Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Vile Village - Lemony Snicket

The Vile Village
By: Lemony Snicket
Published: 2001
Audiobook Read by: Tim Curry
My rating: Delightful

Rule # 72,319 clearly states: "No orphan with the name of Baudelaire may have anything good happen to them."

It's a good thing the Baudelaires are experiencing so many unfortunate events because the penalty for breaking the rules in the Village of Foul Devotees (VFD for short) is burning at the stake! Of course with so many rules to follow it is a given that eventually they will break one of them, so burning at the stake is virtually inevitable! The children find themselves in this distasteful village through a new government program for orphans that follows the motto: "It takes a village to raise a child." Unfortunately, VFD has a different definition for "raising a child" and Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are subjected to yet another round of misery! Of course this misery includes Count Olaf in his most ridiculous disguise yet as well as having to do a lot of chores. The only bright spots in this new experience are their new friend, the town handyman, Hector, and the discovery that the Quagmire triplets are right there in VFD waiting to be rescued! I think we all know by now that nothing will go right for children but we also know that nothing will stop them from trying!!

This was another fun book for us filled with all kinds of interesting albeit improbable events. I love the imagination that went into this series. I have to laugh at the completely far-fetched ideas the children come up with that in real life wouldn't even come close to working but for them succeed perfectly! There should be a warning on these books that says, "Do not try these things at home, they WON'T work!!" Don't get me wrong, I love the craziness in these stories, that is why I keep listening to them!! :)

We listened to the audiobook read by Tim Curry. What can I say that I haven't already said? Tim is the absolute perfect choice for these books! We love him!!

Overall, this 7th book was just as good as the rest. I have been impressed by the consistent quality of the series and am looking forward to the rest of them!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Soulless - Gail Carriger

By: Gail Carriger
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Emily Gray

Here is another book that my friend Valerie recommended and has stood up to that recommendation very well for me! I absolutely loved it! Thank you so much, Valerie!!

Alexia Tarabotti is your average spinster in the making. Already 26 years old with a very plain face, a very forward and assertive personality, and worst of all, an Italian father, she has accepted her fate as gracefully as possible. Yes, Alexia is a very average, quite uninteresting girl, unless you count the fact that she has no soul!

Now, everybody knows that vampires and werewolves are generally well behaved individuals who despite one or two eccentricities are respectable citizens. Imagine Alexia's surprise then, when for no apparent reason she is attacked by a vampire at a party and is forced to defend herself in a most unladylike manner. Good thing she carries her trusty parasol everywhere isn't it? Unfortunate that she killed the poor fellow, though, she really hadn't meant to but now, one of her best wooden hair pins is absolutely ruined! Well, when Lord Maccon of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry shows up to investigate she really is inconvenienced! Despite being a very well put together specimen, and despite his two hundred or so years of experience, and despite being the Alpha of the Wolsey Castle werewolf pack, Alexia just can't abide him! Everyone knows that the Scottish are such neanderthals and behave in such uncivilized ways, can you just imagine, wearing a smoking jacket to dinner! No self-respecting lady in London society would be caught dead with a Scottish werewolf and here she is, forced to spend an entire evening with him!

Well, it turns out that insane vampires are just the tip of the iceberg. Had Alexia known that killing that one vampire was going to force her to spend so much time with that repulsive Lord Maccon, she just might have let him bite her instead! It might have been fun to see what would have happened, her being soulless and all. Oh well, whats done is done and now she is in a whirlwind of scandalous activities, trying to uncover the truth about the strange events that are wreaking havoc on her social standing! And to make matters worse, that beastly Lord Maccon can't keep his paws to himself! Well...maybe it isn't making things worse, but really, why does he have to be Scottish?

