What’s in a Name? Challenge #4/What’s in a Name? Challenge #5

I’ve been shuffling and sorting through my stacks, seeing what books that I already own that also might qualify for the challenge. The good news is that I
Yay! @BethFishReads has announced the categories for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #5! I’ve spent some time sorting through my stacks, determining what books would work for the various qualifiers and, I’m pleased that I have something from my TBR stacks that will work for every category! This is good news because I would love to make a dent in my hoardings 🙂
Without further ado, this is my tentative list for the challenge:

  • [Topographical Feature]: Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson);
  • [Something You See in the Sky]: A Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Housseni)
  • [Creepy Crawly]: The Reptile Room (by Lemony Snicket)
  • [Type of House]: Cleaning Nabokov’s House (by Leslie Daniels)
  • [Something You Carry in Your Purse, Pocket or Backpack]: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathanial Hawthorne)
  • [Something You’d Find on a Calender]: Year of Wonders (by Geraldine Brooks)

Of course, my selections may change. One thing I learned from this past year’s challenge was that I should be flexible and; NOT drink while blogging. I had this idea last year that I was going to be über-creative and do cross media entries (e.g. a book and it’s sequel in audiobook.) It didn’t quite work out that way and many of the titles I had set aside for the challenge went unread while other titles I tackled qualified quite nicely. That is not saying I won’t get creative; only that I shouldn’t strait-jacket myself into a reading list or marry a concept, thus make reading a chore! I think this year I might use the books to create a theme for the month in which I’m reading it. It’s just an idea I’m considering right now and we’ll see how it plays out. The most important thing is that this should be fun 🙂

For the curious, this is what I read for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #4:

Thanks to @BethFishReads for hosting

Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)

Satanic Verses

The Satanic Verses

by Salman Rushdie
narrated by Sam Dastor
Ⓟ 2009, Whole Story Audio
21.50 hours
The Satanic Verses is a brilliant, ironic – nearly absurdist, accessible and, engaging novel about two men who fall from a plane that has exploded over The English Channel. From the onset, images of surreal and intense quality flash before the mind’s eye, not unlike Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The pictures and language pour out as quickly as a stream of consciousness, at the same time moving with the deceptive slowness of a dream. “Magical realism” is a term that has been applied to this book; but the magic in The Satanic Verses is not really blended with reality so much as we are seeing the mind of each of the protagonists trying to make sense out of the mundane-but-nearly-inexplicable things that happen in their lives. In this way, the idea of creating images to help the person ingest what they are seeing, projecting meaning into events, deconstructing and reconstructing identities and, re-creating our world in a natural and god-like fashion, brings to the fore the question the amount of magic realism that each of use employs at any given moment. Whenever an individual imbues meaning onto a person, a place or thing, they are using their imagination to create a magical realism bubble of their own making and in which they reside. As individuals, we create our values from a subjective space, from within this bubble. We can share our visions whether it is in a common language, family history or, appreciation for a work of art. It is no coincidence that the two protagonists, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha are actors, a film star and voiceover performer respectively. These two men live an extreme version of magical realism, being paid to superimpose other peoples visions, to channel a creative idea and, proselytize another’s perspective.
For those who are grounded solely in Western, Christian or atheistic cultures, the metaphors with Eastern, Muslim and Indian cultures may be lost upon them; but the novel remains accessible regardless. The outsider glimpses enough of Farishta’s and Chamcha’s worlds to understand their living contexts and; the concepts of existentialism are universal. For those who have been exposed to or, are a part of Eastern, Muslim and Indian culture, the inherent cultural metaphors are obvious and those listeners will unquestionably get more out of the allegorical devices within the story. Anyone’s interpretation of The Satanic Verses is a part of their own magical reality.
Sam Dastor narrated The Satanic Verses. His British accent, light comic delivery and his deftness with the material combine for an engaging audio experience. His pace prevents the listener from becoming mired or overindulgent with the text without treating any of the writing as superficial.
Other Stuff:
This title qualifies for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #4 hosted by @BethFishReads. The Satanic Verses is an audiobook with [Evil] in the title, “Satanic.”
This book also qualifies for the South Asian Author Challenge 2011:
I purchased this title from weread4you.com. I receive no goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product, mentioning any of the persons or companies named in this post (including but not limited to the audiobook publisher, the vendor from which I purchased the audiobook, author, narrator and/or, the hosts of the challenges) or, the challenges for which this book qualifies.
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
— Sigmund Freud

The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars

The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker)
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)

