Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

This series of unfortunate events belongs to three newly made Baudeliare Orphans. whose parents die in a mysterious fire. They get passed from guardian to guardian, and struggle their way through tragedy and adventure to find the truth of their past. Al the while being pursued by a super-villain-master-of-disguise named Count Olaf.
“this book is best left on the ground where you undoubtedly found it.” (direct audiobook quote, keep reading though) Having finished this 13 book series less than 15 minutes ago, I feel a  profound love-hate for this series. Lemony Snicket, the narrator did warn me about this about 100 times through the audiobooks. but did I listen? Well, yes. I did keep listening. He let’s listeners know that the story is very tragic but as the plot thickens you still hope for a bright outcome.
The somewhat victorian manner in which the story is written is amazing. I love the constant back and forth of The Orphan’s story and the Narrator’s back story which were somehow connected from many years previous.
The first 9 books or-so are kind of the same story over and over with a bit of a remix. I absolutely loved the movie with Jim Carrey, and it seems fairly accurate in that often hated translation. The director of the movie, Brad Silbering nailed it in my opinion. Having finished the audiobooks I can see why a second movie has never materialized, thought I read that a TV series will be coming out in the next year produced by Netflix.

I also see that the author Daniel Handler has written several supplemental side stories to the 13 book series. I do want more, but after spending 3 dedicated weeks to the original 13, do I dare delve deeper? At some point in the distant future, I will consider.

Another thing I loved was, since it is written more or less for children, the narrator gives a definition of any large or complicated word that he comes to. The definition is never a dictionary definition but rather a case-sensitive example, either from the Baudeliare Orphans story, or the narrator’s, which always seems extra exaggeratingly embellished. He uses that defined word again several times shortly after, so the books are a pretty interesting lesson in the English language. Along those same lines, the narrator interjects upon the story to teach common courtesy and etiquette, almost like a “hey kids don’t try this at home” but the proceeds to explain why in this specific example the children were in the right by going against these common courtesy practices.

Another endearing aspect of the audiobooks is the songs performed between chapters and between books which are loosely based on the book title or what is happening in the story. They are always catchy and quite silly.
The books really start to gain steam by book 9, they aren’t so stand alone and it makes you want to proceed on to the next book. Of the audiobooks I have listened to and wanted to talk to you and my friends about, I cannot say whether I recommend this book while in the work place or not. I would have to say yes, I do, but once you have burned through several audiobooks that you’ve always really wanted to experience. I would recommend listening to the audiobooks before watching the TV series and/or Movie. If they can make the TV series as wonderfully graphical as they did the movie, I will be ecstatic. 

There is something very refreshing about this series, but could this series ever become a cult classic? I am unsure. If Daniel Handler decides to put out a few more books, maybe aimed at a slightly broader audience, I think the possibility is there.

Each book ranges from 3-6 hours. Takes a dedicated 3 weeks to complete.

Ages 10 & Up.

 4/5 Stars 

Genres: Children's Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Adventure, Action, Crime. Family

Book to Movie Grade: A+

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Complete Arthur Conan Doyle,
Sherlock Holmes
BBC Dramatization

Everyone is a fan of a good mystery, and I think we all love the Sherlock Holmes and Elementary television shows. I was drawn to listen to the BBC Dramatization series because of both, the great TV shows, and semi-entertaining recent Downey Jr. movies. I always like to go straight to the source and truth of the fiction of which I listen.
Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes writing was completed in 1886 so I was curious to see how entertaining a story so old would be, but was not disappointed in the least. The dramatization was well done, and not annoying like some audio-dramas I’ve listened to in the past. There hasn’t been much lost in the translation of time as far as the stories and Sherlock’s own character. He was, and is still your lovable drug addict with the super power of deduction. As you likely know he is known for the powers of observation and can quickly deduce the methods of crimes like no one in fiction history or Scotland Yard.

In this BBC dramatized series you find all 74 short stories, each one ranging in lengths from 41 minutes to 57 minutes. Most are stand alone stories, but a few are diptychs. You could either listen to these straight through, or listen to them here and there when you don’t feel like getting deep into a lengthy series of connecting audiobooks. The re-listen-abiity is great with these stories. I’ve gone back and re-listened to a few stories and found only vague recollection. It's a good fun series, I recommend them if you enjoy a good, old-school mystery.

74 Stories, ranging from 41-57 minutes.

Suitable for all ages

☆ 4/5 Stars 

Genres: Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Adventure, Action, Crime. Drama
Book to Movie Grade: C+

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ricky Gervais' A Guide to...

