Category: book review

Billy Bathgate514bigQmtLL._SL500_
By: E. L. Doctorow
Narrated by: Mark Deakins
Length: 11 hrs and 15 mins
Audiobook Release date: 03-04-14
Publisher: Random House Audio




First off I have to somewhat rationalize why I read a gangster novel. I really do have an eclectic taste when it comes to reading material, but I tend to stick to my favorites, Sci-Fi & Horror, but I have been known to branch out. But Gangsters? Well what happened was that I had just seen the Movie based on this book, and around the same time E.L. Doctorow’s books were re-released as audiobooks. Synchronicity? Maybe. Coincidence? Maybe. Whatever the case I was curious and wanted to hear the book.


So what’s this book about? It is a coming-of-age story about Billy Bathgate who finds a mentor in the form of Dutch Schultz. Dutch takes Billy under his wing as a young kid and turns him into pretty much a full fledged gangster. But when Dutch’s gang falls It is Billy who survives and turns his life around in a completely opposite way than that which Dutch would have led to, but because of what he learned and Dutch’s hidden fortune Billy creates a way for gang members to go legit.

From the Bronx, to upstate New York, Saratoga, and to the docks of Manhattan, Doctorow supplies the color and the feel of the 1930’s. The feel of the book just plunges the reader into its world and with the narration by Mark Deakins his delivery keeps you in that era throughout the book.

If you like gangster movies, you’ll love this. If they aren’t your thing you may not like this but give them a shot. (pardon the pun)

Publisher’s Summary

To listen to this audiobook is to enter the perilous, thrilling world of Billy Bathgate, the brazen boy who is accepted into the inner circle of the notorious Dutch Schultz gang. Like an urban Tom Sawyer, Billy takes us along on his fateful adventures as he becomes good-luck charm, apprentice, and finally protégé to one of the great murdering gangsters of the Depression-era underworld in New York City. The luminous transformation of fact into fiction that is E. L. Doctorow’s trademark comes to triumphant fruition in Billy Bathgate, a peerless coming-of-age tale and one of Doctorow’s boldest and most beloved best sellers.

©1989 E. L. Doctorow (P)2014 Random House Audio


Death Cloud – Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins63128
By: Andrew Lane
Narrated by: Daniel Weyman
Series: Holmes: The Legend Begins, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
Release date: 02-01-11
Publisher: Macmillan Audio

So once again I venture into the YA world of literature. This time, however, I go knowing what to expect. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories. So picking this up, I say yeah, why not, get those kids reading Sherlock stories. Get them into the classics. The best way to do so is to make Sherlock their age, an origin story, if you will.

This definitely could get someone’s interest piqued toward exploring the Arthur Conan Doyle world of the master detective. However this was not without its flaws. First and foremost I have to approach the violence. Not for being a YA novel was the violence too much but just the fact that it was present. I’ve always looked at Holmes in much the same way as Doctor Who, and Star Trek, in that violence was an extremely last resort, but this book has Holmes being trained by an American on how to be more violent. It really didn’t ruin the story but it did sort of jab at me on occasion.

In typical YA form it seems if only one adult was there to listen and believe what was going on the problems would have been over sooner. I’ve always been bugged by that go to element of YA stories. Anyway, while this did have some issues, the story still captured the essence of a Sherlock Holmes story, and did provide a good listen.

Daniel Weyman delivers the story with great narration that just plunges the listener into the world of Young Sherlock. Being a native of the UK his accent (from this American’s point of view) was perfect.

Publisher’s Summary

It is the summer of 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is 14. On break from boarding school, he is staying with eccentric strangers—his uncle and aunt—in their vast house in Hampshire. When two local people die from symptoms that resemble the plague, Holmes begins to investigate what really killed them, helped by his new tutor, an American named Amyus Crowe. So begins Sherlock’s true education in detection, as he discovers the dastardly crimes of a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent.

©2010 Andrew Lane (P)2011 Macmillan Audio

Classic Radio’s Greatest Comedy Shows, Vol. 121509838
12 Half-Hour Original Radio Broadcasts
By: Hollywood 360
Length: 5 hrs and 50 mins
Original Recordings
Release date: 07-22-14
Publisher: Black Eye Entertainment / Blackstone Audio

I have always loved old radio programs. When I was a kid I would take my little transistor radio to bed and tune the AM dial around until I heard a station out of Tennessee that would play radio dramas every Friday and Saturday night. Most of the time they were horror or suspense stories which is what would keep my pre-teen attention. Little did I know, that it was also what would plant the seed that lead to a 30+ (so far) career in radio broadcasting.