In “Days Gone Bye,” (Volume 1) Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in a hospital. The choice of physical incapacity is interesting as it can be construed as a type of death. In a comatose state, the patient has lost his will, his motor co-ordination, his consciousness and, is not unlike a zombie (generally classified as among the dead category) who shuffles instinctively and displays no consciousness or awareness. But Rick Grimes is not dead and, not a zombie because an external power has been exerted to save him. Medical technology kept Rick Grimes from falling into a true death. There are many different kinds of death displayed through the volumes thus far, but it is the power over death that compels our attention to the panels in “Days Gone Bye,” “Miles Behind Us” and, especially in “Safety Behind Bars.” From the immediacy of Rick’s individual and initial quest (buzzing for the nurse) to the larger communal effort to survive, man’s struggle against the inevitable is defined as his attempts to control it!
The zombies are the most obvious dead forms in The Walking Dead volumes. For the shuffling forms the most direct way of rendering them absolutely inert is to smash their brains. In “Miles Behind Us,” (Volume 2) we see some zombies detained in a barn in the hopes that there might be a way to cure them. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see an attempt to reason with a newly turned zombie in the hopes that there may be a way to save the former human. Whether by hammer, blade or gunshot, once the threatening forms are rendered truly dead, they are burned. Just in case.
For the humans in the Walking Dead volumes so far, we’ve seen some take death into their own hands. In “Days Gone Bye” we see one character ask to be left to die and turn zombie so that he might join his zombified loved ones. In “Miles Behind Us,” a character, in his grief, puts a gun to his head. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see a couple commit to a suicide pact so that they can be together forever :-/ In the suicide scenarios, each hopes to control the manner of their own demise, not realizing it’s not something you can really control in a world in which death is elastic.
We also see death meted out between men in self defense, whether the threat is imminent or actualized; as a matter of vengeance and, as a matter of punishment. As tricky as killing zombies may be (what if there is a shred of humanity buried within the corpse forms?), the matter of death between the conscious ones is definitely messy. In “Days Gone Bye,” the power of death is given to a seven-year old boy who is then placed into a situation of imminent, but not actualized, threat. The boy acts instinctively, and perhaps correctly; but not without repercussions. After all, shooting a man is not the same as shooting a deer or a zombie.
In “Miles Behind Us” and in “Safety Behind Bars” adults react to an actual threat of invasion by pulling guns on the newcomers. Harkening back to the “Miles Behind Us” post [wherein I posit that every one wants to belong someone, somewhere,] this tension seems paradoxical. And yet, the instinct to define the pack, and thin the herd of threats is a key to survival.
In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see human-on-human lethal violence at fervor pitch. There is a death committed as an act of vengeance. The act is committed with bare hands in a strangle-hold upon the victim. Without premeditation, but tantamount to murder, this death is seen as justified; but nonetheless covered up – ostensibly to eliminate misunderstanding. Or perhaps to avoid creating a morally grayer area where death is concerned. As if the survivors weren’t already dealing with the complexity of zombie deaths :-/
We also see death via beheading committed by the hands of a (possibly) criminally insane character. Though premeditated, can the perpetrator be considered accountable for his actions owing to his mental instability? Is he truly insane? Does the horror of his deeds outweigh such consideration? And finally, there is the mandated capital punishment, death by hanging, decreed at one point. Does one person have the right to order an execution? Does a majority vote justify the decision? And again, does the heinousness of the crime override the moral equivocation of such a decision?
Death is enabled through bites, guns, knives, hammers and rope; but death is actualized by man’s will. There is not a little irony that, in order to survive, the survivors must kill.
Artwork: “Days Gone Bye,” cover and content, was primarily drawn by Tony Moore ; but his contribution is limited to the covers for “Miles Behind Us” and “Safety Behind Bars.” In volumes two and three we can see a consistent aesthetic applied: more detail to the characters’ faces, better application of gray tones for compositional balance and; a heavier, bolder use of black ink. To demonstrate the differences, I’ve photographed three panels of the same character in the same mood: Lori Grimes, mad. The top panel is from “Days Gone Bye;” the bottom left panel is from “Miles Behind Us” and the bottom right panel is from “Safety Behind Bars.”