The Ricky Gervais Guide to:
Natural History
The Arts
The English
Law and Order
The Future
The Human Body
The Earth
The World Cup
Comic Relief

This is a series of interviews lead by Ricky Gervais, the writer of the original UK version of The Office, with friends; Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. The basic premise of this podcast is; Ricky and Stephen choose a topic each episode and interview Karl, their “round headed buffoon” friend. Karl sees the world through some very “different” eyeballs, making for some really comedic dialogue. Stephen is the least prominent of the three characters, he throws bits on criticism in here and there while Ricky laughs in his not-so-endearing laugh. Karl quickly becomes your favorite character with his responses to questions and scenarios that you don’t expect. Some answers are very simple minded, some are very deep, while others are from deep left field. The three men together have a good chemistry for a series of interesting and humorous discussions which later turn the series into a cartoon, and even later bring amazing travel documentaries such as “An Idiot Abroad” and “The Moaning of Life” I’ve listened through this series at least three times a year or two apart on each listen. I enjoy “A Guide to” every time. If you are not offended by some coarse language and humor and can keep yourself from laughing in the workplace, I would recommend it to you. 

Episodes are 50-57 minutes long 

Best suited for ages 16 and up.

It’s hard to rate this because it’s good for what it is, and I’ve enjoyed it several so I would have to give it 4/5 Stars.

Genre: Comedy, Podcast, Humor, Radio, British Comedy

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Author: JRR Tolkien

When telling an English Professor friend I was about to write a review on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy he said; “Well that will be easy, It’s only one of the best audiobooks ever made, it’ll make you not want to listen to anything else because of it’s written so much better than any other series.”

I find this true, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy could ruin you for many other audiobooks because whatever you listen to at work afterwards will seem inferior. As I said of the prequel, Tolkien has such vivid descriptions of his lands and the people living in them, that there is little left for the imagination.

So in case you missed the boat entirely on what The Lord of the Rings is, I will ferry you across. LOTR is the Epic Fantasy Adventure of Frodo Baggins a tiny Halfing (Hobbit) of the Shire. He offers to take an evil ring of great power and destroy it in the fires of Mt. Doom. All along the way he experiences many wonderful and dreadful things with this companion Samwise.

As I also said in my section on The Hobbit audiobook, you can elect to listen to the prequel before or after, there are no downsides to either choice. Then if you are nerdy enough, there is actually a bit of a prequel to the prequel. It is a brutal listen and I am not sure that I will recommend it for a listen while on the job. 

I’ve strayed, The LOTR Trilogy is an amazing series of which I have listened twice now, after actually reading the books, and I undoubtedly will have another listen before I expire.  It is a little harder to listen to in the workplace in comparison to The Hobbit because it is geared more towards an older, more mature crow, but I think you can handle it. If work calls your attention away for a bit you won’t miss a ton, but might miss the fine details of what Lothlorien smelled like on the morning of the first moon in autumn.

I would say for most people this would end up begin a two week listen. I recommend this audiobook series as highly as I would any other. If you don't enjoy it, maybe Oprah's audiobook recommendations are more your style. ;)

The Lord of the Rings Series
1. The Fellowship of the Ring
2. The Two Towers
3. The Return of the King

I rate this audiobook series       5/5 Stars.

Audience: 14 & Up.

Genre: Children's literature, Fantasy Novel, High Fantasy, Teen Fiction,  People’s & Cultures Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Audiobook length: 54 hours.

Book to Movie grade: A-

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Female Comedian Triple Feature

Tiny Fey: Bossypants.
Amy Poehler: Yes Please
Mindy Kaling: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?

These are three audiobooks that I feel I can comment on as one. While they are each entertaining in their own right, have a feeling that, “their people” were pushing them to put out books all in a short period of time because the others were doing it. You get a notion that they all have the same “people” and that each others books were highly influenced and formatted by the other’s books.

Each book is a combination of: Biography, Coming up as  female comedians, and jokes each in their particular shade of humor. 

These books are great as “in-between”  or “change-of-pace audiobooks”. They are kind of like a palate cleanser when you have just finished a 100+ hour serious Fantasy Trilogy marathon, or it’s Friday and you don’t want to start something to forget over the weekend. Each audiobook can each be easily finished in a day.

These audiobooks are all so similar that I could not even rank them favorite to least favorite, so if you are to start one, start with your favorite comedian of the three.

I did enjoy each one for what they are. It’s fun hearing side stories from popular TV Shows and Movies such as: The Office, SNL’s Sarah Palin skits, or how Parks & Rec's Leslie Nope came into being.

I rate these books collectively ☆ 3/5 Stars

Suited for ages: 16 & up.

Genre: Humor, Satire, Essay, Comedy, Biography, Short Stories

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Hobbit

Author: JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit, the Prequel to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, is another example of an excellent audiobook to listen to while you are grinding through your day. This audiobook is geared to a wider range of listeners in comparison to Tolkien's later trilogy. This is another very easy listen, you could miss a few things if you get distracted by work, but if you are like me you will not limit yourself to a single auddy.

