Tag Archive: audio book


Best-Horror-of-the-Year

Audiobook review “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4”

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Read by Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio

Approx. 17 hours

Always the fan of horror and always the fan of short stories this book was a must read for me. When I saw the title, “The Best Horror of the Year…” my first question was what year? Seeing that the hardcover version was published in 2012, I looked further and discovered this was the best of 2011. Being a bit cynical I thought, we’ll have to see about that.

Well, the cynicism went away right at the first story. Each story in this collection represented a different point in the horror genre of fiction from mysterious faith-healers to monsters that live underground and sense vibrations of their prey to two spies trying to capture a Lovecraftian villain and more. This collection will introduce you to some new horror story telling and allow you to revisit some of your favorite storytellers.

Each story was read by a different narrator creating the fun from each of their own vocal talents. The editors matched perfectly each story to a different voice, not only allowing the difference from a male or female point of view, but also the tone of the stories match the vocal tones of the readers. The narrators includes Lindy Nettleton, Charles Carroll, Shaun Grindell, Angela Brazil, and Fred Sullivan

I will briefly describe a few of my favorite stories from this collection, in no particular order.

“The Little Green God of Agony,” by Stephen King opens the book with a story of a rich man seeking to live forever, pain-free without the grueling physical rehab. Hearing of a faith healer that has a history of positive results the man uses his influences to bring in the faith-healer, not all of the man’s staff hold the same faith. He summons the Rev. Rideout to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn’t heal, “I expel.” He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt.

“Blackwood’s Baby,” takes place in rural Washington state, This story tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate.

In John Langan’s “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos,” two government agents try to prove themselves when they’re hired to grab a “Mr. White,” who may not be a human. Mixing spy thriller with a touch of Lovecraft this story has a great creepiness factor.

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub is a bit of a surreal journey down a river on a luxury yacht where Ballard and Sandrine could live comfortably as long as they don’t ask questions. But as is human nature the couple investigate their surroundings if only to find where their food comes from. Everytime they gain new information it seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude.

“The Moraine” has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. The monster in this story mixes the monsters from “Tremors,” “The Ruins” and “The Mist.” This is a good old-fashioned monster story that could have been a drive-in movie theater hit if made into a movie.

In my favorite story out of the group, A.C. Wise’s “Final Girl Theory,” “‘Kaleidoscope’ isn’t a movie, it’s an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark.” A cult movie is the basis for an underground following that leads one fan to seek out the leading lady in the film.

A great collection of different horror stories with a great collection of narrators makes this audiobook one to grab.

 

Audiobook Review: “Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft”lovecraftterror
by H. P. Lovecraft
Read by Robertson Dean, Simon Vance, Sean Runnette, Elijah Alexander, Stefan Rudnicki, Bronson Pinchot, Simon Prebble, Tom Weiner, Malcolm Hillgartner, Patrick Cullen
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 20 hours

I probably have to turn in my horror fiction fan card on this next statement, but, I’m on the fence when it comes to H.P. Lovecraft. While I do love the visual images created by his writings, there is one feature I just absolutely abhor. First though, I have to say the rhythm, choice of words and dark settings of his stories are enough to suck any horror fan into his nightmares. My problem is that most items of horror are usually described as either “indescribable” or “more than the human mind can describe.” I have always felt that any good writer can describe anything, so why does Lovecraft come up short of words on the darkest parts of the horrors in his stories? Is it because he knows the mind is capable of filling in the blanks? When I read these see these moments in a Lovecraft story, I groan because I wish he could have put more detail in that picture. But, then again, his is one of the writers that forged horror-fiction so all can be forgiven.

This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft. These stories. In many of these tales, Lovecraft leads the reader to believe that dreams are where truth actually lies as opposed to reality where it is often thought to be. He believes dreams are things “whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.” And most of the characters herein try to tear down that barrier.

The use of different readers for each story in this audiobook collection keeps the book interesting and keeps the listener paying attention. Not any single reader is misplaced and all are able to keep the true feeling of Lovecraft in the darkest parts of the stories. Stefan Rudnicki is the one that stands out the most for me, his smooth deep voice just captivates and never lets go even long after the story is done.

