Book Beginnings on Fridays: 03/30/2012


I was in the fifth grade the first time I thought about turning thirty.

This is the first line in Something Borrowed (by Emily Giffin,) a light novel I just picked up. I laughed aloud, recalling my own childhood and fantastic plans I had for the future! By age twenty-two, I would be married to a boy named Chris or possibly John and, we would have four kids (two boys and two girls, thank you!) By age thirty I would have a townhouse in Georgetown and drive an antique roadster (a cream-colored Excalibur to be specific!) I would be drinking vintage wines and traveling the world to exotic places like Mongolia, Egypt and the Amazon… My best friend and I would spends hours upon hours planning out our lives down to the minutest detail – from our weddings to our funerals. I’m not sure why we thought our wedding days would be the beginnings of our lives, or even why we thought we could plan our lives at all! Oddly and perhaps sadly, I’m not sure why we stopped…

When you were ten or so, did you plan your life? What did you think it would be like?

Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress

Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1
by Walter Mosley
narrated by Michael Boatman
Ⓟ 2009, Audible. Inc.
5.60 hours
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a black WWII vet who has relocated from Houston to L.A., finds himself without a job; but with a mortgage to pay. Enter DeWitt Albright, a white man of suspect ethics who offers Easy a paying job: to locate Daphne Monet, a white woman who is known to frequent black jazz clubs; but who has disappeared with $30,000 in cash. The story is embroidered with black history, post war US history and, issues regarding race and prejudice. The writing is descriptive and nearly pedantic; but overall the plot is solid if without any real surprises.
Michael Boatman, noted TV actor (Pvt. Samuel Becket in “China Beach” and Carter Haywood on “Spin City” to name but two memorable roles) is the narrator of Devil in a Blue Dress. He does a good job of drawing up distinctive voices for the differing characters, both male and female and, using parenthetical interpretation to denote interior thought (versus spoken lines.) Overall, however, the narration lacks liveliness and shape. The narrator’s evenness in tone and pace regardless of the scene renders the whole of the story neutered of tension or excitement.
Meh.
Easy Rawlins was caught between a rock and a hard place (no job, a mortgage to pay and a job offer from a shady character.) Even given assurances that every thing was on the up and up relatively speaking, he had his suspicions about DeWitt Albright’s motivations; but took the job anyway. I could sympathize to a certain, albeit nominal degree: In the late eighties, the country was in a recession and work was hard to come by and getting harder. I had bills to pay and ended up being a telemarketer. While I worked for a legitimate company and there was nothing illegal in what I doing, it never sat well with me. It was just too… skeevy.
Have you ever done something “not quite right” just to pay the bills?

Other Stuff: Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) qualifies for:




I purchased a digital dnload copy of Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Now there are two Ten on Tuesday lists! One is for print and one is for audio!

PRINT

Right now I’m reading Accidents of Providence (by Stacia M. Brown.) This pubbed last February to fairly lukewarm reviews; but I’m really enjoying it so far and seeing quite a few parallels to current events. It’s a historical fiction predicated on An Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murdering of Bastard Children (1624.) Jennifer/@lithousewife at literatehousewife.com is hosting a discussion on April 19, 2012 if you would like to read along! 

  1. Something Borrowed (by Emily Griffin)
  2. Alias Grace (by Margaret Atwood) – Mount TBR
  3. Emma (by Jane Austen) – Back to the Classics; Mount TBR
  4. Enough About Love (by Herve LeTellier)
  5. The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini) – What’s in a Name? Challenge #5
  6. The Royal Road to Fotheringhay (by Jean Plaidy) – Mount TBR
  7. The First Days (by Rhiannon Frater)
  8. Pest Control (by Bill Hughes) – What’s in a Name? Challenge #5
  9. The Religion (by Tim Willocks) – Mount TBR
  10. The Time Traveler’s Wife (by Audrey Neffenegger) – Mount TBR


AUDIO

I had to DNF Resolving Everyday Conflict (an Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction title by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson; narrated by Maurice England.) The narrator had a great, straight forward approach to the material; but he also has a lateral lisp that at best is annoying and, at worst, painful. Also, I’m a cradle Catholic and, despite my open mind; there are times when I cannot grasp some the concept of Christ’s death as “Sacrifice” as opposed to “The Way” and “The Light.” Because this work is built on understanding Christ’s Death as primarily “Sacrifice” I hit a wall fairly early on.

Right now I’m listening to Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot,) an Armchair Audies finalist in the Thriller/Suspense category. Basically, it’s Out of My Head, with the movie poster art for Unknown (starring Liam Neeson) on the cover.

