from the sky and only special monks are allowed to gather the stones and wield their power. Each stone is capable of different powers, and to the surprise of the abbots Avelyn is the most powerful wielder of the stones they’ve seen. Avelyn is chosen to gather the stones, and is sent with other monks to an island which only certain religious leaders know of. Avelyn is a very spiritual monk that begins to question not his faith but the religion itself during his journey to the island.

This book introduces the characters with some great fight scenes either between humans and goblins, giants, dwarves, elves or other humans. The production of Graphic Audio puts you in the middle of the fight hearing and maybe sometimes feeling the punches, sword slashes or arrow hits. You might actually want to check for bruises.

I think the best I can say about this audio book is “GIMME PART TWO, NOW!”

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Breaking Dawn" Book 4 of the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

"Breaking Dawn"
Book 4 of the Twilight Series
by Stephenie Meyer
Read by Ilyana Kadushin & Matt Walters
Produced by Listening Library
Approx 20.5 hours


I finally got around to listening to the final book in the "Twilight" Series by Stephenie Meyer. I kept putting it off because I really didn't want to put up with the whiney Bella. But I was drawn to it mainly because of the werewolves and not the vampires. When Stephenie Meyer writes about the werewolves, led (kinda sorta/ and even more so in this book) by Jacob Black, she seems to do better storytelling. And then again the werewolves aren't the whiney-pay-attention-to-me-I'm-so-smart-and-everything-should-be-handed-to-me Bella. I've also been thinking that maybe the werewolves tell the masculine side of the story and the vampires represent the feminine, but that would be another analysis all together.

This book is the one that brings a close (somewhat) to the "Twilight" series. It even gives everyone a happily-ever-after ending. Maybe not the one you were expecting but it seems to end the series on a positive note. It does however leave the author open to write more should she feel like revisiting the series. This final tome is broken down into 3 parts, the first and last as told by Bella and the second told by Jacob. This is the reason for the 2 vocal actors in the audiobook. I will say this; Ilyana Kadushin and Matt Walters do a great job acting out the reading. Ms. Kadushin captures the voice and character of Bella, and it may be due to her portrayal of a perfect teenage female that gets on my nerves. As for Matt Walters delivery as Jacob, the werewolf, he delivers the angst and anger of the character and even gets a good growl going in some of the scenes.

Okay here's where my problem in this book lies; Bella is always wanting attention but at the same time saying I don't want the attention. She acts as though here getting the "gift" of immortality is due her for no other reason than she says so. Some may say that her being in love with a vampire she should deserve to be one, but the way the character reads she seems very "snotty" about it. And with today's youth thinking everything should be handed them just because the demand it, Bella emphasizes that point.

Now to get off my soapbox and talk about the story. All in all the story is pretty captivating. Once you get to the middle of the book you are locked in for the ride.

The book begins with Bella finally marrying her vampire, Edward Cullen. Edward demande she marry him before she becomes a vampire. They then go off on their honeymoon off the coast of Brazil. As with any honeymooning couple they engage in days of sex. Although with Edward's vampire strength and desires he ends up bruising Bella and tries to steer her away from this human experience. It turns out Bella demands more time together and as can be expected she becomes pregnant. What? Pregnant? Yes and of course being a half human/half vampire baby this baby has some strange things going on. The strength is more than normal, causing damage to Bella's body, the appetite is draining Bella. This becomes too much for Edward and knowing the baby is killing Bella he flies her back home to his Doctor/Father Carlisle Cullen, to abort this birth. But Bella is having none of it.

The baby is born but before it is born it is found to be developing and growing at an alarming rate, eventually able to transfer its thoughts to Edward, to where Edward then knows the baby loves him and Bella. Jacob hates the baby because it is killing Bella and since Jacob who hasn't "imprinted" with a mate yet, he still loves Bella. Imprinting is a werewolf way of finding the perfect mate.

Once the baby is born she continues to grow at a very fast rate. And surprise of all surprises, Jacob imprints with baby Renesmee. Imprinting is not a sexual thing but more of a protective thing, and is not unusual to have a "quasi-immortal" werewolf imprint with a child. After all werewolves don't age.