See Also:

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (Graphic Novel Review about identity, civilization and individual rights) 
The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us (Graphic Novel Review about about belonging on a personal level, a group level and a “preadiastic” level)

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker);
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)
In The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye, the reader is introduced to Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma in a hospital. He is by himself and immediately rings for assistance from the nurse and, then he goes in search of his home and family. He is alone and he reaches out to make a connection. In the Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us, we see an extension of that first intuitive search for the other.
Everybody wants to belong to someone, somewhere. This theme is developed on three levels in “Miles Behind Us:” on the personal level, on the group level and, on a “praediastic” [a word I made up from the root word, “praedium”] level. We see personal relationships develop within the small band of survivors moving on from their encampment outside of Atlanta, GA. Despite their disparate backgrounds and, the more tentative the odds of making a connection, the more tenacious the effort to establish an intimate relationship becomes. This goes beyond the group dynamics that need to be hammered out in ordered to survive; it is human nature. More importantly, it is non-zombie nature. While the zombies roam the landscape and will swarm their prey, there is no indication that they have developed any sort of societal bond, even at a pack level. There is no evidence that they recognize one another individually, much less that they can develop one-one-one relationships. But with Rick and the survivors, we see a range of personal relationships: Rick and his wife keep their marriage intact; two seven-year olds flirt; a May-December relationship buds; two teenagers declare their eternal love; two characters have a purely physical interconnection because they are lonely; two other characters look like they’re hooking up out of genuine chemistry… 
With every relationship started however, the group dynamic changes. Perhaps it is the herd instinct that asserts itself and compels them to think there is safety in numbers; but subjugating the individual interests to the group’s good is a struggle of identity on one hand; but a recognition that even though you can’t depend on anyone else, you also can’t do it (survive) alone. The closeness of life in the RV they have been operating out of is too much; but then again, when the opportunity presents itself to live at the abandoned Wiltshire Estates, they want to remain neighbors. When circumstances bring them to the farmstead of Hershel Greene, Rick’s group presumes integration into the household as a matter of due course and Lori is outraged when she encounters resistance.
There is a strong tradition of individuals identifying strongly with physical land. In English culture, the Earls and Dukes and such are often referred to by the names of their estates. In Rebecca (by Daphne DuMaurier) we see the strong correlation between Manderley and its master. In “Miles Behind Us,” Rick and the survivors seek more than a secured shelter. If that were not true, they could keep trekking across the landscape in the RV; but they want to settle down in homes with yards; in a place where they can be neighbors (Wiltshire Estates) or even work collectively toward a greater community (the farmstead.)
Against the odds and despite the risks, people reach out to each other and attempt to build communities. It’s a matter of both survival and desire.
The artwork in this volume contains less of the exaggerated features found in “Days Gone By,” though the black & white panels still depend on compositional values such has balance, clarity and perspective and; when they are lacking create confusion as to the action taking place. The scenes where couples kiss or are rendered hard-edged and unsexy, belying the established mood. Worse, you can’t discern whether the couples are kissing or attacking each other :-/ Again, in a couple of action panels (e.g. the zombie battle at the barn) the lack of contrast and/or perspective creates questions as to who or what is happening. Finally, the distinction between Lori and Maggie is too fine. Both characters have black hair and wear plaid at one point, making easy recognition difficult.

Attack at the Greene Farmstead Barn
Adlard and Rathburn have chosen to eliminate the frames between the scenes in this panel, emphasizing the compression of time in the action sequence (everything seems to be happening all at once) and the confusion of the attack in progress. The lack of contrast and line of perspective, combined with the the fact that this is not a single scene frame makes the panel difficult to interpret without referencing other panels both before and after this one.The woman being attacked (“Daddy!”) is the same woman in the center of the frame (“No!”) and the figure on the right is not her father, but Rick Grimes!

[The curvature at the bottom right-hand corner is due to the  proximity of the  illustration to the spine and the owner’s unwilingness to break the spine for a flatter scanned image]

