Audiobook Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In search again for a series that I could enjoy listening to, I decided to give The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Oz Series, Book 1 a radio dramatization by The Colonial Radio Theatre a try. I read the books when I was younger, but it has been a while. I remember liking the first few quite a bit, and then petering off as the author, L. Frank Baum, got heavier and heavier handed with his message to the reader. The version by The Colonial Radio Theatre was adapted for the dramatization by Jerry Robbins, performed by Jerry Robbins and The Colonial Radio Players.

Cover of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Summary from Brilliance Audio:

One of the true classics of American literature. Originally published in 1900, it was the first truly American fairy tale, as Baum crafted a wonderful fantasy, peopled with memorable characters — a cornfield scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and a humbug wizard. Follow the adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, as their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. Here she meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City.

Jerry Robbins did a fair job with his adaption for dramatization. I felt it closely resembled the book, at least from what I can remember. Which may surprise some people as the movie definitely veered away in some aspects. I also quite enjoyed the multiple voice over actors speaking the different parts, that is always far more enjoyable I find. I did have a hard time with the minimization of narration. Often the characters would say things I thought would be better suited for a narration. It was more like a play with a small narrator part than a book being read.

Of course as a dramatization by a theater group, I probably should have expected this. Perhaps, it is because I have Neil Gaiman’s, American Gods on constant repeat as I fall asleep, but I expect a great deal from dramatizations and voice over acting. I find very few productions live up to that particular audiobook. A book that I have found a greater and greater appreciation for the more times I listen to it. You can read my review here.

If you are looking for a family friendly fun theater dramatization of first book in The Wizard of Oz series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as radio dramatized by The Colonial Radio Theatre is an excellent choice. Plus they did several books in the series, which I may eventually get back to when I’m done with my current selections.

AudioBook Review: A Living Nightmare Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan

I decided to listen to A Living Nightmare because the whole series is available as audiobooks from the library and I was really hoping to pick up a new series that I could fall in love with. While an entertaining frolic about a freak circus and vampires, I didn’t realize that A Living Nightmare Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan, read by Ralph Lister was about a 12 year old. Yet again, another series geared towards a younger audience than I was anticipating. But I gave it a shot because the story line was interesting and I did enjoy listening as Darren Shan (yes, it is supposedly a “true story”) recounts a living nightmare.

Cover of A Living Nightmare

Summary from Audiobooks.com:

In the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, New York Times bestseller Cirque du Freak is the first title in the popular Saga of Darren Shan series.

Darren Shan and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the Cirque du Freak, a wonderfully gothic freak show featuring weird, frightening half human / half animals who interact terrifyingly with the audience. In the midst of the excitement, true terror raises its head when Steve recognizes that one of the performers—Mr. Crepsley—is a vampire!

Steve confronts the vampire after the show finishes—but his motives are surprising! In the shadows of a crumbling theater, a horrified Darren eavesdrops on his friend and the vampire, and is witness to a monstrous, disturbing plea. As if by destiny, Darren is pulled to Mr. Crepsley and what follows is his horrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires.

This is Darren’s story.

While I wish I had read the synopsis online before starting this book, I did end up enjoying the book to a degree. And unlike Salem’s Lot, which I have yet to finish because it puts me to sleep so well, I found the story fast paced enough to stay engaged.

I enjoyed that Darren had to deal with the consequences of his decisions to sneak or one night and see a freak show and then steal something he read incapable of handling. I suffered a lot of anxiety for Darren and I do wish the author had made him a little older. It’s a tad frightening the aftermath of his rebellion. I don’t think he handled things well because he was so young and I prefer to see role models than immature kids when I read young adult series. But since this is a series, I will assume Darren does some maturing eventually. I’m not sure I’ll stick with the series to see that though.

The voice acting was good. It probably was what kept me engaged enough to finish the book. So kudos to Ralph Lister.

A decent children’s book with mature themes, A Living Nightmare Cirque de Freak will be interesting to those who enjoy slow build ups, bad decisions by the main character, and frightening vampires.

eAudiobook Review: The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series

After two years of not being able to borrow eaudiobooks from the library, I now have gained access to the libraries free titles of wonderful books read to me as I’m driving my horrible commute every morning and evening. I’ve always wanted to read The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott and when I saw it was available, I jumped at the chance to check out the first book in the series, The Alchemyst as read by Denis O’Hare

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1 | [Michael Scott]

Summary from Audible:

He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest alchemist of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects, the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

When I started this book I didn’t realize it would be so focused on Sophie and Josh. It was a bit more young than adult, young adult. But overall a very enjoyable read.

Some of the plot points were predictable, I did, however, enjoy the author’s tweeting of history based on the knowledge that magic and alchemy exist in this universe. I also enjoyed the magical world of spells and auras and hidden shadow realms.

