"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, June 24, 2017

PERSONAL (Jack Reacher #19) (audiobook) by Lee Child



Published by Random House Audio in 2014.
Read by Dick Hill
Duration: 12 hours, 55 minutes
Unabridged

Jack Reacher gets brought back into military duty, but not officially this time. An extremely talented sniper has taken a shot at the President of France. The shot was taken from an extreme distance and was only stopped by a revolutionary bullet proof glass screen. The various intelligence agencies are sure that this was just a dry run for the G8 economic conference that is coming up soon in England in which several world leaders will be present.

Lee Child
There are four snipers capable of such a shot and 16 years ago Reacher put one of them in jail for murder when he was in the military police. A former boss of Reacher thinks that he has some sort of insight and he partners up with a young CIA / State Department operative and they are off to France. She is the brains, and he is the brawn, at least that's the way it is supposed to be.

But, once they start digging, Reacher starts to suspect that there is much more to this case than he has been told...


This was a middle-of-the-road story. The narration by Dick Hill was excellent, but the book had long bits of repetitive talking that just got tiresome, especially with Bennett, the British Intelligence agent. On top of that, the big bad guy made it feel like it was a video game like Double Dragon - the hero works his way up to the giant boss character. But, the plot twist in the end was just too much. This book should have been edited down to make it much better.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5.


This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Personal by Lee Child.

Friday, June 23, 2017

GRAY MOUNTAIN (audiobook) by John Grisham



Published in 2014 by Random House Audio
Read by Catherine Taber
Duration: 14 hours, 46 minutes
Unabridged

John Grisham explores Appalachian coal country in this novel through the eyes of a young New York lawyer named Samantha Kofer. Kofer has just lost her job in real estate development law at literally the world's largest law firm in the wake of the financial collapse of 2008. Her firm gives her the chance to work for a non-profit for a year without losing her insurance or her seniority and she ends up in the legal aid office in Brady - a tiny town in southwest Virginia in the heart of coal country.

As Kofer starts to work in the office she discovers the world of day-to-day law and how America's poor get bounced around in a legal system with all sorts of hidden rules. Turns out that she has a knack for it. She picks up a case with a coal miner suing for disability due to black lung and she discovers that Big Coal rules all in this region - and there's nothing anyone can do about it...

Like so many of John Grisham's books, the plot is merely the vehicle for Grisham to discuss an aspect of the law. The plot suffers but that's okay by me - I have learned a lot and been entertained as I went along. 

I learned a lot about modern coal mining (to be more accurate, they don't really mine so much as tear apart mountains in a process called "mountaintop removal") and my natural affinity for the union movement was strengthened. Too often, the rules are written by the companies and the government ends up enforcing things that hurt regular people. Without a union, most of these people have no one on their side.

Catherine Taber did a fantastic job of reading this book. Her accents were great and she did a great job with a variety of voices. 

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Gray Mountain by John Grisham.

Monday, June 19, 2017

SECOND SON: A JACK REACHER STORY (audiobook) (short story) by Lee Child



Published by Penguin Random House Audio
Read by Dick Hill
Duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Unabridged short story

Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher series does not feel constrained to write his Jack Reacher books and short stories in any sort of chronological order - a fact that I find immensely interesting as a reader because it is so very unusual. 


Lee Child
In Second Son, Lee Child takes us all the way back to 1974. Jack Reacher is 13 years old and his father has just been transferred to Okinawa as a part of the U.S. Marines along with his mother and his slightly older brother Joe. 

Moving to a new place is always hard and Okinawa is no exception. Reacher must prove himself to the neighborhood bully, he meets a girl and he solves two mysteries. 

The story is fun, but 13 year old Reacher is way too smart for a middle school kid, even if he is Jack Reacher. But, the mysteries were fun. In fact, the whole story was fun, kind of like looking at old yearbook photos of someone you know from way back before you ever met them.

I am a big fan of the reader, Dick Hill. But, I think he is an exceptionally good fit for this series. I don't even bother to physically read the books now - not if Dick Hill is reading them to me.

