You know, a meal without wine... is called breakfast.

You know, a meal without wine... is called breakfast.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Climb into the treehouse

I recently listened to the audiobook version of "The 13-Storey Treehouse" as part of an audiobook competition where I acted as a judge. Written by Andy Griffiths (with the print version illustrated by Terry Denton), I found it to be a polished and well-produced bit of work, running a little over an hour. 

I will say the humor is mainly for children, and doesn't worry about also being appealing to adults. But that's fine, as this is clearly being marketed as a children's book. I did appreciate the effort that went into the acting, music and sound effects, all of which are top-notch.

Many other online reviews (I mainly checked the ones on Amazon) have noted that the sea monster sequence seemed a little too scary for young children, but I didn't think anything along those lines when I was listening to the story. Like the other parts of the book, there was enough silliness in the sequence to make the scares go down easier.

I'm not sure if the audio version includes any read-along printed materials or many of the illustrations from the print version, as I experienced the story via a download. Anyway, young kids will probably enjoy listening to this cute story about two colorful characters who live in a treehouse and have adventures.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Targeting Bond

Last year I gave myself a little project: to read all of Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels.  There were seven to cover, and it was pretty easy because I read some and did a few others on audio. I enjoyed the project and will probably write a little more about the series before all is said and done (I wrote a handful of reviews already).

This year's project will be a little more about pure entertainment than the entertainment/educational vibe of last year's assignment.  That's because this year I'm going to read all the James Bond novels that were written by John Gardner in the 1980's and early 1990's.  There are fifteen or so of them, and the project will be do-able because the lion's share of them were recently released on audio by

I'm going to read my old copies of the first two books, License Renewed and For Special Services, as those are two of the titles not yet available on audio, then listen to the next several entries. Incidentally, I had read the first five or six of the Gardner Bonds back in the day, but for whatever reason drifted away from the series.  Remembering that I liked the ones I read, I'm now looking forward to shooting through the whole series this year.

Anyway, I'll shortly go into more detail about why I'm picking these books now to read or reread, probably in the forthcoming reviews of the individual titles as I post them. For now I'll just say that these were fun books that came along at a fun time in my life and I thought it would be, well, fun to revisit the good times I had with them.

And, what the heck, I think I'll also listen to a few of the original Ian Fleming Bonds this year, too, as I really enjoyed revisiting Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale, near the end of last year, when Audible offered it at a special sale price. Might as well jump in with both feet, right?

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Ms. Marvel: No Normal is an entertaining, well-crafted audio adaptation of the first five issues of Marvel's new Ms. Marvel comic book, which features a Muslim-American teenager who gains superpowers after being exposed to a strange mist and- possibly- some strange alien beings.

This two-CD audio is done as a full-cast dramatization, and it's all very polished and involving, with top-notch acting and sound effects. It also helps that the friendly, perky Kamala Khan is an endearing, likable main character, making us care what happens to her in the wake of attaining her strange powers, which includes an ability to shape shift into practically anything.

The lack of a narrator, to quickly tell us what's happening, is a minor quibble here, as we have to rely solely on the dialogue and sound effects to picture exactly what's going on. But, while it may sometimes take a few extra seconds to piece together exactly what we're hearing, I wouldn't say things ever get outright confusing.

And while this entertaining, fun story is not political at all, I have to think that the likable, "normal American kid" vibe of young Muslim Kamala Khan, and the likable, non-threatening nature of her family, are entirely intentional. Good for Marvel for going against the grain of today's knee-jerk reactionaries.

I usually listen to audiobooks that simply feature a narrator reading a novel, but sometimes these full-cast productions with music and sound effects can be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed Ms Marvel: No Normal enough that I just might seek out the comic book series, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona, to experience the work in its original form.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

All aboard...

For those of you wondering when this blog is going to get back in gear and feature more regular posting, I present the following observation:

A train station is where the train stops.  A bus station is where the bus stops.  Next to my desk, I have a work station...

But seriously, folks, there will be a bunch of interesting, entertaining stuff going up shortly.  Really.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Auld Lang Syne

Before I go away for the long weekend, I just want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  Enjoy your New Year's Eve and New Year's Day festivities, and- as the tired old joke goes- see you all here next year!

Meeting your fate

Fate of the Union, the second in Max Allan Collins' series of political thrillers (Supreme Justice was the first) featuring security consultant Joe Reeder and FBI agent Patti Rogers, was- no surprise- the usual, fast, fun Collins reading experience. Written with longtime assistant and occasional collaborator Matthew V. Clemens, this one involves a series of contract killing-style murders in the Washington, D.C. area, a terrorist plot employing a new super-weapon, and slowly emerging clues that the two things might be related.

As Patti Rogers, her FBI team, and Reeder (who is once again called in to help unravel the cases) look into things, there is a side plot about a possible third-party political candidate who is gaining traction with the masses. Is the folksy, plain-speaking billionaire, who has been successfully courting Americans tired of all the far-left and far-right rhetoric of the traditional parties' candidates, somehow connected to everything going on?  An assassination attempt during one of his speeches, thwarted by Reeder and Rogers, seems to point to that.

If I find Fate of the Union to be reliably entertaining but not top-tier Collins, it's only because of my personal taste: I often find thrillers driven by law-enforcement types (especially the Feds) and self-important politicians (even if they pretend to be modest) to be a bit ponderous.  Give me a flawed, semi-reformed hit man as a protagonist any day.  But, again, that's just me, not a flaw of this book.  The last FBI character I truly liked was Fox Mulder, because his bosses hid him in the basement and thought he was crazy.

Okay, maybe I do have one issue with this story: I would have liked more sleight of hand in the eventual revelation of the ultimate villain of the piece. Without saying too much, the person I thought was behind everything turned out to indeed be behind everything.  And I'm not particularly brilliant when it comes to unraveling whodunits.  I was a little disappointed when the rug wasn't pulled out from under me and a truly surprising culprit wasn't in the end revealed.  Also, the culprit's final fate was the kind of thing seen many times before in books and movies featuring this type of story.

But, really, those are quibbles.  I picked this book up, shot through it quickly, and was entertained.  So, yeah, give Fate of the Union a whirl if you enjoy political thrillers of this ilk.  But, even though (despite the  subjective views I outlined earlier) I do kind of like Joe Reeder and Patti Rogers, I think I'm ready for a adventure involving one of Mr. Collins' heroes on the fringe, like Quarry or Nate Heller.  You know, guys who either avoid law enforcement or work only grudgingly with them. Just call me a rebel.

Fate of the Union is readily available in print and on your Kindle.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Recently seen on a chalkboard in front of a coffeehouse:

Pilates? I thought you said pie and lattes.