Another vampire sees the baby and thinks Renesmee is an "immortal child." Immortal children is forbidden under vampire law set forth by the Volturi. The Volturi are a self appointed governing council over all vampires. Hearing of this law being broking the Volturi seek out to destroy the Cullen's.

The Cullen's seek out all the assistance they can in what seems to be a suicidal battle for the Cullen's but they believe strongly that the baby should live. Stephenie Meyer at this point brings in many vampire covens from around the world and gets very creative in the telling of the stories of the different covens. The fun point is hearing of the Romanian coven led by a vampire named Vladimir. I thought this was a nice nod to Bram Stoker.

All in all there is some good excitement especially during the buildup of the face-off between the Volturi and the Cullens. Also the middle section told by Jacob is captivating.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid" by Lemony Snicket

"Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid"
by Lemony Snicket
Published 2007 by Harper Collins


For anyone who has ever had the treat of reading the books written by Lemony Snicket, you are already aware of his dark humor/ dry wit and sarcasm. It has been a couple of years since I finished the series "A Series of Unfortuanate Events," by Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) and I miss following the misfortunes of the Baudelaire orphans.

This book does not add anything to the Unfortunate lives of the three Baudelaire children, rather it is a supplement to the series. This book is a collection of some of the quotes from the books separated into 13 chapters each covering a topic. I think, but without having to go back and refresh myself on the 13 books I'm not positive, they cover the topics approached by the book in each chapter. The quotes are from the books, as well as some new ones thrown in to add some fresh material.

In order to adequately review this book I'll give the topic of each chapter and then add a quote from the same chapter.

Chapter 1: Home

"There are some people who believe that home is where one hangs one's hat, but these people tend to live in closets and on little pegs."

Chapter 2: Family

"Siblings who claim to get along all the time are most definitely hiding something."

Chapter 3: School

"Most Schools have a system of loud bells, which startle the students and teachers at regular intervals and remind them that time is passing even more slowly than it seems."

Chapter 4: Work

"Members of your family might say they are working all day long, while you are off at school or clarinet lessons, but the only way to know this for sure is to follow them at a discreet distance."

Chapter 5: Entertainment

"Wishing, like sipping a glass of punch or pulling aside a bearskin rug in order to access a hidden trapdoor in the floor, is merely a quiet way to spend one's time before the candles are extinguished on one's birthday cake."

Chapter 6: Literature

"If writers wrote as carelesssly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[pasdlgkhasdfasdf."

Chapter 7: Travel

"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them."

Chapter 8: Emotional Health

"The way sadness works is one of the strangest riddles of the world."

Chapter 9: Affairs of the Heart

"Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby - awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess."

Chapter 10: A Life of Mystery

"Having an aura of menace is like having a pet weasel, because you rarely meet someone who has one, and when you do it makes you want to hide under the coffee table."

Chapter 11: The Mystery of Life

"Sometimes even in the most unfortunate of lives there will occur a moment or two of good fortune."

Chapter 12: An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does

"There are some who go through life with a shadow hanging over them, particularly if they live in a building which has long wide awnings."

Chapter 13: Miscellaneous

"Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of 'systematically assisting Sysyphus's stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister,' which is easier done than said."

These are just small examples of some of the fun to be found between the covers in this book. You can either read it cover to cover or just randomly open it to find your thought for the day. Either way you will find some fun in this book by Lemony Snicket.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Turn Coat" Book 11 of "The Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher

"Turn Coat" Book 11 of "The Dresden Files"
by Jim Butcher
Read by James Marsters
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx 15 Hours

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher packs a punch like all the other 10 "Dresden Files" books, and once again I was sucked into Wizard Harry Dresden's Chicago and never wanted to leave. Harry Dresden is a wizard and private investigator in Chicago, and was recently made a warden of the White Council. The White Council is the government, so to speak, for the world's wizards. The wardens are all the Council's police force and are out to capture and punish anyone practicing black magic. Usually that punishment is death. Now, the strange part about Harry being made a warden is that he was once on probation for the possibility that he may start to lean to the dark side given his family tree and it's history.