The artwork is better than in “Days Gone Bye,” though the ideas expressed in both volumes are often more sophisticated than the medium itself.
Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.
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The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Tony Moore (penciler, inker, gray tones);
Cliff Rathburn (additional gray tones)
There are zombies on the cover of The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye and; there are zombies inside the graphic novel; but this isn’t really a zombie tale so much as it’s a survival tale. In “Days Gone Bye,” the focus is on the human element whereas the zombies are incidental. Rick Grimes, a police officer shot in the line of duty, wakes up from a coma in the hospital. He wakes to an abandoned facility, town, home, and basically, life as he knew it. Something has happened and now the the landscape is littered with zombies, alive-dead and dead-dead. His first instinct is to retain his civilized sensibilities and to reinforce his identity as an authority figure. He makes his way to the police station, dons his spare uniform, metes out guns and ammo to the first survivors he meets, grants them the use of a police cruiser and admonishes them to keep an eye out on his place while he heads in to Atlanta, GA. Even as he exits Cynthiana, KY, there are subtle cracks in his civilized veneer. Eventually, Rick ends up in an encampment of people who tried to make for the safety of the city but were too late to make their way in. At camp, the need for food, clean clothes and, secure shelter takes precedent over the social ethics of their former lives. Various members of the group each try to retain their individuality while trying to adapt to a group dynamic.
Very little is discovered about the zombies in “Days Gone Bye.” People die, they come back to an animated state. They bite people and the newly bitten become zombies in turn. The zombies here operate purely on an animal level of survival, apparently having the ability to smell and hear, all in the pursuit of something to eat. In “Days Gone Bye” the difference between the zombies and the survivors is clear, if only by degrees and speed. We’ll see how long this lasts :-/
Excepting the cover, the artwork in “Days Gone Bye” is black-and-white. The survivors are drawn with near cartoonish qualities: outlines without a lot of facial subtleties, many wide-eyed expressions and near comical distortions of the mouth. The zombies are consistently drawn with more detail and realism. Go figure. Because the panels are b&w, the integrity of the panels rests on the composition of the shots and ergo the gray tones or ink washes applied. Some are more difficult to execute than others (a scene around a campfire at night while snow falls vs a single head shot against a blank background) and Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn met the challenges with varying degrees of success. A panel showing Rick and Glenn on a fire escape displays sophisticated layers and tones; but other scenes (e.g. Rick and Lori talking outside their tent) show less artful effort. [I do not know either Tony Moore’s nor Cliff Rathburn’s work well enough individually to be able to assess the handiwork of either’s effort, only the combined effect in this volume.] In a couple of panels, characters were difficult to distinguish from each other. In a long shot, two characters are speaking; but there is not enough detail to determine who and, in another panel, I had to look very closely across several pages and, by the process of elimination, figure out who was speaking.

Rick and Glenn on the fire escape
The illusion of depth is created by using lines of perspective drawn from the top of Glenn’s hat down to the zombie masses below. Visual touchstones that serve as markers along the way include Glenn’s hat, Rick’s hand, the actual fire escape and, the zombie in the dark suit.The layers of proximity/distance create the the impression of a “drop” and the heighten the anxiety of what lies below and the overall tension of the scene.
Rick & Lori talking outside their tent
The tent serves two purposes: Its sets up the balance and symmetry of the panel. The dialogue balloon becomes the asymmetrical element and item of interest and focus. The tent also serves as a frame for the couple in this intimate moment, closing the conversation off from others and the natural elements seen in the background. The shadowing casts on their faces and on the tent further contrasts with the darkness beyond the campfire and emphasizes their isolation. But the tent, with its ruler-straight outlines and lack of texture also looks artless in its “blockiness” and draws attention to the artifice of the drawing.

The artwork isn’t great; but In “Days Gone Bye” there is a lot of thought provoking material in regards to the concepts of identity, civilization and individual rights.

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
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Zero Tolerance

“Zero Tolerance”
by Jonathan Maberry
narrated by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio, Inc.

.75 hours

What the hell did Sergeant Harper do? Pay Attention! Because what starts out to be another cinematically driven action-adventure episode in the Patient Zero canon, turns into something much subtler, only hinted at at the end of the full length novel. This elegantly constructed short story will have you drawing a sharp intake of breath as you realize what Maberry has done: taken the moral ambiguity from Patient Zero to a whole new level. “Zero Tolerance” is described as a sequel to the full length novel, a tying-up of loose ends; but that’s arguable. Patient Zero ended and you could go on without feeling like you’ve missed anything if you didn’t listen to this short; but don’t. This is Maberry at his finest: concentrated in form and function.

Ray Porter is the narrator of the Patient Zero series and no one could do it better. Whether it’s a whispered caress in the ear or the all out assault on a target, Ray Porter delivers the ful range of the characters’, and the story’s, voice.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a MP3-CD copy of Joe Ledger: The Missing Files from Blackstone Audio, Inc. There are five short stories in the collection: “Countdown” (precursor to the full-length novel, Patient Zero), “Zero Tolerance” (follow-up to Patient Zero), “Deep Dark”(prequel to the full-length novel, The Dragon Factory), “Dog Days”(follow-up to The Dragon Factory) and “Material Witness” (a crossover to The Pine Deep Trilogy.) I split up the mp3 files on the CD into the five groupings that made up each story; but each story is available separately as a digital dnload.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads.Patient Zero is an audiobook with a [number] in the title, “Zero.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Patient Zero is has scenes in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Patient Zero