This collection covers the Dream Cycle and is a bunch of short stories, unfinished stories, correspondence between Lovecraft and others and some general ideas jotted down for future use. I will try to summarize briefly all of the tales within, but your best bet is to listen to this great audio collection, especially if you are a Lovecraft fan already.

Azathoth” – The modern world has been stripped of imagination and belief in magic. The protagonist is an unnamed man who lives in a dull and ugly city. Every night for many years the man gazes from his window upon the stars, until he comes over time to observe secret vistas unsuspected by normal humanity. One night the gulf between his world and the stars is bridged, and his mind ascends from his body out unto the boundless cosmos.

The Descendant” – This story is a fragment that seems to really go nowhere but it it great to hear the story read aloud.

The Thing in the Moonlight” – Based on a letter from H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, dated November 24, 1927. this story describes a dream that Lovecraft had.

Polaris” – The narrator becomes convinced that this life is not real but a dream from which he cannot awaken.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep” – An inventor has created an electronic telepathic device in which he uses to go into the mind of a dying man. This one intrigued me most because the band “Black Sabbath” wrote a song based on this story.

The Doom That Came to Sarnath” – Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse consume the land of Mnar.

The Statement of Randolph Carter” – Carter attempts to describe the disappearance of his partner, Warren, into a crypt.

The Cats of Ulthar” – In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat . . . and woe unto any who tries.

Celephais” – Celephaïs was created in a dream by Kuranes as a child of the English landed gentry. As a man he dreams it again and then, seeking it, slowly slips away to the dream-world.

From Beyond” – A scientist named Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast creates an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person’s pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality.

Nyarlathotep” – A strange and inexplicable sense of foreboding experienced by humanity in general, in anticipation of a great unknown evil.

The Nameless City” – Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos.

The Other Gods” – A high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the “gods of earth”, or Great Ones, attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple Atal. Upon reaching the peak, Barzai at first seems overjoyed until he finds that the “gods of the earth” are not there alone.

Ex Oblivione” – The dreams of a presumably dying man. In his dreams, the man is walking through a valley and encounters a vine-covered wall with a locked bronze gate therein. He longs to know what lies beyond the gate.

The Quest of Iranon” – a golden-haired youth who wanders into the city of Teloth, telling tales of the great city of Aira, where he was prince. While Iranon enjoys singing and telling his tales of wonder, few appreciate it.

The Hound” – The narrator and his friend St. John, who have a deranged interest in robbing graves. They constantly defile crypts and often keep souvenirs of their nocturnal expeditions. Since they reside in the same house, they have the opportunity to set up a sort of morbid museum in their basement. Using the objects they collect from the various graves they have robbed, they organize the private exhibition. The collection consists of headstones, preserved bodies, skulls and several heads in different phases of decomposition. It also included statues, frightful paintings and a locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin (the Necronomicon).

Hypnos” – The narrator, a sculptor, recounts meeting a mysterious man in a railway station. The moment the man opened his “immense, sunken and widely luminous eyes”, the narrator knew that the stranger would become his friend-–”the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before”. In the eyes of the stranger he saw the knowledge of the mysteries he always sought to learn.

What the Moon Brings” – The narrator wanders through his garden one night and in the moonlight sees strange and bizarre things.

Pickman’s Model” – A Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists.

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” – The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle.

The Silver Key” – Randolph Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually “lost the key to the gate of dreams.” Randolph once believed life is made up of nothing but pictures in memory, whether they be from real life or dreams, and he highly prefers his romantic nightly dreams of fantastic places and beings, as an antidote for the “prosiness of life.”

The Strange High House in the Mist” – Thomas Olney, a “philosopher” visiting the town of Kingsport, Massachusetts with his family, is intrigued by a strange house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is unaccountably high and old and the locals have a generations-long dread of the place which no one is known to have visited

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” – Charles Dexter Ward, who in 1918 becomes embroiled in the past, due to his fascination with the history of his wizard ancestor, Joseph Curwen (who had left Salem for Providence in 1692, and acquired notoriety for his haunting of graveyards, his apparent lack of aging, and his chemical experiments). Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor’s Qabalistic and alchemical feats, eventually locating Curwen’s remains and by means of his “essential Saltes”, resurrecting him.