While Harry was on this "probation" Warden Donald Morgan was assigned to watch over Harry's every move. Morgan did his job well, in fact the way Morgan did his job was to torment Dresden to the point of nearly accusing every move of Dresden's to be black Magic. In other words, Morgan and Dresden were enemies fighting for the same side. So when Morgan is accused of murdering a member of the White Council, and escaping their prison, no one would ever expect Harry Dresden to hide him from the others. But, that's just what has happened, and since Harry is always fighting for the underdog, who else could help him?

Harry is awakened by banging at his door and opens to find a bloodied and beaten Warden Morgan. Morgan tells Harry he must hide him. When asked why, of all people, he should help Morgan, Morgan tells Harry he is on the run from the White Council because they suspect him of murdering one of the White Concil wizards. When asked why they suspect that he says, "Because I was found standing over the body with the murder weapon."

Anyone that has read any of the other books from "The Dresden Files" series knows Warden Morgan could NEVER do anything against the White Council, it is not in his nature. Dresden knows this and decides to take on the case and find out who framed Morgan for the murder.

In the process of investigating this case Harry may have taken on more than he can handle. Not only might he have to go against the White Council. Every magical being and person is out to collect the huge bounty on Morgan's head.

The biggest foe seems to be a magical creature known as a Skin Walker, from Native American lore. This creature is a shape shifter and very powerful flinger of magic, and fast to boot. The first battle with the Skin Walker (of which there are 3 in the book) proves to be fatal to one of Harry's friends. Harry must pull in all assets he can find, werewolves, White Court Vampires, faeries and even the White Council to prove Morgan's innocence and defeat this "Shagnasty."

This book is one where from the opening sentence to the end, is non-stop action. Top it off with the great humor/sarcasm/wit of Harry Dresden and you will not want to stop listening. James Marsters captures the voice and being of Harry Dresden in the reading of this book that makes the listener feel as though their listening to Harry Dresden himself. I should point out that, yes that is the same James Marsters that played "Spike" in the "Buffy the Vampire Hunter" television series. His voice is perfect for the role.

Monday, April 06, 2009

"Wigfield: The Can Do Town That Just May Not" By Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello & Stephen Colbert

"Wigfield: The Can Do Town That Just May Not"
By Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello & Stephen Colbert
Read by the Authors
Produced by Highbridge Audio
4 hours 47 minutes

An out of work highway line painter, Russell Hokes, decides that he already knows how to draw lines, why not add curves to those lines and form words and become a writer. After a shady meeting with the editors at Hyperion books Hokes decides to tell the story of disappearing small town America. He receives a large sum for an advance on the book and gets prepared to write that book.

After blowing all the money on the beaches of Mexico and annoying calls from the publisher, Russell Hokes lets panic set in and tries to find small town America and find out why it's dissappearing. That's when his car breaks down outside the small town, or squatter village, of Wigfield. Here is the small town he's been looking for. Wigfield is a small town, sorta, that consists mainly of strip clubs and used auto parts stores. It seems Wigfield is on the brink of destruction, due to the local Congressional representative wanting to destroy a dam and unleash the waters to flood out. Wigfield. Okay actually the people are really only squatters that found out the dam was going to be destroyed and settled there hoping to get relocation money from the government.

Russell Hokes wants to save this town and writes his book using the towns characters/citizens to tell their story. Wigfield has it's resident arsonist/maniac/chief of police. Three mayors (due to a mysterious fire at the fire station / polling place on election night) who all vie for control except one who really likes his fudge, a coven of 2 lesbian witches, a strange taxidermist/mortuary manager, 2 women in their late 40s who both claim to be the oldest living resident of Wigfield, numerous strippers and a "Doctor" who practices medicine out of his van (mainly performing enhancements for the strippers.)

The best part of the audiobook is that you get to hear the extreme acting and vocal talents of the authors portraying all the citizens. Stephen Colbert plays the part of Russell Hokes and several other characters. Amy Sedaris' and Paul Dinello's characterizations are just too hilarious.

This entire book including the explosive conclusion is one that will have you laughing out loud.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"Illegal" By Paul Levine

Illegal
By Paul Levine
Published by Bantam Books
2009


J. Atticus Payne, affectionately known as "Royal" Payne by judges and law enforcement agencies, has problems. His wife has left him for a right wing tv talk show host, he's being hunted down by an internal affairs officer for skimming money from a sting operation in which he was to bribe a judge. Oh yeah he's also now hated by all judges and attorneys for bribing a judge. Things just don't seem to work out so well for Jimmy "Royal" Payne.