I’m not sure when radio dramas stopped being a thing, I really wish they would bring them back. The theater of the mind from radio is why I do what I do. When I write commercials my first focus is to create a audibly visual landscape. But that being said the days of the true radio performances happened in the golden age of radio, approx 1920 – 1950. The entertainment ranged from suspense, drama (especially soap operas), comedy, and variety shows and would keep people entertained for hours. Alas, those days are pretty much over. But thanks to Hollywood 360 / Black Eye Entertainment / Blackstone Audio we can now enjoy those golden age programs.

This particular collection contains nearly 6 hours of some classic comedy programming. So you can re-live those thrilling days of yesteryear. The best part is that they are still somewhat relevant and still very funny.

Publisher’s Summary

This collection contains twelve of the greatest comedy shows ever broadcast during the golden age of radio. You’ll hear Ozzie and Harriet Nelson in The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll as Amos ‘n’ Andy, Robert Young in Father Knows Best, Jim and Marian Jordan as Fibber McGee and Molly, William Bendix as Chester A. Riley in The Life of Riley, Lucille Ball in My Favorite Husband, Eve Arden as English teacher Connie Brooks in Our Miss Brooks, plus many others, including The Fred Allen Show, The Aldrich Family,The Great Gildersleeve, Life with Luigi, and Lum & Abner.

Relive twelve of the best classic radio comedy shows from yesterday and hear the legendary stars who made them great in this incredible collection.

Contents include:

  • The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, “Housekeeping,” starring Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard
  • The Aldrich Family, “Henry Forgets to Mail a Letter,” starring Ezra Stone
  • The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show, “Andy Gets a Job as Charles Boyer’s Valet,” starring Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, with special guest Charles Boyer
  • Father Knows Best, “The Elusive Card Game,” starring Robert Young
  • Fibber McGee & Molly, “Jewelry Store Robbery,” starring Jimand Marian Jordan
  • The Fred Allen Show, “The Chicken Surplus,” starring Fred Allen, with special guest Orson Welles
  • The Great Gildersleeve, “Gildersleeve vs. Golf,” starring Willard Waterman
  • The Life of Riley, “Staying Out Late,” starring William Bendix
  • Life with Luigi, “The Traffic Light,” starring J. Carrol Naish
  • The Lum & Abner Show, “Baby Cedric the Mind Reader,” starring Chester Lauck and Norris Goff
  • My Favorite Husband, “Trying to Cash the Prize Check,” starring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning
  • Our Miss Brooks, “Trying to Sell a Trailer,” starring Eve Arden

©2014 Hollywood 360 Radio (P)2014 Blackstone Audio

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth917Xv4uaYKL
And Other Pop Culture Correspondences
By: John Moe
Narrated by: John Moe
Length: 6 hrs and 49 mins
Release date: 06-10-14
Publisher: Random House Audio

If you need to laugh out loud in your life, this is the book for you. I will warn you, unless spit takes are your thing, do not have anything to drink while listening to this audiobook (or reading the physical book). I had to clean coffee off the inside of my windshield a couple of times on my commute to work before I learned my lesson.

We come to find out that Darth Vader was a caring father and looked for several ways to break the big news to Luke. Remember how Luke & Leia are brother and sister? Well just hold on to that thought, I will not spoil the results this book will cause.

Many aspects of Pop culture are hilariously represented by John Moe in this book. Definitely worth the read / listen for any fan of pop culture, person in need of a laugh, or someone that needs to be talked down from the ledge. If this book doesn’t have you at least giggling, you may have broken something.

John Moe is not only the author of this collection but also the narrator of the audiobook, he delivers with just as much humor as required.

Publisher’s Summary:

We all know how Darth Vader shared his big secret with Luke Skywalker, but what if he had delivered the news in a handwritten note instead? And what if someone found that letter, as well as all of the drafts that landed in the Dark Lord’s trash can? In the riotously funny collection Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth, John Moe finally reveals these lost notes alongside all the imagined letters, e-mails, text messages, and other correspondences your favorite pop culture icons never meant for you to see.