The Dreams in the Witch-House” – Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore at Miskatonic University, takes a room in the Witch House, a house in Arkham thought to be accursed.

Through the Gates of the Silver Key” – At a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter’s estate which has been held in trust since his disappearance the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter’s acquaintances of his ultimate fate.

While some are only partial stories, they all come together to further the dark and foreboding universe that houses Randolph Carter, Miskatonic University, the Necronomicon and Cthulu.

 

joyland

Audiobook Review: “Joyland”

By Stephen King

Read by Michael Kelly

Published by AudioWorks / Simon & Schuster

Running time: Approx 7.5 hours

 

So, all I knew was that Stephen King had a new book out.  I have been a fan of King’s ever since his book “Christine” came out back in 1983.  That was the first Stephen King novel I read, and I was hooked ever since.  I have read every book published and as soon as a new one  comes out I HAVE to have it.  Anymore I don’t bother reading what the book is about I just read it, or in this case, listen to it.

 

Looking back at the wide variety of Stephen King books you never really know what you are getting into.  Sometimes it is a murder mystery, sometimes a fantasy about dragons, or an alternate world.  King is known as the master of horror and that could lead to a really nice horror novel.  Putting together clues from the cover of the book I deduced that this book must be some sort of murder mystery.

 

The book cover features a picture which closely resembles the art work on the covers from the Pulp-fiction / Crime Drama magazines from the middle of the 20th century.  The book was originally published in paperback through “Hard Case Crime” which is an American imprint of hardboiled crime novels, just like the novel “The Colorado Kid.”  So putting these together I deduced that it was going to be a crime novel that features that extra Stephen King twist, and it was.

 

Before I talk more about the book I have to praise Michael Kelly on his narration of the book.  The book is presented as a first person point of view.  That point of view comes from Devin Jones, a University of New Hampshire student who takes a summer job at Joyland in 1973.  Michael Kelly perfectly captures the mood and psyche of Devin Jones as he starts out at the amusement park as a greenie and eventually attempts to solve a murder and brightens the life of a dying child.  Kelly’s voice fits the voice of Devin Jones like a glove and makes this character come to life in this audiobook version.

 

As I stated, Devin Jones takes on a summer job at Joyland amusement park in North Carolina working with the “carnies” and “wearing the fur” Joyland talk for portraying Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland’s mascot.   Devin soon learns of the local urban legend of the ghost in the haunted haunted house in Joyland.  A few years past a young girl was murdered in the horror house and the killer was never caught.  Every so often the ghost of the girl appears to someone in the park.

 

Devin also learns from the park’s fortune teller that he will meet two children that summer. One is a girl with a red hat. The other is a boy with a dog. One of them has The Sight.  So with a little bit of “The Shining” mixed in with a little bit of “The Colorado Kid,” Stephen King weaves a tale of murder, mystery and psychic powers in a way that only he can tell a story.  This is a coming of age, human interest, horror, murder mystery that will have you laughing, crying and leaving the lights on at night.

call for the dead

“Call for the Dead”

By John le Carré

Read by Michael Jayston

Published by Penguin Audio

Approx. 5 hours

 

Why not a spy novel?  That’s exactly what I was thinking when I was going through my stack of audiobooks yet to be heard.  As my answer I picked up this release from Penguin Audio.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually sat down with a spy novel and wasn’t sure what I was going to get.  What I did get was a nice short novel that to my surprise was originally published in 1961, and just recently released in audiobook form from Penguin.

 

As I listened to the first disc in this book I was completely lured into the story by the smooth voice of Michael Jayston.  Jayston narrates the book and has such great vocal control that he can narrate the story and portray the characters within their dialogue to keep the listener focused on the story.

 

I found out that “Call for the Dead” is John le Carré’s first novel, which surprised me because of the seamless dialogue and storyline make the book seem as though he had been writing about this character forever.  This book introduces George Smiley, the most famous of le Carré’s recurring characters, and the recurring fictional version of British Intelligence, called “the Circus” because of its location in Cambridge Circus, that is apparently based on MI6.