To make matters worse his son was killed by an illegal immigrant that was drinking while driving and smashed into Jimmy's car when he and his son were out for a father/son day. Payne is out to seek revenge on this Mexican by always threatening to hunt him down and kill him with his bare hands. Luckily his ex-wife, Sharon, has been able to stop this when he's threatened to do it before. But now it looks as though he has nothing to lose.

Oh but that's not all to this story, not by a long shot. You see, J. Atticus Payne had once helped some illegal aliens that were forced to suffer in the desert heat inside a metal tractor trailer. Some of the Illegals died but the ones that survived got to become citizens thanks to Payne. Now when Marisol and her son Tino need to cross the border and escape Mexico to the promised land of "El Norte," Marisol gives her son Payne's business card in case they get separated he should contact Payne to help him.

During their border crossing something goes wrong with the coyotes (the people transporting the immigrants) and the border patrol and Tino gets separated from his mother. When Tino finds Payne he discovers that Payne is not the great man the legends have created, but seeks his help to find his mother anyway.

Payne's ex-wife is supposed to arrest him (Payne) but after hearing the boy's story let's him go to reunite Tino and Marisol.

In an adventure that brings out the heartbreak and danger of the everyday life of an illegal immigrant Payne and Tino go back to Mexico to retrace the steps of their crossing to find Marisol. Covering the dangers of border crossing, the dangers of illegal workers in packing plants and farms and the dangers of being hunted down by the so-called patriots guarding the borders and even by those bringing in the illegals. This novel is fun, adventurous and poignant all in one. Not since I read T. C. Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain" have I absorbed a novel that covers the plight of illegal immigrants viewed from both sides of the issue.

Great book that you will not be able to put down once reading.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Salvation in Death" by J.D. Robb

Salvation in Death
by J.D. Robb
Read by Susan Ericksen
Produced by Brilliance Audio
13 hours 23 minutes

Once again I get to visit the kick-butt New York cop of the Future, Lt. Eve Dallas. This time around it was less sci-fi and more simple detective work...there was of course a bit with recreating a portion of New York city in a hologram, that was cool, but not enough to grab the sci-fi part of my brain.

However the main thing that keeps the whole "...in Death" series by J.D. Robb interesting is the characters. Robb (aka Nora Roberts), has created a cast of some wonderful characters, and no matter what the crime these characters are fun, interesting and even seem like old friends, especially after reading a couple of the books. So I stayed interested regardless of the lack of cool gadgets.

You've got Eve Dallas a tough cop with great detective smarts who is haunted by a terrifying past. Her husband Roarke, the Irish street thug turned entrepeneur who now owns most everything on or off Planet. Some great side characters are also thrown into the mix with Eve's assistant Detective Peabody and her love interest, the colorful electronics division Detective McNabb, and a score of others that have a past, a present and you become interested in their future.

I go back and forth in this series between the audiobooks and the physical books. The one thing that keeps me coming back is the reader, Susan Ericksen. Ms. Ericksen's vocal abilities run the gamut in every book in this series. She captures with ease the Irish lilt in Roarke's voice, the entire character of Detective Peabody is encapsulated in the voice used. Not a single character is missed each with his/her own voice summing up their character. In this novel she even captures the accent of residents of Spanish Harlem with ease and as always is very convincing.

In "Salvation in Death," poisoned wine kills a priest at the Catholic funeral mass, Eve Dallas is called in as primary investigator. She pieces together disturbing clues that suggest identity theft, gang connections, and a deeply personal act of revenge. Then a second murder knocks the whole investigation sideways. With another poisoning of a religious figure, this time a televangelist with a world following. Something about the second killing doesn't seem to jibe with Eve. And soon she's investigating 2 separate but similar murders.

The murders of the two religious figures sends Eve on a crime-solving adventure that creates a bit of a morality tale that seems to say not all in the world is black and white, the gray areas are what are becoming more and more clear to Lt. Eve Dallas, NYPSD.