The tale, for those of you living under a rock for the last 10 years, is the journey of Bilbo Baggins and how one little Hobbit of The Shire, became one of the many Lords of the Ring, before it was passed to his nephew Frodo.

This is a really great adventure through middle earth with many amazing characters and as always  in JRR Tolkien's writings; extraordinary descriptions of the lands and peoples. You'll find his descriptions so vivid that when you talk to friends about it, and when you see the movies, everything will be just as you imaged.

If you've already enjoyed the movies, then I definitely recommend the book because you will get filled in on everything the book had to leave out. You can enjoy The Hobbit before OR after you make the trip through the Lord of the Rings, either way is great!

I found this single book as enjoyable as The Trilogy because of it's lighter side, and because it's one whole epic tale in just one book. The songs in this story, as sung by the narrator are amazing and way too catchy! Just wait till you get introduced to Tom Bombadil!

A listing of the main Lord of the Rings series in order includes: 
1. Silmarillion
2. There and Back Again; A Hobbit's Tale (The Hobbit)
3. The Fellowship of the Ring
4. The Two Towers
5. The Return of the King

I rate this audiobook       5/5 Stars.

Audiobook length is 11 hours and 8 minutes.

Audience: 14 & Up.

Genre: Children's literature, Fantasy Novel, High Fantasy

Book to Movie grade: B-

Friday, December 5, 2014

Serial: The Strange Story of Adnan Syed

Story by Sarah Koenig

This is a podcast rather than an audiobook but it has all the entertainment value of a good mystery novel and much more.

This podcast will take you back to the pre-television days when American families would huddle around their radio each night after a nice pork chop dinner to listen to their favorite radio programs.

Serial gives you the opportunity to play desktop-detective. This podcast was what broke my ice into podcasts, I didn’t really have an interest in them prior to a friend turning me onto this one through a Facebook group discussion.

So let’s get to it, basically with efforts to not be a spoiler; This 17 year old, now 32 year old Adnan Syed gets locked up 7 months after his x-girlfriend is murdered. Do you remember what you were doing exactly 7 months ago today? What teenager can remember what they did yesterday? or 7 days ago? Well this the premise of the story, you are the detective and you get to (rhetorically) decide if Adnan is innocent or not, and its NOT obvious. What is great about this series is all of the strange little side stories. There are a lot of random characters and each random character had a really strange part to play; Streakers, Drug Dealers, Koreans, Americans, Muslims, Detectives, 1990’s Cell Phones, Best Buy Parking lots, Teachers, and much more!

Give episode one a listen and see if it interests you, its the biggest podcast in the US right now, so it just might! One thing I like about Serial, and I think it is very important to all Audiobooks and Podcasts is that Sarah Koenig has a very nice voice. If you listen to an audio series and the reader has a harsh voice or annoying accent, it makes it far less enjoyable.

28 - 54 minutes per episode.

Audience 16 and up.

I rate this podcast  4/5 stars. Taking one star because of seeming rhetoricality of the outcome. 

Genre: murder mystery, crime procedural, pensive character study, Investigative journalism, Serialized audio narrative

Harry Potter Series

Author: JK Rowling

Of all the audiobooks I have listened to at work, The Harry Potter series had been one of my very favorites, while I went to the bank in over-time pay. For years I fought the Harry Potter Craze, I thought it was dumb and I did all I could to spoil the endings for the people who were all revved up on the series. (back when it was more current.) When I listened to this series I was glued to my head-phones loving every second of the adventure. I have now listened through the entire series twice, about 5 years apart. I cannot recall the reader the first time, but the second time I listened to Jim Dale. Your other option is Stephen Frye. I really liked Jim Dale's reading. Do you have a preference?

If you are like I was, you want to avoid the series for any number of reasons. The main reason I suggest this series is because of its easy listenability. I think the best audiobooks for the work place are easy-listening books aimed at a younger crowd. Who wants to listen to a heavy and super-serious book while trying to get things done? Harry Potter is nice because if you get distracted by work you don't really miss a lot. You don't have to pay really close attention to understand what is going on. 
The basic plot line is Harry, an unknowing wizard grows up among humans (his aunt and uncle who hate magic) turns twelve and  and gets a mysterious invitation to entroll at Hogwarts a "School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." From there you follow his education, adventures, misadventures, and rise to power to defeat the wizard who killed his parents.

I have heard it said that Professor Snape is the greatest literary character of our time, and I cannot disagree.

Approximately 117 hours.

Audience: Ages 14 and up.

I give this series  5/5 stars. 

Here is a listing of the books in order:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Genre Fantasy, young-adult fiction, mystery, thriller, bildungsroman, magical realism

Book to Movie grade: C+