 

Foreign Office civil servant Samuel Fennan apparently commits suicide after a routine security check by Circus agent George Smiley. Smiley had interviewed and cleared Fennan only days previously after an anonymous accusation; however, Circus head of service Maston sets up Smiley to be blamed for Fennan’s death. While interviewing Fennan’s wife Elsa in her home, Smiley answers the telephone, expecting a call from the Circus for him. Instead, it is a wake-up call from the local exchange, but Elsa seems surprised by it.

 

Smiley then meets Inspector Mendel, a police officer on the verge of retirement who is investigating the Fennan case, and finds out through him that the wake-up call had been specially requested by Fennan the night before. When Elsa later tells Smiley that she requested the call from the exchange (which Smiley knows to be false), he tells Mendel and Maston. However, Maston unequivocally orders Smiley to refrain from any further investigation into Fennan’s death. Back in his office, Smiley receives a letter posted by Fennan the night before, requesting an urgent meeting that day. Believing that Fennan was murdered to prevent the meeting, Smiley promptly resigns from the Circus and attaches his resignation to Fennan’s letter, which he forwards to Maston.

 

Together, Mendel and Smiley uncover an elaborate ring of East German spies and their network.  The case does come to be closed but it does open a new future for Smiley, who becomes the focus of many more John le Carré novels.

Catch-a-Fire-2811773

“Catch A Fire: The Life of Bob Marley”

By Timothy White

Read by Peter Macon

Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Length 17.0 hrs

 

 

All my life I’ve been fascinated with music, I’ve never been able to play an instrument but have loved listening to music.  I listen, enjoy and appreciate all genres of music, some genres I just appreciate for what they are trying to do, but I get it.   I never had the patience to learn an instrument but I could play a record, 8-track, cassette or CD so I went into a broadcasting career.

 

One thing I have noticed is that not only does it take a lot of patience but there is something else that makes a star a star.  I read a lot of musician biographies and many times that something is passed down from generations of musicians.  So with great genes comes great talent.  Well not always.  This biography of Bob Marley demonstrates that while Marley had the talent for music, he also had a very unique spiritual background that led to his music breaking boundaries and pushing a new form of music, Reggae, into the mainstream.

 

I was actually surprised by the content of this audiobook in that it offered much more than just a history of Bob Marley and his music.  Timothy White created a whole feel for the whys and wherefores of Marley, Jamaica and Reggae music.  In this book the listener gets a bit of a rounded education in religion with the history of Rastafarianism.  While I had heard of Rastafarianism (what Bob Marley fan hasn’t?) I had never heard of it’s origins until this book.  White covers the history of this religion all the way back to King Solomon.  I was intrigued by all the rich history this religion absorbs.

 

Continuing the education created by Timothy White, the listener gets a lesson in the history of Jamaica and the development of the island’s politics and scandals.  Along with this history the history of the music scene of Jamaica is covered in depth and how Reggae came about.  Of course, the meat of this book is the life of Bob Marley but all these histories explain in detail how Marley was influenced not only musically but spiritually and politically as well.  This explains how Marley is able to influence many generations of music fans for years to come.

 

The reader of this book was outstanding.  Peter Macon was able to bring this biography to full-color audio life with his vocal skills.  Talking in Jamaican, British or African accents Macon made this book come to life and with his rich deep voice for the normal narration made this book an easy listen.

stolenprey

Audiobook Review: “Stolen Prey” (#22 in the Lucas Davenport Series)

By John Sandford

Read by Richard Ferrone

Published by Penguin audio

Approx.  11.5 hours

 

I’m off exploring some cop stories and I happen to receive this audiobook last year from Penguin Audio and it has been sitting on my “not-sure-whether-or-not-it-is-my-cup-of-tea” shelf.  This is a shelf of audiobooks that sound intriguing but I’m not yet familiar with the author or whether I will like the story.  I go to this shelf when I’m no sure what I want to hear.  Many times I have started a book from this shelf and have been let down and not able to finish the book.  This time around I was not let down and was intrigued throughout the entire book.

 

The reader of this audiobook, Richard Ferrone, has a unique “gravelly” voice that is at first tough to hear, but after a while he grows on you and his ability to create characters within his vocal limits is surprising.  His voice threw me off and I wasn’t sure whether I could continue listening, but as the story sucked me in, I got used to his voice and even to appreciate the qualities carried in the sound.

