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Thursday, December 30, 2010

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Practical Demonkeeping

TITLE: Practical Demonkeeping
AUTHOR: Christopher Moore
NARRATOR: Oliver Wyman
PUBLISHER: HarperAudio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: August 1, 2009 (first published 1992)
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs - 8 hours
GENRE: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0061770500


In Christopher Moore's ingenious debut novel, we meet one of the most memorably mismatched pairs in the annals of literature. The good-looking one is one-hundred-year-old ex-seminarian and "roads" scholar Travis O'Hearn. The green one is Catch, a demon with a nasty habit of eating most of the people he meets. Behind the fake Tudor fa├žade of Pine Cove, California, Catch sees a four-star buffet. Travis, on the other hand, thinks he sees a way of ridding himself of his toothy traveling companion. The winos, neo-pagans, and deadbeat Lotharios of Pine Cove, meanwhile, have other ideas. And none of them is quite prepared when all hell breaks loose.


After reading a more serious book, such as Memoirs of a Geisha, I like to balance it out with something a little more wacky and zany...enter Christopher Moore!

My massage therapist recommended Moore to me as an author that is very readable, whose books don't involve a lot of complex thoughts that could be forgotten if the book is read over long periods of time. I had lamented to her how much I missed reading adult literature for pleasure, and she suggested Moore books primarily because I could set them down and may not necessarily be able to pick it back up again for a while and I wouldn't have to go back 50 pages to re-read what had last happened to refresh my memory. She was right! Although it took me much longer than I would have like to read his books (pre-iPod), I was thrilled that I actually managed to squeeze in about ten minutes of reading a day!

Practical Demonkeeping is about a man named Travis who unknowingly summons a demon named Catch. As a result, Travis becomes his Master with one of the benefits being perpetual youth. Travis wants nothing more than to get rid of Catch, and his life revolves around trying to find a way to send catch back to where he came from him.

This was not my favourite Moore novel, but it was pretty good. Narrator, Oliver Wyman, is a pleasure to listen to.

MY RATING: 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Memoirs of a Geisha

TITLE: Memoirs of a Geisha
AUTHOR: Arthur Golden
NARRATOR: Bernadette Dunne
PUBLISHER: Random House Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: November 8, 2005 (first published 1997)
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs - 18 hours, 9 minutes
GENRE: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0739321676


According to Arthur Golden's absorbing first novel, the word "geisha" does not mean "prostitute," as Westerners ignorantly assume--it means "artisan" or "artist." To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia--and an M.A. in English--he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous. 

The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen's intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western "trophy wife" than to a prostitute--and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman's alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival "as cruel as a spider." 

Golden's web is finely woven, but his book has a serious flaw: the geisha's true romance rings hollow--the love of her life is a symbol, not a character. Her villainous geisha nemesis is sharply drawn, but she would be more so if we got a deeper peek into the cause of her motiveless malignity--the plight all geisha share. Still, Golden has won the triple crown of fiction: he has created a plausible female protagonist in a vivid, now-vanished world, and he gloriously captures Japanese culture by expressing his thoughts in authentic Eastern metaphors.


This book by Arthur Golden has been on my "To Be Read" list for a long time! I thought the narrator, Bernadette Dunne, did a beautiful job. I think I enjoyed this book much more hearing it than reading it, as I could hear the names and words spoken in the way that they were meant to be. I have always been fascinated with other cultures, so this book was a real treat.

The book is about a young girl, Sayuri, who is sold into slavery to a geisha house in Gion, Japan. As she gets older, she must learn the geisha ways and traditions of the geisha, including: the tea ceremony, how to wear the kimono, the elaborate hair and make-up, the dancing.

The writing was beautiful, and I was totally captivated by this story.

My rating: 4.5 stars!!

#1 on my 1001 Books To Read Before You Die Reading Challenge

Saturday, November 27, 2010


TITLE: Left to Die
SERIES: Montana "To Die" Series, Book 1
AUTHOR: Lisa Jackson
NARRATOR: Alan Nebelthau
PUBLISHER: Recorded Books
FORMAT: Unabridged Audio CD (13 CDs - 15 hours)
GENRE: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
ISBN: 978-1-4361-5107-8



One by one, the victims are carefully captured, toyed with, then subjected to a slow and agonizing death. Piece by piece, his exquisite plan takes shape. The police can't yet see the beauty in his work--but soon, very soon, they will...


In the lonely woods around Grizzly Falls, Montana, four bodies have been discovered. Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli have been hoping for a career-making case, but this is a nightmare. Even with the FBI involved, Selena and Regan have nothing to go on but a killer's cryptic notes, and the unsettling knowledge that there is much worse to come...