Patient Zero
by Jonathan Maberry
narrated by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
14.75 hours

Patient Zero is the action-packed, high-octane thriller about Joe Ledger and his team of elite fighters who battle zombies and attempt to save the world! Jonathan Maberry combines mil-fic, action-adventure and horror in a cliche-ridden (but nonetheless effective) story of cinematic excess . Every bullet, jujutsu move and gaping maw is detailed in this novel about impacts: the impact of decisions made for monetary gain; the impact of causes motivated by religious fanaticism; the impact of a hollow point when it penetrates the skull; the impact of a hand chop to various body parts; the impact of having to bear witness to something so horrifying that it impacts your psyche; the deeper impact of having to do something so horrifying it impacts your very soul…

The facet of Joe’s ego that he self-identifies as “The Warrior” dominates the story and the tone of the writing. There is absolutely nothing subtle about Maberry’s writing and, in and of itself it is rather formulaic; but the formula works and, it is entertaining and fun.

There is plenty of action, a little humor, a tender moment or two and, lots of suspense. The unrelenting pace drives home the imperative that constant threat must be met with constant vigilance, however tiresome it might be.

Ray Porter is quintessentially Joe Ledger, reflecting the character’s toughness, humor, anger and doubt perfectly; but more than that, Ray Porter makes narration sound easy. There is a naturalness to the narration that lends credence to

the highest compliment paid: “Ray Porter IS Joe Ledger” – a perhaps overused and simplistic statement, but nonetheless true. Hooah.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a library-CD edition of this audiobook from Blackstone Audio, Inc. Patient Zero is the first full-length novel in the Joe Ledger sequence. “Countdown” is the short story listed as a prequel to Patient Zero, and can be found as part of the short story collection, Joe Ledger: The Missing Files or; it can be dnloaded individually.
n.b. “Countdown” is not really a prequel so much as it is a previous version of the first chapter of Patient Zero.

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. Patient Zero is an audiobook with a [number] in the title, “Zero.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Patient Zero is has scenes set in Baltimore, Maryland.
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“Can I have a cookie?”

Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book

Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book

by Adele Park
performed by Adele Park, Susan Paige Lane, Paige Allred, Kristen Henley, Desiree Whitehead, Garry Morris, John Gibson, Steve Coppola, Chrystine Hyatt, Dave Cochran, Chase Nichter, Tim Porter, Doug Caputo, Rick Pickett and, Guy Smith
Straight to Audio Productions
6.5 hours
“When Radio and polygamy collide…”

I will be the first to admit openly that, as I was live-tweeting the results of the Audies, I was extremely bemused when Jitters was announced as the winner in the Multi-Voiced Performance category. I had no dog in this fight and I had only listened to one title in this category (The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde; performed by a full cast from L.A. Theater Works, starring James Marsters;) but Jitters was up against not only “Ernest;” but the high profile title, Room (by Emma Donoghue; narrated by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff and, Suzanne Toren,) Great Classics of Science Fiction (by H.G. Wells, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Lester Del Ray, et al; narrated by Simon Vance, Nick Sullivan, Robert Fass, et al) and The Shadow Effect (written and narrated by Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and, Debbie Ford.) Big titles, well-known authors and veteran narrators were superseded by an unknown quantity. Adele Park reached out to bloggers this summer and I, eager to hear the David that slew its Goliath competition at the Audies, readily accepted a review copy for consideration.
The story itself is funny, clever and full of surprises. Set in the fictional small towns of Navel and Zion Flats, Utah, shock jock Nancy Neptune arrives to shake things up in the small Mormon community. Nancy has been exiled to a remote, risk-adverse radio station to be its program director and, dj the morning drive. (So, right off the first joke is on the listener as this isn’t a radio drama; but a drama about radio!) The story of Nancy Neptune’s impact on the community is told from several characters’ points of view, each of the twenty-two chapters dedicated to a voice to advance the story. The format is such that each testimony is preceded by a radio news spot which also provides a tell as to the action off-camera. Nancy’s presence is a lightning rod for events that have unanticipated results and, for a slew of eccentric characters including (but not limited to): an obese, divorced woman, a drag queen, a one-armed argro reporter/erstwhile detective and, a mentally challenged, inbred Yeti-like man who likes to sing along to Cheap Trick songs… While the easy laughs lie in the obvious idiosyncrasies of the characters, in the physical humor of their mere existence, the surprises come as the complexity of their characters is revealed.
There are eight key characters and, a number of smaller roles and bits, all performed by the voice-over talent that Adele Park has assembled. Exaggerated accents/mannerisms provide each character with a distinctive and appropriate voice. Because the setting and premise of Jitters is predicated on the radio theme, the production quality also adheres to the same clear, perhaps over-articulated, sound. [If I quibble here, it’s only because there are reasons I don’t listen to radio anymore and, one of them is that I find radio very harsh on the ears.]
There is absolutely no subtlety here. The precociousness of the writing and of the performances can wear a bit thin; but it is certainly original in all regards.