 

As for the story itself, that’s what makes this book.  This novel has one main story running through it but it seems as if the main character of the book, Lucas Davenport of the Minnesota BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension), has several cases going on at one time.  The book opens with Davenport being mugged after his morning jog.  The muggers seem like a couple of meth-heads, but they have done the muggings before and when all is said and done they make off with $500 (which was just pulled from an ATM) from Davenport and breaking his wrist as they knock him down.  He then begins his personal investigation to catch these two low-lifes.

 

Seeking the help of another cop, another case is receiving the help of Davenport, this one is one of a stolen statue where the priceless statue is believed to be already chopped up and sold for brass scrap.  This is not yet the main case but in helping on this one Davenport gets help to find his muggers.

 

But wait, that still is not the main plot of this book.  The main plot of this book is revealed when Davenport arrives at a murder scene where a family of four and their two dogs are found brutally murdered.  One of the victims has his fingers chopped off and the digits are used to write a message on the wall in blood, that message; “Were Coming” (no apostrophe).

 

As it turns out, one or both of the parents are involved in a crime where they are stealing money from a bank account and through many wire transfers laundering the money into gold coins with the help of several techies from a local bank.  This group of nerds have found a way to turn twenty million dollars from a “dirty” account into gold and able to make themselves rich.  The problem is, the account they are stealing from belongs to Los Criminales del Norte, drug lords from Mexico.  The money is drug money and the drug lords do not like someone else holding their money.  The Criminales send hired murderers to Minnesota to retrieve their stolen money.

 

Davenport begins working this case trying to track down the thieves before the Criminales do and at the same time trying to track down the Criminales thugs.  All this time he is tracking down his muggers and helping track down the statue thieves.

 

Lots of action and lots of suspense in this novel.  Honestly, I’m thinking Lucas Davenport is way too busy of a man and needs a vacation after this novel alone.  I think I will be checking more of these novels and probably some others from John Sandford.

thestorm

Audiobook Review:

“The Storm”

By Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

Read by Scott Brick

Published by Penguin Audio

Approx. 11 hours

 

Whenever you are looking for a good suspenseful action/adventure novel go out and grab one of my newly found guilty pleasures, Clive Cussler.  I have only recently started on the novels by Cussler but I have been having fun listening to them in audiobook form.

 

So far all the ones I have heard have been read by Scott Brick, and if any of you are familiar with audiobooks you have probably ran into something read by Brick.  Scott Brick has a style of reading audiobooks that is unmatched.  His voice is perfect in every way, from simply relaying the books text to applying subtle vocal changes that never leave a doubt as to when the dialogue changes between characters.  He is also able to relay the emotions and drama experienced by all the characters as needed throughout all the books he reads.  He is the reason I started listening to Clive Cussler books, because I knew with Scott Brick reading, it would stay interesting.  I’m pretty sure I would listen to Scott Brick read the dictionary.

 

As for this book, it is a novel from the NUMA files by Clive Cussler.  NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), originally an organization within the fiction of author Clive Cussler, is a private non-profit organization in the United States. Cussler created and leads the actual organization which is dedicated to “preserving maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts.

 

The NUMA adventures started with the novels featuring the lead character, Dirk Pitt, but the author has branched out to where the employees of NUMA now have their own adventures.  They still contact Dirk for important matters, but for the most part, they are able to have their own adventures and if this book is any sort of reflection of the other 10 books in the series, they are some fun adventures that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

Cussler is able to create not only a great plotline but the characters are all very unique and make for a great combination to push the plot along.  The plot of this story is introduced as a NUMA ship is doing routine testing in the Indian Ocean and discovers water temperature anomalies.  Just as the crew of the ship sends their information and settle down for a meal, the ship is attacked by what appears to be an oil slick, but that oil slick then sort of resembles an attacking swarm of insects.