Denis O’Hare was a decent voice actor. He had several accents, pitches,and character voices. It was slightly difficult to tell the voices of Sophie and Josh apart, but other than that, a really fun story to listen to.

I do want to read a few more books in the series because I have found most authors improve with time and the parts I found a little young may disappear as the kids age and the series grows. At the moment, though, it’s a bit hard to think of pushing forward with a series I found a tad young and predictable.

Audio Book Review: Dead Heat: Alpha and Omega, Book 4

I am still a big fan of Anna and Charles and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Dead Heat the latest book in the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs.  I do have a few quibbles with this series and its predecessor the Mercedes Thompson series, but as I was browsing through Audible trying to find a good book to start listening to I remembered that I had made a few attempts to grab at this book and didn’t succeed, a quick search and I was nearly instantaneously listening to Holter Graham read about Anna and Charles planning a vacation to Arizona. A vacation I knew wouldn’t stay a vacation for long.

Summary from Amazon:

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal–or at least it starts out that way…
Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Often as series progress authors can get repetitive or formulaic in their story lines, but not Patricia Briggs. This is by far my favorite of the Alpha and Omega series, it was everything I was looking for in the continuing adventures of Anna and Charles. I enjoyed them leaving their home and Bran and branching out on their own for something for themselves. I enjoyed the background of an Arabian horse breeding and showing farm. I enjoyed Arizona as a playground for the mystery. I just really enjoyed this book.

The Fae are brought into this edition and the reader learns more about how the supernatural world is not as serene or together as the public face that they show. I like the females that are introduced in this book. They are strong, courageous, not always perfect, but always there for their families. One of my favorite things is how Briggs writes women as complex characters with weakness that are overshadowed by their strengths.

This book is full of strong, different, sometimes wrong, but always trying to do the right thing, characters set in an dangerous situation where they fight to survive. Another great story by Patricia Briggs.

 

 

 

Audio Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

My husband recently downloaded To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper, read by Sissy Spacek, on Audible because he had never read it before. I was excited to see his choice and the second he was done listening to it I downloaded it onto my phone and dived right in. I was excited because I had read the book quite a while ago and absolutely loved it. I remembered the main points of the book and was curious to see what I had forgotten. I was not disappointed. I’m still in love with this book and when Lee Harper’s next piece of art, Go Set a Watchman, hits the shelves I’m going to download that on Audible as well and listen to Reese Witherspoon read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Summary from Amazon:

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

The reason Ms Harper won a Pulitzer Prize is because this book is simply amazing. Full of humor and heartache, the reader watches as a young girl grows up in a very very southern town in Alabama in the 1930s.

Her father, Atticus Finch, puts on a masterful defense of his client and while I find law stuff fascinating in general, I think most people would agree that even the mundane bits of the trial are interesting in Lee Harper’s capable hands. Atticus is a master sorry teller because Harper is herself.

I enjoyed the voice acting of Sissy Spacek. She has a wonderful listing southern accent that rings true. But her children’s voices are hardly distinguishable. While the country kids have decent country accents, Scout and Jim’s voices are hard to tell apart, and they do a great deal of the talking. But with the wonderful written words of Harper guiding the story, I didn’t have trouble following along except a handful of times.

If you’ve been wanting to reread this book before Harper’s next one comes out, I would suggest getting the audiobook. I’m glad I did.

Audible Book Review: The Memoirs of Sherlock (Dramatised) (Unabridged)

I wanted to listen to something a little bit different and thought getting a dose of Sherlock Holmes would be just the thing. I chose a dramatized version because I tend to like those types of audiobooks the beset. I read all of Sir Author Connan Doyle’s works about Sherlock when I was younger, but figured I would have forgotten most of what I read and it would be as though I was reading them for the first time.

  The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Dramatised) | [Arthur Conan Doyle]

Summary from Audible.com

With his devoted Dr Watson, Holmes emerges from his smoke-filled rooms in Baker Street to grapple with the forces of treachery, intrigue and evil, including the diabolical Professor Moriarty.

This is a compilation of Holmes story told in no particular order that I could discern. Perhaps I had my hopes too high for this audiobook, but I thought it would have more than one person reading the book. I thought the random stories would be the most exciting ones, but they were a study in average Holmes tales. I thought I would have forgotten more than I had and unfortunately instead of a big reveal at the end of the story (chapter) I would remember a quarter of the way into the story how it went and what was the end result. Perhaps I was expecting Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Andrew Scott and should have known better. I did finish it because I wanted something to listen to during my morning and evening commute because traffic drives me bonkers otherwise, but there were times I found myself day dreaming over listening to the story. 