This was a very fun book! I love the way Gail has created a world where the supernatural and natural mix in polite society. All the way through there are hilarious references to fashion and polite behavior that clash most absurdly with the typical thinking on werewolves and vampires! The mystery is well thought out as well but not so deep as to require you to focus on it. The story of Alexia's personal life is very entertaining as well! It's a beautifully written work that blends the best of proper fashion and etiquette of 19th century London with the mystical world of the supernatural and adds in a great big heaping helping of fun! There is a healthy amount of romance and some sexual situations but they are tastefully written and though a bit explicit at times, were not offensive to me and even added to the fun most of the time.

I listened to the audiobook read by Emily Gray. Emily was wonderful and I loved her performance. She isn't the best at doing a male voice with an American accent but I think that added some to the fun of her performance!

Overall, this is a SPECTACULAR book. If you like vampires and werewolves dressed in stylish waistcoats and cravats, you'll love this book!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Still Life - Louise Penny

Still Life
By: Louise Penny
Published: 2005
Audiobook Read by: Ralph Cosham

This is yet another book that came to my attention through the wonderful reviews of my friend Sam. I am so glad to have found Louise Penny and her wonderful Chief Inspector Armand Gamache!

Armand Gamache loves his job and is well loved by those who work with him. When he is called out to investigate the suspicious death of an elderly retired school teacher in Three Pines, a town so small he can't seem to find it on his map, he has no idea of what a truly strange case it will turn out to be. Despite a surprisingly annoying rookie on his team they all work flawlessly together to uncover the truth about this death. As he leads his team in the investigation he begins to fall in love with this little lost village and the people who live there. Sitting alone in the early morning, he watches the town awake and realizes that there really are wonderful places of peace and tranquility left in the world. As long as you don't let a little matter of murder bother you!

I absolutely loved this book! Thank you so much, Sam, for turning me on to it! I loved Inspector Gamache. He is a wonderful person, full of kindness and compassion, ready to go the extra mile for those around him. So often, authors feel the need to make their detectives eccentric at the least and often arrogant and egotistical. Louise has given us a very different kind of detective, one who values the opinions of his team and is willing to listen to anyone who seeks his attention. He truly cares about the victim and those left behind and would never consider dehumanizing the crime.

The mystery itself was very engaging and kept me guessing all the way through. I loved how each new development was revealed to me just as it was found without trying to keep the mystery more mysterious! Louise has a style that keeps the story moving along nicely, throws in a pleasant smattering of humor, and provides characters that are very realistic and easy to relate to.

I listened to the audiobook read by Ralph Cosham. Ralph gave a bit of a monotone performance when it came to the narrative itself but did a pretty good job on the voices. Not my favorite reader but I won't hesitate to listen to other books he does.

Overall, I highly recommend this book! If you like a good mystery with a highly intelligent detective on the case, you'll love it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lunch At The Piccadilly - Clyde Edgerton

Lunch At The Piccadilly
By: Clyde Edgerton
Published: 2003
Audiobook Read by: Sally Darling
My rating: Good

 My friend Sam introduced me to Clyde Edgerton and this is the first of his books I've tried.

Carl loves his aunt Lil dearly. She is like a second mother to him and since she never had children of her own, she feels the same about him. He knows she needs to accept some changes in her life since she fell, but how can he tell her things like "You can't drive anymore," or "You might have to stay in this nursing home." She is determined to continue on with her life just as before but even she has to admit, things aren't as easy as they used to be. She's having trouble remembering things, and getting around is an awful lot of work these days.

When she meets L. Ray Flowers, she finds a little excitement is still possible. He's a preacher and has some far out ideas that she thinks are just Jim Dandy! As Mr. Flowers plots how he is going to revolutionize the nursing home industry, the ladies of Rosehaven seem to either fall head over heels for him, or absolutely despise him. Either way, he is certainly the center of attention! Aunt Lil is ready to follow him anywhere but life has other ideas. She has a few miles left to go and a few more adventures left in her. Nobody is going to keep her down, at least not as long as she has her walker nearby!

This was a really odd book for me. It is a look at life in a nursing home and some of the crazy antics of these elderly folks are hilarious. There are plenty of sad times too as each one remembers painful memories. Clyde's style is odd as well and there were a few times where I found it difficult to follow. There were several scenes where the ladies are discussing this or that and I realized that Clyde's writing was accurately relaying the confusion that would actually be happening in real life in the same sort of situation. This was a very touching story as well as you witness the love and tenderness Carl has towards Lil. However, the amount of minute detail included about trivial things like what each character had for lunch, was a little bit too much for me. As far as a plot goes, this is just a view of life as a nursing home resident.

I listened to the audiobook read by Sally Darling who did a wonderful job. I have listened to her before and I very enjoy her performances.

Overall this was a good book but it's not for everyone. It is a touching story and should be read with little expectation of surprises or excitement. I do intend to try out another of Clyde's books, since I gather he has covered a pretty wide range of subject matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol
By: Dan Brown
Published: 2009
Audiobook Read by: Paul Michael
My rating: Interesting

Robert Langdon is on his way to give a speech as a last minute favor to his very powerful and influential friend Peter Solomon. When he arrives he discovers something very unexpected. He is suddenly neck deep in another race against time, with the fate of the world in the balance. As he scrambles to decipher an ancient code he also has to stay on the run from people who are well equipped to catch him. It seems that every turn finds him facing yet another obstacle. In the end he unravels the ancient mystery and uncovers a secret that has been protected for hundreds of years. But did he really figure out anything?

If you read my review of Angels & Demons you know that I absolutely loved it. Since then I have listened to all of Dan's books. Of all of them, this is my least favorite. It is so similar in plot to the other ones that it seems like Dan just changed the names and reinserted them into the same outline he used before. I have found other authors who seem to do the same thing but it doesn't grate on me like this did. I think Dan's style in general is just getting old for me. I think my biggest complaint is the way he tries to misdirect the reader but more often than not it's obvious that there is something else going on. It creates a leapfrog effect where you hear one version that is the fake and then go back to get the real story. It doesn't help the plot along and after a while it gets rather tedious.

I did enjoy the picture of Masonic rituals and the back story of the order. From what I understand, all of the information is factual and that added a lot to my interest. Dan also describes in great detail some actual locations in Washington DC that are very interesting in and of themselves.

The plot itself, like I said is very similar to his other books but the ending was very much an anti-climax for me. The hidden secrets didn't really seem to be secrets at all and after all the death and destruction that had occurred, there just didn't seem to be much reward in the ending.

I listened to the audiobook read by Paul Michael. Paul has a very soothing voice and did a great job on this book.

Overall, the facts and information made this book interesting in a knowledge seeking kind of way, but as far as the enjoyment of a good novel goes, I'd look elsewhere.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Italian Secretary - Caleb Carr

The Italian Secretary
By: Caleb Carr
Published: 2005
Audiobook Read by: Simon Prebble
My rating: Interesting

This one caught my interest right off since I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes and Watson find themselves summoned to Scotland by Mycroft Holmes. It appears there is a ghost going about doing all kinds of nasty things and Mycroft would like the matter cleared up posthaste! One complicating factor is the location of these hauntings; the Royal Palace of Holyrood! Holmes and Watson are only too happy to assist their Queen, so they set out to solve these bizarre happenings and end up in the middle of an adventure that very nearly is their last!

As I said, I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and was excited to find this authorized continuation of his adventures. I was a little disappointed though. The story was very engaging but it just didn't capture that flair that Doyle put in his works. As a general mystery tale it was pretty good, but as a Holmes mystery it wasn't up to snuff. The writing is great and the plot flows along quite nicely. The mystery itself was fairly well thought out and the characters are pretty well developed. I guess being in the shadow of a master raises the bar to much greater heights!

I listened to the audiobook read by Simon Prebble. Simon had an excellent voice for the part of Holmes. I love it when a narrator's voice fits my mental image of the character! He did an amazing job with the entire book and I very much enjoyed his performance!

Overall this is a fine mystery novel and has a lot of appeal of it's own. However, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, don't approach it with too high expectations.