 

The fire-scorched ship is soon discovered drifting without a crew.  When the folks at NUMA hear this they are dispatched to find what has happened to the crew.  They soon discover a plot to change the climate of the great desert area of Northern Africa by a “terrorist” using micro-bots.  The crew is then split and some are held captive on an artificial island, some arrive in Egypt trying to save the Aswan Dam and some are marooned on island with a tribe of Cargo Cult natives loyal to President Roosevelt.  The race is on to save the world from micro-bots built to attack and change the climate.

reddragon

“The Red Dragon”

By L. Ron Hubbard

A multi-cast performance

Produced by GalaxyAudio

Approx 2 hours

 

With the exception of a few stories here and there I have nearly listened to all of GalaxyAudio’s productions of stories from the master story-teller, L. Ron Hubbard, up to those released until the end of this year.  There are a couple I have missed but don’t worry I will be getting those soon, one way or another.  The have almost become an addiction.

 

The reason I love hearing these audiobooks is the superb production quality that goes into these books.  The voice actors used in each book are all top caliber and are able to bring to life the over the top characters created by Hubbard, from the lowly sidekick to the larger than life hero.  Each actor creates a full characterization in his/her vocal performance that paints a mental picture of each character that brings back the cover pictures from the old pulp fiction magazines where these stories were originally published.

 

Add to the perfect vocal performances the subtle yet effective sound effects.  In each story the sound effects are subtle enough to not distract from the story, yet so perfectly produced that, as the listener, you will be dodging bullets, flying in old-timey aircraft with wind whipping your scarf, or dusting off dirt from the trails.    Then the addition of an original musical score that keeps the listener in the mood of each adventure.  All these tie in together to create a two hour performance that can easily compete with any movie for some great entertainment.

 

This time around GalaxyAudio releases, “The Red Dragon,” which was originally released in the February, 1935 issue of “Five Novels” magazine.  This time around Hubbard tells the story of Michael Stuart, a red haired officer in the Marines whose career came to a halt after a failed attempt to return the Chinese Imperial Dynasty to power in the ‘30s.  Stuart has been abandoned by his country and is unable to get out of China, so, he spends his time to help others.

 

Stuart’s latest adventure brings him to help a young woman who is on the search for a mysterious black chest hidden by her father before his murder.  Drawing on his many life’s adventures, Hubbard brings the hero and the woman all across the scenic countryside of China, including The Great Wall, to caves in Manchuria where the black chest must be recovered before it falls into the wrong hands.

 

Two hours of pure excitement and adventure make this audiobook one two hear while doing house work or working on a major project; as long as you don’t stop working to listen solely to the performance you will find yourself working faster trying to keep pace with the hero.

0026448b_medium

“Cooked: a Natural History of Transformation”

Written and read by Michael Pollan

Produced by Penguin Audio

Approx 13.5 hours

 

I knew I was getting into more than just a cooking book when I requested to review this audiobook, but I was not prepared for the depth of information covered.  In “Cooked:…” the author covers more than just the different methods of cooking but he uses the four elementals (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) to present 4 methods of preparing foods and to provide lessons in anthropology, sociology and even some mythology.

 

Each section of this book presents a different type of cooking, and a reason for that method of cooking that is explained from many different views of a general education elective equal to any college course.

 

The author is one of the few brave souls that set out to narrate their own audiobook.  Many have tried and fare pretty well, but some authors aren’t quite able to pull it off.  Pollan falls in to the fares well category.  He presents the subject matter with passion. His side ventures into other subject matter that relates to the cooking method being discussed in the audiobook has a feel of sitting with the author over a good meal and having an educated discussion.  Very conversational in delivery, Michael Pollan is the best choice for reading this book.

 

The first section of the book, “Fire” begins with one of my culinary favorites, Barbecue.  Not just any barbecue but North Carolina style pit barbecue.  The formula for North Carolina barbecue is pretty simple:  1 pig plus a wood fire (smoke a must) plus time equals great taste.  In this section not only is the listener treated to a lesson in how to roast the perfect pig but also a bit of a lesson in anthropology in how the cooking of our foods allowed our energy to be spent on thinking and not foraging thus allowing the brain to grow larger and more complicated.  This chapter also throws in some Freudian philosophy, lessons from the Bible and some chemistry rounding out a nice course worth digesting both in intellectual and dietary methods.

