writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

Category: Books (Page 1 of 3)

Prick Up Your Ears

For you audiobook lovers, here are some recent standouts. I’m recommending them not just because the stories are engaging, fascinating, and heartrending. They have so much more going on in the form of using multiple narrators! Now I’ve written before about how a mediocre narrator can sink an otherwise wonderful story. Where these three audiobooks shine is in the casting of a distinct and skillful voice talent for each character. This not only adds to the character’s point of view, it enhances the storytelling, and practically quadruples the entertainment value!

My latest favorites:

2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

In the year 2140, global warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt thus raising coastal water levels by 50 feet. Portions of New York City are underwater and what remains is now an intricate canal system, like a “super Venice.” Well-heeled New Yorkers now live in skyscrapers and the less fortunate squat in crumbling, water-logged structures from midtown to Battery Park. The cast of ten characters weave a story that mixes socioeconomic commentary, technological foreshadowing with plenty of sardonic New York attitude. I’d say the book is more futurist fiction than science fiction. The narrators are stellar and bring lots of humor to this watery world.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Where are multiple narrators best suited? In an epistolary novel, of course! Shaffer and Barrows’s story is centered around a smart and spirited heroine, and the formidable members of a book group (of the title) formed during the WWII German occupation of the Isle of Guernsey–located in the English Channel. The tale is told in moving detail about the impact of the occupation on the characters’ lives through a series of letters. There’s lots of history, drama, charm, and romance, rendered with nuance by a strong cast. The Netflix movie is pretty captivating too.


Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

This one really falls into the sci-fi category. The first novel of a trilogy, the series is about a community–the ancestors of an expedition from Earth–that live on a sunless planet. They long for the day when they’ll be rescued and returned “home” to Earth. Beckett has created a fascinating world of mythmaking and language — where the audiobook really excels! Narrators perform with various British accents indicating class structures as well as clever wordplay to depict this future-primitive planet.


If you have any audiobook recommendations with lots of narrators, let me know!


A Gentleman in Moscow: Truly Obsessed!

Have you noticed that everyone on social media is obsessed by something? Whether it’s a raging enthusiasm for beauty products, the latest foodie trends, the Pantone color for 2018 (ultra violet, btw) or politics, the Internet is where we make our passions known. I am no different.

I am obsessed by Amor Towles critically-acclaimed novel A Gentleman in Moscow. While I am late to the party—the book was released in fall 2016—I’m so glad I finally showed up. Set right after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the story is about Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to “house arrest” at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, after writing an incendiary poem which challenges the new Bolshevik regime. What follows is a thirty-year span that skillfully weaves the courtly and intelligent Count’s adventures, and Russian history along with myriad, fully fleshed out supporting characters.  All the threads are beautifully orchestrated and paced, creating an exhilarating literary experience. I was so enthralled and reluctant to leave this rich, detailed and thought-provoking world Towles created, I listened to the audiobook too.

If you’re in the mood for a captivating and brilliantly written novel, check out A Gentleman in Moscow. His first book, Rules of Civility, while entirely different in style and subject matter, is also delightful. More on that book later!


Body Hopping in the Fierce World of Altered Carbon

At last … one of my favorite sci-fi books has been adapted into a series. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan arrived last Friday on Netflix. When I first read the novel, I was mesmerized by the world Morgan created: a world where consciousness could be downloaded into a type of chip located at the base of the neck called a cortical stack. It could then be placed in a body (known chillingly as a sleeve). That sleeve could be a real body, a clone or a synthetic.

The ramifications of this concept are dizzying. Say your body was injured or diseased, and you had the money to pay for a new sleeve—because in this world and like most sci-fi, the wealthy have all the options—you could essentially live forever. But if you’re not rich, this world is not your oyster; it’s grim, gritty, ultraviolent and rife with sexual exploitation.

The 10-episode series is also a future-noirish crime story lead by our hero Takeshi Kovacs. Played by Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, RoboCop), who buffed out uber hard to play our conflicted hero, Kovacs is a mercenary who’s stack has been imprisoned for 250 years for crimes against the state. And now’s he’s been re-sleeved by one of the Meths (as old and rich as Methuselah, get it?) to solve who murdered him. Yes, this rich dude (James Purefoy) is alive again! His consciousness was backed up to his personal cloud before his stack was blown to bits. You see, once your stack is kaput, you’re irretrievably dead.

While the series made some dramatic changes to the novel that weren’t entirely satisfying to me, the overall result was thrilling and very cool. Budget was rumored to be around $100 million. Whatever the budget, every cent is evident on-screen. If you’re a lover of Philip K. Dick’s novels and the polluted, ad-fueled and rainy world of Blade Runner—which turned those motifs into sci-fi visual canon—you must check it out!


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