When Jillian Rivers opens her eyes, she's trapped in a mangled car. Then a stranger, claiming to be a trail guide named Zane MacGregor, pries her free. Though she's grateful, something about him sets Jillian on edge. And if she knew what lay out there in the woods of Montana, she'd be truly terrified. Because someone is waiting...watching...poised to strike and make Jillian the next victim...


The back cover of the audiobook piqued my interest, and I thought I would give it a try. It is about a serial killer who sets up car accidents for his victims who are driving down secluded roads. He then "rescues" them and nurses them back to health, only to tie them naked to trees in the wilderness, leaving them to die...hence, the name of the book.

I was trying to decide which book would be my next one to listen to as I had picked up more than one from the library, so I visited Amazon to read the reviews. It appears that readers were divided into two camps. Many were put off by the fact that this book "has no ending". The book, the first in a series featuring a pair of female detectives named Det. Selena Alvarez and Det. Regan Pescoli, was published in August 2008. The second book, which picks up right where the first one leaves off, was not due to be released until August 2009. Smart marketing ploy? I guess it depends on whether or not the reader is already a fan of the author. Lisa Jackson's die-hard fans were not off-put by the "non-ending", but even her fans commented that her earlier books are better. Some of the reviewers were so angry that the book finished with loose ends that they swore never to pick up another Lisa Jackson book.

Knowing all of this, I was still intrigued with how the book would play out. I decided to give the book a shot. The narrator, Alan Nebelthau, just about put me to sleep! After just finishing the wonderfully narrated The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I was so disappointed in the lack of enthusiasm in the narrator's voice! Still, I stuck it out. I was determined to get through it!

Despite the terrible narration and the author's overuse of the word "damn" and knowing that the book has no ending, I ended up getting sucked in! The storyline did grab me. There is a twist about half-way to three-quarters of the way through that I did not see coming, so I was definitely hooked after that!

What I didn't like about the audiobook was the lack-lustre narration and having only one person narrate all characters. The Guernsey book had distinctive voices for each character. When the same person narrates in the same tone of voice (monotonous for the most part in this case), it is difficult to differentiate who is who.

Now I am bound and determined to find an audiobook version of the second in the series, which is called Chosen to Die. Unfortunately, the library has an epub version for e-readers and a regular book version, but no audiobook. I filled in a Book Suggestion form for them :) Failing that, I suggested to my husband that he may have to read and record the book for me. I know that he could do the voices!

I visited the author's website, and I see that there is a third book to be released for this series in August 2011.

I will be looking for other audiobooks by this author!

MY RATING: 4 stars!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

TITLE: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
AUTHOR: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
NARRATORS: Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landon, John Lee, and Juliet Mills
PUBLISHER: Random House Audio
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs - 8 hours, 6 minutes
GENRE: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0739368435


"January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she'd never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author." 

"As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans." 

"Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever." 

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.


This is the book that started it all for me!

One of my colleagues recommended this book to me. She raved about it so much that I knew I just had to read it. But when would I have the time?? I have not read any books "for pleasure" since before my elder daughter was born, so that is eight long years...too long! I have always been an avid reader ever since I was a child, and I read a ton of books with the girls, but none for myself.

The library had a very long waiting list for this book, but the CDs were available. Since I spend about three hours each week driving to and from work, I thought that would be an ideal time for me to listen to the book. Now, oral comprehension was one of my least favourite subjects in school. I always found it difficult to listen to long ramblings and then have to answer mind always tended to wander. Not so with this audiobook! I found myself getting lost in the lively narration. I wasn't simply listening to someone read: There are different voices for different characters, and you can hear the emotion in their voices. It was like watching a play with my eyes closed. Great performances by the narrators!

The book is a series of letters written between an author and a group of residents living on the island of Guernsey. The book takes places shortly after the German occupation following World War II, with the first letter being written in January 1946. This is not the type of book that I would have picked up to read in a million years. The subject of the book just did not suit my taste. It sounded boring! Boy, was I wrong!!

I cannot rave enough how fantastic this book is!! I believe that -- had I read the book -- I would not have found it nearly so interesting! The narrators are fantastic, and I found myself falling in love with Juliet (narrated by Susan Duerdin) and Dawsey (narrated by either Paul Boehmer or John Lee) and Isola (narrated by Rosalyn Landor). I couldn't wait to see how the book ended, but I also dreaded reaching the end because I wanted it to go on and on!

The author weaves historical content into the fiction, and I found myself fascinated with the time period. This book has become my favourite book of all time!

MY RATING: 5 stars!! Loved it!!!!!!!

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