I rate this audiobook short story 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook used to be offered as an individual short story, which is how I listened to it, but it is now part of a larger collection. Here are links to both on Amazon:

Second Son.


No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Short Stories.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

WHAT YOU BREAK (Gus Murphy #2) (audiobook) by Reed Farrel Coleman



Published in 2017 by Blackstone Audio
Read by Keith Szarabajka
Duration: 10 hours, 34 minutes
Unabridged

The Gus Murphy series is quickly becoming a favorite. Gus is a retired Long Island police officer who provides security and drives the shuttle van back for a tired hotel that pretends to be luxury but really isn't fooling anyone.

Gus retired because his college-aged son died of a heart failure playing a pick up basketball game and it simply destroyed his marriage and his interest in being a police officer. 

In the first book in this series, Gus was a complete mess. Since then, he has gotten his life back together again, in a manner of speaking. He has friends again, especially his friend Slava, a fellow employee from Eastern Europe with a hidden background as a soldier of secret police. Gus also has a love life and he's even bought a car. And, he's got a new case - looking into the murder of a millionaire's estranged granddaughter.

But, when his friend Slava gets mixed up with a shady-looking guest at the hotel and Eastern Europeans start dying in New York City, Gus starts to investigate out of fear for his friend. Soon enough, Gus has more trouble than he bargained for...

This was an excellent audiobook experience. The accents were wonderfully done and it was very enjoyable.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.


This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: What You Break.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

WILLIWAW! (audiobook) by Tom Bodett



Published in 2000 by Random House Audio
Read by the author, Tom Bodett.
Duration: 5 hours, 30 minutes
Unabridged

Thirteen year old September Crane and her 12 year old brother Ivan live on Bag Bay in Alaska, practically in the middle of nowhere - and they love it, mostly. They enjoy the interaction with nature, they know the bay and how to travel across it. They know how to get clams, how to put vegetables away for the winter and just about how to do everything else for themselves. 

They have to know because their father is a fisherman is often gone for a few weeks at a time. Their mother died on the bay, killed by a rare, powerful storm front called a williwaw, when they were much younger.

Their father trusts them to follow the rules and take care of themselves so long as they check in with him on the radio on a regular basis. But, when Ivan decides to splice into the charger for the radio to charge up his handheld video he blows up the whole rig and that's just the beginning of their troubles...

While this is certainly not the best of Tom Bodett's books, it was an enjoyable listen as an audiobook. The characters were likable and the relationship between the kids and their father felt authentic. Tom Bodett's voice is simply great for audiobooks. One of the best.


I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Williwaw! by Tom Bodett.

Monday, June 12, 2017

MAYFLOWER: A STORY of COURAGE, COMMUNITY and WAR (abridged audiobook) by Nathaniel Philbrick



Published in 2006 by Penguin Audio
Read by Edward Herrmann
Duration: 5 hours, 57 minutes
Abridged

Everybody knows the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Or, they think they do, anyway.

Nathaniel Philbrick's re-telling of this oft-misunderstood story is very approachable for the average reader. He begins with an explanation of the religious differences between the Puritans and the Church of England and how the politics of the day exacerbated the situation. 

Philbrick's re-telling of how the Pilgrims moved from England to Holland and eventually to the New World was very well done, as was the story of the first few seasons of Plymouth Plantation (Plymouth colony), starting in 1620. In fact, the book flowed very well throughout, even though it was abridged. Oftentimes, abridged books are clunky, but this one was not.

The story finishes with King Philip's War (1675-1676). This was a sad war. Wars are all sad, but this one was particularly brutal, complete with decapitations, mutilations, mass murder, and forced deportations into enslavement. On a per capita basis, it was the most devastating war in American history.

Veteran actor Edward Herrmann's (1943-2014) voice is perfect for reading history. He gives it a bit of gravitas but he is not too pompous. 

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This abridged audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War.