 

The second section, “Water,” discusses recipes and methods of cooking used for braises, stews, soups and other water based food preparation.  Immediately the listener learns why onions are so important in cooking.  He even explains why a cook tears up while chopping onions.  More chemistry thrown in to this semester, er, um I mean section and to round it all out Pollan discusses the tastes of salt, bitter, sweet, sour and the newly discovered taste, Umami.  If you’ve ever smelled and tasted bacon (who hasn’t) then you have experienced Umami.

 

The third section, “Air,” is all about baking.  Trying to bake the perfect loaf of bread is Pollan’s goal in this section.  But not just able to give you a recipe, he dives into cultivating sourdough yeast culture and the multiple day process that has to happen before the dough can be put into the oven.  The fascinating thought process that goes into this is one to ponder, the all-in-all the baker is taking grass (wheat) and turning it into an edible form (bread).  Once again throw in some chemistry and a little bit of engineering and the art of baking becomes a well rounded education that smells delicious.

 

Finally the author comes to the “Earth” elemental section of the book.  This is the section where yogurts, cheeses and rotting vegetables (saur kraut, kim chee and others).  From a dairy farm to a nunnery Pollan covers in depth some interesting facts about cheeses.  Then hanging out with fermentos Pollan talks a bit of biology with good and bad bacteria and how the bacteria in our bodies need to be replenished and through these ancient forms of making food that is achieved.  As an extra bonus there is some good information on home brewing beer.

 

The audiobook came with an enhanced CD which contains some recipes that I am just dying to try out.  Not only does “Cooked:…” give you some insights on how to be a better cook but also Pollan throws in enough added material to prepare you for a well rounded Liberal Arts degree.

dcgl03

“Green Lantern: Sleepers (Volume 3)”
by Christopher J. Priest
Multi-cast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio
Approx. 6 hours

I just love it when I get my comic books and audiobooks mixed and can enjoy the comics during the same situations I can enjoy my comic books. GraphicAudio has provided the means for me to enjoy both with their outstanding productions of DC comics’ novelizations of their heroes. It took me a while to get through all 3 books in this “Sleepers” collection, but the reason for that is I was milking the experience. I have heard all of the productions from GraphicAudio’s comics genre and didn’t want the experience to end. Luckily they getting geared up to release a new DC Comics product, so I won’t have to wait long.

The “Movie in your Mind” concept from GraphicAudio is always more than delivered, especially in these audio “movies” created from the graphic novel industry. GraphicAudio creates an entire ambiance that could only exist in the worlds where a ring created in mysticism could create a force for either good or evil.

With creatively orchestrated sound effects this book’s entertainment factor shot through the roof. The Green Lantern who is the focus of this audiobook is the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, and it occurs in the continuity where Hal Jordan has taken on the role of “The Spectre.” With the powers of The Spectre, Hal Jordan is able to exist in all points of all of time and space at once. Just put into your mind the ambient sounds that all of time and space would create. No matter how expansive your imagination I’m pretty sure it in no way it comes close to the artistically created special effects this audiobook contains.

From beginning to end the creativity is not limited to sound effects. The musical score envelops the story and weaves in and out to create even more comic book superhero ambiance. Then to top it all off the voice actors performing the various parts in the book are stellar. Each character is portrayed with a vocal artist who is able to bring to life every aspect by completely capturing their entire psyches.

This story is one that surprised me. The surprise came in the form of a way to tie in all 3 volumes of this series. As I listened to the first two books in the series I saw how they were a little tied in with the common theme of some renegade yellow power rings created by Sinestro, but this book not only concludes the trilogy, it also ties it all together making one big package. While each of the books could be read/heard as separate stories, the concept works best when all are consumed together and in order.
The final volume of this epic trilogy, Sleepers, Book 3 features Hal Jordan, the most famous of Earth’s modern-day Green Lanterns and now the Spectre. The Spectre has all the abilities a god would have including, but not limited to, manipulation of time and space, control over all matter, invulnerability, and limitless strength. But just after the beginning of this story, Hal has been stripped of his powers, and it is now up to him to fight the clones of the villain Sinestro, set loose by actions in the trilogy’s first volume. In order to save the Earth, he may have to sacrifice himself by taking the Sinestro power rings on a one-way trip to the anti-matter universe. The rings take over some members of the Justice League and the battles ensue. Some great action in this book and brought to full 3-D life by Graphic Audio.

%d bloggers like this: