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  • gilwilson 3:34 PM on March 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , book lovers, , gabrielle zevin, highbridge audio, ,   

    Audiobook Review: “The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin 

    fickry

    Audiobook Review: “The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry”
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    Read by Scott Brick
    Published by Highbridge Audio
    approx 7 hours

    I have always loved books. I used to look forward to the “Weekly Reader” news back in grade school so I could beg my mom to order more books. I would constantly scout yard sales in search of a book that would strike my fancy. For the most part my tastes ran in the Sci-fi and Horror genres. I hated the books that I was made to read (at least until I was older and could actually appreciate them). I once attended a high school in Oregon that each semester the student chose the classes and one semester there was a reading class. This class was unique in that it wasn’t assigned reading, but rather books the students chose. We’d spend that hour of the day reading, we kept track of the daily pages read to show progress, and as we finished each book we would discuss with the teacher on a one-on-one basis the book and what our next book choice would be. I loved those discussions, the teacher seemed to have read almost everything and each session the teacher would always steer me toward another book in that area, but I would still choose my own. During that semester I read, “Night of the Living Dead” (I was testing the limits with this), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “On the Road,” “Flowers for Algernon” and a couple of Stephen King novels.

    This freedom allowed me to branch out from my horror and sci-fi novels and find other fun books. The problem was I was only at that school for one semester and soon moved on to being assigned, “Moby Dick,” “Catcher in the Rye” and the rest that everyone “must” read. While in the Navy I was constantly reading every chance I could, which there were many chances when out to sea. What this all boils down to is that reading is a major part of my life and has become even more so in my later adult years, now I can again read whatever I want, and with the addition of audiobooks into my selections, I absorb books at an even higher pace. This book by Gabrielle Zevin is written just for me. Okay, maybe not specifically for me but people like me. In “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” Zevin has shown how books are not only a major part of peoples lives but how each person’s life is like a collection of books and makes it fun to connect people with books. Even better is that this book not only shows why we read but why people come and go in our lives and why we love them and love in general. The book is full of literary references that are just as fun to discover as the listening to the audiobook itself.

    I chose the audiobook version of this book for several reasons, but the main reason was that it was read by Scott Brick. Scott Brick is one of my favorite audiobook narrators. I’ve always enjoyed his readings because he is able to capture all the emotions and characters of every book he reads. This book, however, had even more of a pull, in that the press release had a quote from Brick stating that this book is one that made him cry. Knowing that Scott Brick has read thousands of books for the audiobook market, one would think he would be immune to those sad moments while reading. Without giving any spoilers, I would say that I could hear the moment that hit him hardest. Brick was perfect in the reading of this book and along with him, I found myself tearing up through out.

    A.J. Fickry is a grumpy old bookstore owner. He has recently lost his wife to an auto accident, which he blames himself for. Her loss has made A.J. even grumpier. A.J. has a rare copy of “Tamerlane” by Edgar Allen Poe, and plans on selling that at auction and moving off of Alice Island. One morning after waking up hungover, A.J. discovers the book missing. After months of investigation the book is never recovered and A.J. must continue running the bookstore.

    What happens next turns A.J.’s life around and he discovers the answers to several of life’s mysterys. A young woman leaves her baby in the children’s books section of the bookstore and tells A.J. through a note attached that she wants her daughter to grow up well read. The woman’s body later washes up onshore leaving more of a mystery. At first A.J. is confused and annoyed, after all what is he going to do with a baby? A.J. soon grows fond of the two year-old with a surprising vocabulary, and works to get her adopted.

    The rest of the book is about learning about life and love through A.J. and his living through his daughter, Mia Tamerlane Fickry. The many lessons learned involve the differences of race and how people perceive that, how love comes to you when you least expect it, and the meaning of life. If you are ready for a book that runs the entire emotional gamut that is life. At the end of the book you can’t help but feel satisfied with just having read / listened to a great story and peek into someone’s life. All told through the shared experiences of books, book discussions, book clubs and A.J. Fickry pick out the books for his shelf.

    If you have ever made friends with a book this one will easily become your new best friend.

     

     

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  • gilwilson 10:32 PM on June 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: a prairie home companion, , , , , , , , garrison keillor, guy noir, highbridge audio, , , sue scott, tim russell   

    “Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny” By Garrison Keillor 

    “Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny”
    By Garrison Keillor
    Performed by Garrison Keillor, Tim Russell and Sue Scott
    Published by HighBridge Audio
    4 hours

    Every book you read or hear has to be fun in some way. Sometimes it’s just that you enjoy getting lost in a mystery or escaping realism with some adventurous fantasy. Whatever the reason each book will take you somewhere and it should be fun. This time around I listened to a book that was pretty much nothing but fun. “Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny” is pure fun and a romp through a mystery and adventure with some great humor and classic literature references, and even a few pop culture jabs thrown in to keep the story fresh.

    If you’re not familiar with the character of Guy Noir then on Saturdays from 5pm – 7pm central time you need to tune in to your local public radio station and find Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” This fun piece of what is left of radio variety shows in America launched the character of Guy Noir, Private eye. It’s always fun to hear when Guy Noir segments come on the show and find out what kind of crime needs solved by the private dick with a penchant for literature.

    The Guy Noir character and stories parody the conventions of the pulp fiction novel and the film noir genre. He works on the twelfth floor of the Acme Building in a city that “knows how to keep its secrets”, St. Paul, Minnesota and first appeared in prairie home companion broadcasts around 1995. This time around Guy gets his own story and in this 4 hour fully dramatized audiobook you get a humorous adventure that will keep you laughing and if you are overheard listening to this audiobook, the literary references and the plays on words will make you sound more intelligent.

    This story opens up with Guy staring down the barrel of a gun held by a wheezing geezer gangster that goes by the name of Joey Roast Beef. Joey is demanding to know what sort of money-making scheme Guy is involved in with stripper-turned-women’s-studies-professor Naomi Fallopian. It also seems that everyone knows about Guys weight loss pills. Naomi has hired Guy as security for the Elongate product of weight loss pills (which actually turn out to be tapeworms). While Naomi promises Guy to be the love of his life (and he falls for this oldest female scam) she’s off gallivanting around the world spending her millions from selling tapeworms to the rich.

    In the meantime Guy, who has taken one of these wonder-pills, is losing weight and all of a sudden the women in his life are finding him attractive. Saving himself for Naomi and saving the tapeworm queens and eggs from the despicable Larry B. Larry, Guy looks death in the eye, falls in love and finally faces off with the capo del capo del grande primo capo, Johnny Banana.

    Will Guy lose his worm fortunes and women? Give this hilarious adventure a listen and find out. The performance is the perfect over the top performance you would expect from Garrison Keillor. If you’re not familiar the three actors in combination with hilarious sound effects and incidental music will keep you listening just to hear what happens next and anticipating the next laugh. Fun stuff here.

     
  • gilwilson 8:09 PM on November 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , blonde jokes, , golf, highbridge audio, , jokes, old jews telling jokes, plastic surgery   

    “Old Jews Telling Jokes – The Joke-Off” Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman, Editors 

    “Old Jews Telling Jokes – The Joke-Off”
    Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman, Editors
    Multiple performers
    Produced by HighBridge Audio.
    TRT: 1 hour

    Looking for an hour of just pure laughs (and a few groans)?  Check this out: HighBridge Audio has compiled a bunch of jokes from Old Jews Telling Jokes (http://www.oldjewstellingjokes.com) into a one hour audio collection.  The audio is set up like a wrestling/match between the comedians with bells between rounds and an announcer introducing the contenders with some interesting nicknames all telling jokes trying to top each other or in some cases where a joke will remind another comedian of another joke and they snowball from there.

    This collection reminded me of some of my old family get-togethers where all the men were sitting around telling jokes and just having a fun time.  Each time the jokes would be funny or you would groan and all would laugh and share good times.  That’s pretty much how this comes off, just a bunch of old men having fun telling jokes.  I will warn you some of the material is explicit but not enough to make you stop listening, just be careful as to who else may be listening in, it may not be appropriate for a younger audience, although some of these jokes were ones we told on the 5th grade playground and we would giggle madly then but may groan now in our older wiser years.

    The collection also includes jokes that have been phoned in from various sources that seem to be fans of the website oldjewstellingjokes.com.  A couple of these left me wondering where the punchline was, but they were fun nonetheless.

    The topics of the jokes range from the old traveling salesmen jokes, plastic surgery jokes, marriage jokes, blonde jokes and lots of golf jokes.  The whole audio collection kicks off with each comedian telling the first joke they can remember and from there the “Joke-Off” is off and running.  This collection could be fun in one straight sitting or spread out when you need a quick chuckle.  Definitely one to have around just for the fun of it.

     
  • gilwilson 10:38 PM on September 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , black mask, , , highbridge audio, , , ,   

    “Black Mask 1: Doors in the Dark -And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine” Edited by Otto Penzler 

    “Black Mask 1: Doors in the Dark -And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine”
    Edited by Otto Penzler
    read by Eric Conger, Oliver Wyman, Alan Sklar, Pete Larkin, and Jeff Gurner
    Produced by High Bridge Audio
    Approx 7 hours

    When I say the words “Pulp Fiction,” what comes to your mind?  Maybe the movie of the same name?  Keep that in mind because I’ve got a surprise for you.  For me the movie was the first thing that would come to mind, but recently I’ve been listening to audio books of stories from the days of the Pulp Fiction magazines.

    This latest audio book is a real gem.  “Black Mask 1” is the first in the series of stories turned to audio books from the “Black Mask” pulp that was printed between 1921 -1950.  These stories all have that great film noir/gumshoe detective feel and make for some great short stories.  In its hey day, “Black Mask” printed stories from some prominent authors of the day, and this first edition starts out with a bang with some great and fun stories.   Before we talk about those, remember the movie “Pulp Fiction?”  The movie was, in its early days, actually titled “Black Mask,” because Quentin Tarantino drew his inspiration from the pulp magazine.

    Each of the stories is read by a different narrator and each one does a superb job of reflecting the story’s emotion and the sound of the time.  If you close your eyes while listening to “Black Mask 1…” in your mind you can easily visualize a film noir gumshoe detective movie from the same era of these stories.

    The introduction to the audio book is written  by Keith Alan Deutsch and read by Eric Conger.  It gives a very nice history of the age of the pulps and especially that of “Black Mask” magazine.

    The stories included in this collection are:

    “Come and Get It” by Erle Stanley Gardner; read by Oliver Wyman.
    Erle Stanly Gardner was a self taught lawyer who took on the extra job of writing for the pulps to make up for the lack of money he earned as a lawyer, after a few years he turned his writing into full time and created the character, Perry Mason.  This story “Come and Get It” ran in the April, 1927 issue of “Black Mask” and features the character, Ed Jenkins.  Ed Jenkins is known to many as the Phantom Prowler, because he can never be caught.  This time around Jenkins is warned by a crook that a woman with a mole on her hand will try to kill him.  In trying to track down this woman, Jenkins discovers a plot by the local crime boss to steal the city’s best jewelry.  Jenkins sets out to foil the plot of the crime boss and the lady with a mole.

    “Arson Plus” by Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett); read by Alan Sklar.
    Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett) worked for the Pinkerton Detective agency and was one of the folks that brought down actor Fatty Arbuckle.  Published originally in the October, 1923 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells the story of a detective that comes in to investigate a shady arson which the local sheriff has considered the case closed.  The best part of this story is the reader in this case.  Alan Sklar’s voice fits the story perfectly and keeps you listening with what his cigar and gin soaked voice.

    “Fall Guy” by George Harmon Coxe; read by Pete Larkin
    George Harmon Coxe wrote in the sports, romance and sea stories but his best known works are his detective stories.    This story first appeared in the June, 1936 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells of newspaper photographer “Flashgun” Casey who gets called on to deliver ransom money for an old gal pal who had some photos taken when she was younger that she doesn’t want released.  You know the story, she was young, needed the money, so nude photos were taken.  Casey helps her out but finds out things are not all on the up and up.

    “Doors in the Dark” by Frederick Nebel; read by Pete Larkin
    Frederick Nebel created the stories featuring the tough detective Steve McBride and the wisecracking Newspaper reporter Kennedy.  Warner Brothers bought the McBride series and made nine films, in the movies Kennedy was turned into a woman by the name of Torchie Blaine and the object of her affections was McBride.  This story was originally published in the February, 1933 issue and tells the story of an apparant suicide of one of McBride’s friends.  But something doesn’t sit right with McBride so he investigates deeper even though every single clue only leads back to suicide.

    “Luck” by Lester Dent; read by Jeff Gurner    Introduction by Keith Alan Deutsch; read by Eric Conger
    Lester Dent created Doc Savage under the name of Kenneth Robison and was very successful with this series.  After Savage, Dent created the loner boatman Oscar Sail who is the subject of this story.  Originally published in the October, 1936 issue and is an earlier draft of one the Oscar Sail stories.    In this story Sail sets out to find some seedy characters, all the while setting up slot machines to pay off to some lucky gambler, never himself.

    Each one of these stories has its twists and turns that keep you guessing as to what happens next, which is what makes them so fun to hear. I know I’m looking forward to the next edition.

     
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