I’m very excited that the CD set of The Arthur Miller Collection came in; but shocked that it’s nineteen discs! I’ll be ripping this to my iPod this weekend and starting that next week.

  1. Out of My Head (a.k.a Unknown) by Didier Van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) – Thriller/Suspense
  2. The Arthur Miller Collection (by Arthur Miller; performed by full casts) – Audio Drama
  3. We’re Alive, Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) – Audio Drama
  4. The Bone House (by Brian Freeman; narrated by Joe Barrett) – Thriller/Suspense
  5. Silent Scream (by Karen Rose; narrated by Marguerite Gavin) – Thriller/Suspense
  6. The 4% Universe (by Richard Penak; narrated by Ray Porter) – Non-Fiction
  7. My Korean Deli (by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) – Non-Fiction
  8. Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) – Fantasy
  9. My Dog Tulip (by J.R. Ackerley; narrated by Ralph Cosham) – Biography/Memoir
  10. Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee)

Ready Player One

Ready Player One

narrated by Wil Wheaton
15.75 hours







Wade Owen Watts is a teenaged gamer escaping the reality of life in the stacks (RVs and trailers stacked one atop the other in towers) in Oklahoma City. The year is 2044 and it’s the third decade of The Great Recession in America. Infrastructure has deteriorated and people look to the cost-efficient technology of virtual reality for entertainment and education. In fact, the “massively multi-player online virtual reality reality game” of OASIS has become for many, the preferred existence: a place where you can create a better version of yourself and live a more interesting life.

“Parzival” is Wade Watts’ avatar in OASIS and Parzival is playing a contest within the realms of OASIS, a game within the game wherein the objective is to locate three keys that will ultimately lead to an Easter egg. The winner of this contest will inherit Jame Halliday’s (co-creator of OASIS) fortune and interest in G.S.S. (Gregarious Simulation Systems) – the company that has top administrative control of OASIS. The power and revenue of this fortune and interest are immense and so the competition for each of the keys and the Easter Egg is stiff. Wade/Parzival must battle IOI, a mega-corp with deep resources, both in OASIS and IRL for the Easter Egg.

Ready Player One is the ultimate story about quest gaming and what makes it more fun is that OASIS is an homage to the 1980s – a time when computer generated gaming starting elbowing out the pinball machines in arcades. There are references to the arcade games themselves (in fact Parzival plays them – in effect becoming an uber meta-gamer in that he’s playing a game within a game within a game that has IRL consequences) as well a number of other cultural references from the eighties. If you’re not a gamer or not familiar with the references, you might feel like you’re missing something; but most of it is sufficiently explained to ameliorate any bewilderment; but if you are familiar with gaming and/or remember the eighties, Ready Player One flows without seeming didactic.

Wil Wheaton, the eighties icon known as the actor who played Wesley Crusher in the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the narrator for Ready Player One; and he was the perfect choice. He sounds like a young adult and handles the all the time-cultural references easily and naturally. In another very cool meta experience, Wil Wheaton’s name occurs within the story 🙂

Ready Player One is a fun, clever story and the audio is an equally fun and clever production in its choice of narrator.


An image I created that mentions some of the eighties references in Ready Player One
The font is “Press Start 2P”

Are you old enough to remember the ’80s?

Were you a gamer? What games did you play?
I was a teen during the eighties and I played some arcade and console games. At the arcades, I played Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man (table top), Asteroids, Galaga, Centipede and Millipede. At home I had a Fairchild Channel F console which played cartridges. I distinctly remember a tank game, Desert Fox! My sister got an Atari 2600 and we played Pac Man, Asteroids and Missile Command. I remember my-then BFF, “A” (of Amityville Horror fame) had Pong! Do you remember the gaming wars? Atari vs Intellivision!
Other Stuff:

I purchased a digital dnload copy of this book through weread4you.com. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited toauthors, narrators, publishers, vendors, hosts of challenges and/or challenges.)

An Act to Prevent the Destroying and Murdering of Bastard Children (1624)

Whereas many Lewd Women that have been delivered of Bastard Children, to avoid their shame and to escape punishment, do secretly bury or conceal the Death of Their Children, and after, if the Child be found dead, the said Women do allege that the said Child was born dead, whereas it falleth out some times (although hardly it is to be probed,) that the said Child or Children were Murdered by the said Women their Lewd Mothers, or by their assent or procurement.

For the preventing therefore of this great mischief, Be it Enacted by the Authority of this present Parliament, that if any Women after one month next ensuring the end of this next Session of Parliament, be delivered of any Issue of her body, Male or Female, which being born alive, should by the Laws of this Realm be a bastard, and that she endeavor privately either by drowning or secret burying thereof, or any other way, either by her self or the procuring of others, so to conceal the death thereof, as that it may not come to light, whether it were born alive or not, but be concealed, In every such case, the Said Mother so offending shall suffer Death, as in the case of murder, except such Mother can make proof by one witness at the least, that the Child (whose death by her so intended to be concealed) was born dead.

—- CORPORATION OF LONDON, Anno vicesimo primo Jacobi Regis, &c., 21Jac. I c. 27

This is the statute serving as the first epigraph to Accidents of Providence (by Stacia M. Brown.)  At first, I found absolutely no objection to this law. I mean, anyone who murders a baby ought to be punished by death. But then I realized, it’s not about “anyone,” only the mothers. The fathers of the bastard children are not held into account and; the statute also does not make any provision for women whose babies may have naturally aborted without a witness. And so, we come to realize that this is targeted towards Lewd Women; And upon further contemplation, unmarried Lewd Women, since given the time and place (before blood testing and DNA samples) a married women could pass off the offspring of an adulterous affair as her husbands. And what if a married woman killed her baby and there happened to be an unmarried Lewd Woman around? Guess who the number one suspect is going to be! And 17th century justice is not exactly a bright shining example of “innocent until proven guilty.”

So, yes, while I still believe that there’s a special circle of hell reserved for baby-killers, this law does nothing to prevent such actions. It only makes the guilty more crafty at concealing it. 

Dispatches


Dispatches
by Michael Herr
narrated by Ray Porter
Ⓟ 2009, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
8.50 hours

“Saigon, the center, where every action in the bushes hundreds of miles away fed back into town on a karmic wire strung so tight that if you touched it in the early morning it would sing all day and all night.”

Dispatches is Michael Herr’s first-person account of his experience as a freelance journalist – embedded with various USMC units in Vietnam, 1967-68. It is, admittedly, an extremely difficult novel to get traction on as the opening passages seem wildly discursive. The trick is to let go of trying to parse out sentences or even whole paragraphs, and just roll with it as whole as the picture comes into focus. In many ways, Dispatches is like an Impressionist painting: best appreciated with some distance from the object rather than with intentness upon its component parts. What emerges from the writing is the inanity of The Vietnam War for all the high ideals propounded by Mission commanders. In many ways, the insensibility of the War is reflected in Herr’s rambling, at times near stream-of-consciousness, prose. The images coalesce into the run-up, action of, and the end of the three-and-a-half month Battle of Khe Sanh.

As the North Vietnam Army (PAVN) feinted and eventually engaged at Khe Sanh, the Marine base there was besieged. The US committed all resources to operations at Khe Sanh, President Johnson mandating that the base be kept at all costs. Ultimately, the base was destroyed, the Marines pulled back and, the US claimed victory on the premise of casualty figures and the fact that PAVN forces withdrew suddenly afterward. PAVN forces also claimed victory, as after all, they destroyed the base and forced the Marines to evacuate. Dispatches questions the significance of the dual claims of victory and the sudden withdrawal of the North Vietnamese Army, especially in context of the Tet Offensive.

Herr’s portrayals of the men who fought and reported in the war are the smaller brushstrokes that make up the bigger picture of that time and place. Herr talks and travels with Marines and other reporters, perhaps none more poignant and intriguing than that of his colleagues, Sean Flynn , Dana Stone and Tim Page. Flynn, Stone and Page were photojournalists who cut careless, romantic figures. They were each extremely intelligent, talented men whose ambitions and impulses exacted dear prices. Their legacies and fates are equally breathtaking.

Ray Porter is the American narrator who reads Dispatches. The book is either the result of giving a typewriter to an inebriated soul and/or; drugs and alcohol to a journalist. Either way, managing the text and propelling it forward had to have been a challenge. Ray Porter met the challenge, framing the material in a natural voice without caving into a hyperbolic interpretation of extreme and intense situations. There may be a mispronunciation or two (“artillery” is pronounced as “artillerary” in one instance); but over all the delivery is on point.

See Also:
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (by Karl Marlantes; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
The Things They Carried (by Tim O’Brien; narrated by Tom Stetschulte)
The Lotus Eaters (by Tatjana Soli; narrated by Kirsten Potter)

 
Other Stuff: Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter) qualifies for:
 
 
 

I borrowed a library CD copy of Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I had no involvement in the production of Dispatches (by Michael Herr; narrated by Ray Porter.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

 

Yeah, this is one of the hard parts about being a Mom: The leftover snacky things that show up. I mean it’s more of a sin to waste good food (this is a particularly tasty vegan cookie) than to to enjoy it, right? And yet all these extra calories and fat sliding into my every day diet can be so counter productive 😦

BTW, Yeah, I ate the cookie. This time. I’m only human :-/