From The Walking Dead to The Wizard of Oz, from Billy Joel to Breaking Bad, no reference escapes Moe’s imaginative wit and keen sense of nostalgia. Read Captain James T. Kirk’s lost log entries and Yelp reviews of The Bates Motel and Cheers. Peruse top-secret British intelligence files revealing the fates of Agents 001–006, or Don Draper’s cocktail recipe cards. Learn all of Jay-Z’s 99 problems, as well as the complete rules of Fight Club, and then discover an all-points bulletin concerning Bon Jovi, wanted dead or alive – and much more.

Like a like a bonus track to a favorite CD or a deleted scene from a cult movie, Dear Luke, We Need to Talk Darth offer a fresh twist on the pop culture classics we thought we knew by heart. You already know part of their story. Now find out the rest.

©2014 John Moe (P)2014 Random House Audio

Finally you will get to know what those 99 problems are, how to make great cocktails, family secrets, and how the Bates Motel is rated. The Bon Jovi wanted dead or alive has got to be one of the top 5 funniest bits of this book, if not the funniest. John Bon Jovi, has rocked over a million faces causing the police all points bulletin. Every time I read this or listen to it, which has been a few times already and more to come, I laugh so hard I cry.

Do yourself a favor pick up this book. Be entertained and make your life better.

Carter Finally Gets It45210
By: Brent Crawford
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
Release date: 04-07-09
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

When a good YA book comes out I like to see what they are about. I got suckered into the “Twilight” series because of this curiosity and you’d think I’d never do it again but with examples like “The Sword of Darrow,” the Harry Potter series, the Lemony Snicket books, and the “Eragon” series I see there’s more good than bad. One bad, no make that horrible shiny vampire series will not stop me.

This book is definitely one of the good ones. It was offered up as a free audiobook for the Summer SYNC YA reading program books, so I jumped on it. That way if it was bad I didn’t lose any money. After listening to this audiobook, I will definitely seek out the rest of the books in by Brent Crawford. Even better thing about this book is that most YA novels (unless they are supernatural based) are typically from a young girl’s point of view. This time we get the point of view of a young man about to start high school. However teen girls should read this as well, it will give them an inside source as to what is going on to their male counterpoint’s brains.

Publisher’s Summary

Meet Will Carter, but feel free to call him Carter. (Yes, he knows it’s a lazy nickname, but he didn’t have much say in the matter.) Here are five things you should know about him:

1. He has a stuttering problem, particularly around boobs and belly buttons.

2. He battles Attention Deficit Disorder every minute of every day…unless he gets distracted.

3. He’s a virgin, mostly because he’s no good at talking to girls (see number 1).

4. He’s about to start high school.

5. He’s totally not ready.

Join Carter for his freshman year, where he’ll search for sex, love, and acceptance anywhere he can find it. In the process, he’ll almost kill a trombone player, face off with his greatest nemesis, suffer a lot of blood loss, narrowly escape death, run from the cops (not once, but twice), get caught up in a messy love triangle, meet his match in the form of a curvy drill teamer, and surprise the hell out of everyone, including himself.

©2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.; ©2009 Brent Crawford

Poor Carter stutters and has ADD but he is still pretty much the average teen boy. The book does have some somewhat crude teen locker room humor, but really is pretty typical. If you don’t think your teen thinks or has a friend that thinks this way, come out from under that rock once in a while.

In Carter’s case the mixture of raging hormones, not knowing a thing about the opposite sex and throw in his ADD and things just don’t go as planned. This book has several Laugh out Loud moments, and still some of the poignancy of the troubles of growing up. Any teen going into high school NEEDS to read this book.

In the case of the narrator of this audiobook, Nick Podehl, Nick captures the teen voice perfectly and delivers the story right where it needs to be.

Duke: A Life of Duke EllingtonBy: Terry Teachout
b93z-square-1536Narrated by: Peter Francis James
Length: 17 hrs and 43 mins
Release date: 10-17-13
Publisher: Penguin Audio

Any faithful reader or former faithful reader of this blog may notice that I’m posting on a steady basis again. Yes, but…. You may also see that it’s a daily post. Yes, but… Before the buts get stacked up I want to say that It seemed like I took a hiatus from the reviews. I sort of did at least posting the reviews. I would still write them up or at least outline them. So now I spent some time putting them all together and setting them up to post on a regular basis until I get caught up. I don’t want to overwhelm you so I set up the auto posting to do one a day until I get caught up, which may take a while.  So let’s get back to it.

Once again I visit a biography, this time around I delve into the Jazz & Swing music with this Duke Ellington biography. Terry Teachout knew exactly what I wanted in a biography. Just the facts without too many details. Most of the time the details can go off in a tangent that starts to get too much like a tabloid publication. Sure it’s nice to hear some sordid details just not all. Teachout has the perfect blend of details and tells a great story about the life of one of Jazz’s greats.

Publisher’s Summary

A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century – and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.”

©2013 Terry Teachout (P)2013 Penguin Audio

This book will not only guide you through the good and bad times of the Duke, but also it gives the reader/listener a feel for how the music biz was run in the early to mid 20th Century. I was surprised at how much of music at the time was a collaborative effort, whether by choice or just flat out stealing other peoples works.

While Terry Teachout writes about the specific events in the Duke’s life he also goes into very nice details on specific songs, so much so that halfway through the book I went and grabbed as many Ellington recordings I could find. Working in radio really came in handy there. I even found a 78rpm pressing of “Perdido” which was awesome to hear. Sure it was a bit hissy and scratchy but I could just visualize someone in the day sitting around the Victrola and enjoying some Jazz. Teachout describes the music so well that once I received the recordings I would listen at times to the music and the audiobook at the same time. It would have been really nice for the publisher to do that for the audiobook but licensing issues I completely understand.

The narrator, Peter Francis James’s voice was perfect for this book. After listening to this book I saw him on some of my favorite television shows (CW Tv’s Arrow & Legends of Tomorrow) and was glad to see his face matched pretty well what I was picturing in my head. Great delivery for this great biography of a Jazz Great.

The Mayan Secrets (A Fargo Adventure, Book 5)book-review-mayan-secrets-3b0bf93fd1a56806
By: Clive Cussler, Thomas Perry
Series: Fargo Adventures, Book 5
Narrated by: Scott Brick
Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins
Release date: 09-03-13
Publisher: Penguin Audio

Clive Cussler can pump out the action stories. Whether it’s the Corporation, The Oregon or Sam and Remi Fargo novels, you are guaranteed an adventure. The nice thing about all of these adventures is that Cussler does his research, and all descriptions of locations are accurate. With a little mystery to solve and a whole lot of danger, this book is no exception to the suspense experienced with Clive Cussler’s stories.

The summary of the book from the description follows:

“Husband-and-wife team Sam and Remi Fargo are in Mexico, when they come upon a remarkable discovery—the skeleton of a man clutching an ancient sealed pot, and within the pot, a Mayan book, larger than anyone has ever seen. The book contains astonishing information about the Mayans, about their cities, and about mankind itself. The secrets are so powerful that some people would do anything to possess them—as the Fargos are about to find out.

Before their adventure is done, many men and women will die for that book—and Sam and Remi may just be among them.”

You will not want to put the book down or stop listening if you prefer the audiobook. Speaking of the audiobook, the narrator is one of my all time favorite audiobook voices, Scott Brick. Scott has a delivery in all his readings that make the books just as exciting as the actual story. I will never turn down an audiobook read by Scott Brick.

This book was just over 10 hours time for the audiobook, but it was so fast paced it was over way too soon. The good thing is, that Clive Cussler has lots more stories to choose from, so, on to the next.

“Stirring the Pot: My Recipe for Getting What You Want Out of Life”
By: Jenny McCarthyjmcarthy
Narrated by: Jenny McCarthy
Length: 3 hrs and 1 min
Release date: 05-06-14
Publisher: Random House Audio

I’m not sure why I wanted to listen to this audiobook, but I did. Maybe it’s that Jenny were at SIU-Carbondale at the same time in the Early 90s. (I actually think I had a General Ed. Class with her.) Whatever the reason I actually enjoyed it more than I would normally think. I do try to read biographies on occasion, but usually they are musicians. This book won’t change your way of life or way of thinking, but it will provide you with a bit of humor. There were several times during the book I would laugh out loud and a couple of times where I had to “rewind” the audiobook to hear what I missed because I laughed.

Ms. McCarthy reads the book which is great. I think all autobiographies should be read by the author because they can read it with the emotion/sarcasm/humor needed. Another aspect of her doing the reading is that she brings it down to Earth, and even with the crazy celebrity life she is just like us normal people.

To sum up, entertaining anecdotes, from a down to earth yet stuck in celebritydom celebrity.

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 780 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Episode #62.”It’s Your Funeral”

It seems as though this week’s episode focuses on television.  Gil T. basically listens in as Tim M. and Eric talk about; “The Man in the High Castle” (an Amazon TV series pilot), “12 Monkeys,” and more.

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