Derek Jacobi was the voice over actor. His narration was fine and he did a good John Watson but his Holmes was hardly distinguishable from the former. On the occasional country man Jacobi would manage a slightly different accent, but for the most part it was hard to tell who was talking and occasionally so monotone I would tune it out (this may also have been due to heavier than normal traffic at that moment as well). Moral of the story, f you have a free credit on audible and want to try out something new, be sure to try the entire sample and see if it is read in a way that will keep your ears interested.

eBook Review: Player Choice by Jeff Deck

Recently I was contacted by Jeff Deck co-author of The Great Typo Hunt, which was one of my very early reviews on this website. You can read my review of The Great Typo Hunt here. Jeff sent me a free copy of his newest creation, his eBook Player Choice, in exchange for an honest review.

player choice

Summary from Amazon:

It’s 2040. With neural implants, people can play games in an immersive virtual reality known as the aether space. Game designer Glen Cullather has a plan for the most ambitious aether game ever imagined: a fantasy epic that gives players the freedom to do anything.

But Glen’s own life is fragmenting into alternate realities. He can’t tell whether his aether game idea has succeeded, or failed miserably. And Freya Janoske is either his biggest rival, or his most intimate partner. Glen must figure out what’s real and what’s, well, fantasy—for his own survival.

Player Choice is a fast-paced gaming sci-fi adventure that dares to ask:

What happens when unreality becomes our reality?

The book is divided into two very distinct parts. The first part is about Glen’s very real alternate realities that are akin to reading about some very lucid dreams. The question is which one is real. Like lucid dreams there are some really real and emotional moments that make it hard to decipher what is happening, but like Glen I knew something was up and while I figured out mostly what was going on, I didn’t quite figure out everything. Which, as we all know, I enjoy immensely. I also enjoy reading about, discussing, and researching lucid dreaming, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book.

Part of the message that Glen is trying to tell in his games is about player choice besides violence and human agency. But Glen has almost no agency in his own life. In fact, I really didn’t like his character at all for quite a bit. He’s that guy. The guy that thinks every single romantic female wants to cut away at his manhood. Just because he fantasizes about her, she must be who he thinks she is. He has no idea how to socially interact with anyone except for two people, and even then after years of friendship, he has hidden huge areas of his life from them. Yet, he expects everyone to respect him. This is the guy I’ve avoided all my life. Glen is unable to express anything except through anger or leaving. His interests must be everyone’s interests. How he sees the world is how it is. Introspection is for the weak. Yes, real healthy there Glen. Thankfully, Glen does learn a lesson or two and by the end of the first part I could at least stand him if not completely empathize with him. His choices led to where he is, and he has to deal with those consequences.

The second part of the book delves into Glen’s gaming world, the one that he created. I’ll be honest, not my favorite part of the book. But, I’m not the worlds biggest gamer. So reading about, what I’ll admit is a very cool gaming world, wasn’t as exciting for me as the lucid dreaming like part. I think people who are gamers, will really enjoy this part of the book. Jeff has definitely built a cool game in Glen’s world and the game has nuances that make it interesting on a deeper level than just conquering bosses. It was interesting, but I was looking for human interest pieces in among the gaming. Glen’s relationship with his girlfriend was interesting and Glen’s past was interesting. I wish there had been more of that than of the gaming, but that is just the type of thing I enjoy more personally.

Glen’s past is rather sordid. He has a lot of family issues. Which are usually the points of a book I really enjoy. I did have one minor issue and that was Glen’s relationship with his sister. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is not a healthy relationship, and may even need a trigger warning that it is of very adult non-healthy relationship issue. I think such things do need to be talked about, and dealt with and definitely fiction is an avenue for that discussion. But I don’t think gaming is therapy. Glen did not deal with his “coming to terms” with their relationship in a way that is conducive to him actually healing from it. He goes from one emotion about it to the next without any real introspective reflection or decision about what is healthy for him. I also believe it takes more than a few days to heal from something like that and while it is definitely a very good start that Glen started talking about his past with his friends, it is just that, a start.

I wish authors would create some sort of sci fi/ fantasy universal health center that they would periodically send their characters to so that people who read these books could see a way of dealing with emotions that isn’t slashing at them with magical swords or dousing them in potions. Take Harry Potter for example, that is one character that really needs some sort of therapy. I could name a ton billion trillion characters like that. I know this is one of my personal soap boxes, so other people who read this book may not have the same reaction.

What I do think is telling, is that I had a reaction. I like books that strike up an emotional feeling and engage me  in the world that I am reading. Jeff has definitely written such a book. As a side note, Jeff’s grammar past has definitely done him some good. I’ve read a few self-published books recently and his is definitely formatted the best, and didn’t have any typos or grammar mistakes that I caught. It was quite refreshing! If you want to give Player Choice a try, check it out on Amazon where it is free! I assume that is for a limited time, so hurry up and head on over there.

Player Choice leads the reader down dream like paths into alternative realities and worlds that will make them reexamine their own choices and agency.