in the title, “Little.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book is set in the fictional towns of Navel and Zion Flats, Utah.

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Death Masks

Death Masks

The Dresden Files, #5

by Jim Butcher
narrated by James Marsters
11.35 hours
Death Masks is the fifth title in The Dresden Files series which features the only practicing wizard in present-day Chicago, Harry Dresden. In Death Masks, three plot lines bump against each other in a tale in which everyone seems to be out to get Harry one way or another:
  • The Red Court’s war against The Wizard’s Council continues in its vehemence. A duel is set up between the vampire Ortega and Harry at Wrigley Stadium. At stake is Harry’s life and perhaps the end of the war itself;
  • Harry is hired to recover a relic, nothing less than The Shroud of Turin! Harry and his friends, The Knights of the Sword, set out to track down The Shroud, the thieves, a few demons and, not lose Harry’s soul in the process and;
  • Harry’s erstwhile but very sexy girlfriend returns to Chicago ostensibly just to pick up a few things before leaving for good. Her love for Harry, combined with her sensuality and her newly developed fighting skills create an agonizing temptation for Harry.
There are some things that Jim Butcher does very well, namely create great, believable characters, write with humor and, provide plenty of action in any given plot. What Jim Butcher does not do well is pay attention to details with the result that there are always a couple of continuity errors that distract from the story.
James Marsters has spent years narrating and developing the The Dresden Files characters and is clearly in sync with the writer’s intent and style. This audio was recorded out-of-order from the rest of the series (at the same time a later title in the series was recorded) and the result is that James Marsters’ narration, from practice and experience far beyond the Buzzy Multimedia years, brings a polished performance to Death Masks. The production quality is cleaner than in the first four titles in The Dresden Files series (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight) as well. Issues like booth noises and mispronunciations have been eliminated. Overall, James Marsters’ narration transcends Jim Butcher’s writing, creating an experience best suited for audio over the print.
Other Stuff: I purchased a digital dnload copy of Death Masks from weread4you.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. Death Masks is an audiobook with [a life stage] in the title, “Death.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Death Masks is set in Chicago, IL.

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A Study in Emerald

A Study in Emerald

by Neil Gaiman
narrated by Neil Gaiman
.80 hours
Harper Audio

This is a short mystery story set in London, 1881, told from the point of view of Retired Major S___ M____ – the friend, roommate and recruited sidekick of the unnamed Consulting Detective featured in this little thriller. The premise of the story is that a stabbed corpse has been discovered in Shoreditch and, the homicide is a matter of national security as the deceased was apparently a family member and friend of Queen Victoria. [How this is a matter of national security and not just embarrassment is beyond me, but the listener is expected to just roll with it…] The whole of the mystery is really a pretense by which Neil Gaiman gets to show off his character creations, Gothic atmospherics and, his own unique strangeness. The fact that the listener of this otherwise-whodunnit is never given the advantage of full disclosure of the evidence is nearly obscured by the smoke-and-mirrors of interstitial “ads,” intimations that the Royal family might be something-other-than-human and, the dynamics between the competing intellects of the characters. In and of itself, A Study in Emerald isn’t much in terms of a mystery; but it could more than ably serve as the opening chapter to a full-fledged novel. The tease of an arch-nemesis in the making is very titillating. Neil Gaiman narrates this short and his voice is appropriately clear, resonate, deep and drippy [reminds me of Alan Rickman, the actor.]

Recommendation: I’m not so sure that A Study in Emerald is a piece that would have you craving for more Neil Gaiman; but it is an entertaining diversion for about 45 minutes. And heck, it’s free! Yes, A Study in Emerald is a free dnload from audible.com! You can also get the print copy free from Neil Gaiman’s web-site too. Neil Gaiman has a rather controversial idea as to the efficacy of free and pirated material on the internet:

According to my notes for the What’s in a Name? Challenge, A Study in Emerald qualifies as “a boom with a germ/jewlry in the title.”