Browsing The Shelves

Figuratively Speaking

Once a month my Audible credits restock and I have the ability to find new books to listen to. Some months the process is easy while other months it can be a long, tedious, frustrating, interesting experience.

I love being read to! I have enjoyed it since I was a very small child. When I was older and learned to read, I loved the foray to the local library or ordering the latest publisher’s catalog to find printed treasures. Tack on a few decades with eyesight that doesn’t always enjoy the printed word and audio books came to the rescue.

Don’t mistake me; I’ve had printed, electronic and audio versions of the same books for years. A good book is a good book no matter the format!

Anyway, this latest browse took me down the ‘BBC’ section of Audible’s catalog where I found a plethora of BBC productions covering a huge array of genres. I could dive into a variety of versions of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, Tolkein and the like. I could find anthologies of authors like Christie and Wodehouse, to name a few. There was a selection of those tongue in cheek antidotes to game shows like ‘I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue’ or ‘Just A Minute’, too.

I don’t know what it is about the BBC, but they have produced some interesting, if not downright hilarious, shows over the decades. And I’m just speaking about the comedies or game shows, they have an equally impressive collection of dramas, too.

As we edge into Summer with the potential for beach reads, why not investigate beach listens, too? If this is your first venture into audio books, look for either a favorite author or a shorter book to dip your toe in.

There is something indulgent and comforting about being read to. It hearkens back to our younger years. Or, thinking slightly differently, why not check out one of the children’s books? No matter what your age, you can indulge in something you haven’t read in a long time or you can see what you might have missed.

Don’t overlook the impact audio books can have on the little ones, either. It is an excellent way to increase vocabulary and build imagination.

Now, back to my Audible Wishlist to see what might be in my next book run…


Books · Movies · TV

The Full Circle

Or the potential joy of ending a series.

One of the recent conversation strings in my house lately has been focused on the ending of a series. This refers to books, movies, and even TV shows.

For those of us who have been followers of television series, this time of year can be tricky. If there is a potential for the series to be cancelled, what happens to bring the story to a close? If the series has been cancelled or decided not to come back for a new season, does that mean they have time to create an ending that will tie everything up?

For example, The Big Bang Theory was able to bring the series to a satisfactory close after 12 seasons. On the other hand, Star Trek, The original series, was canceled after 3 seasons leaving Kirk, Spock and McCoy, along with the rest of the Enterprise crew, out exploring the galaxy. One can’t help but wonder what we might have seen if the series had been given a last season to tie up loose ends.

Movie series don’t seem to have the same issues, mainly because there is often no guarantee that a studio will plan ahead to produce the next film in a potential series. We have seen some attempts at that, however, usually ending with questionable results.

Book series can be tricky, too. Writers dealing with boredom can kill off a series faster than a speeding rabbit. One of my favorite authors has produced a series where a new book was released about every 3 years without fail. Imagine the frustration when the latest book came out 4 years late. Yes, 7 years between books. No matter how dedicated the fan might be to the series, it is almost impossible to keep interest and enthusiasm going with such a delay.

What brought all this to mind recently was the release of the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard. Now, I could expound on the fabulous production values and the fabulous cast – and season 3 has had an amazing cast – and all of that would be an honest POV. What stand out, for me at least, was the amazing amount of work that went into writing the season’s storyline.

This was a labor of love produced by people who have been involved in Star Trek in one form or other for decades. The end product gathered together stories, characters, situations from a variety of Star Trek series (and I do mean series plural) to create an end of series show that was unexpected and engaging.

This was a rarity for any medium.

This particular cupcake came along after a couple of years where favorite authors seemed to forget what they were writing and it showed. Where series galumphed along not really attempting to reach even the more modest levels of quality we had seen in earlier seasons. Where a big studio was advised that if the star they were willing to toss aside didn’t return to a big ticket movie series, don’t bother making the next installment.

If you are committed to a book, movie or television series, things matter. Consistency, timing, commitment, and as much transparency as possible between creators and consumers are important from all sides.

What it all boils down to is simply this: without an audience it doesn’t matter if a book, movie or TV show is available. Keeping that audience is important.

Bingeworthy · Books · Classic TV · TV

From The Reading Table: The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive Inside Story

The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series by Jessica Radloff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m savoring this gem!

First, I love the extras you could get on DVDs that told behind the scenes stories about the main feature.

Second, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time on some TV and motion picture stages and the experiences were not only fun, but educational.

Third, I came to The Big Bang Theory late, but when I discovered it, I dove in with both feet.

Put all this together and you will understand why reading this book is such a pleasure. If you like learning about how TV shows are made, curious about actor’s method and process, and want to know some of the behind the scenes events that added and aided the creation of a great series, this is your book.

There is a lot of detail here. The tidbits you will discover could make you sit back and shake your head.

Even if you aren’t one of us extras-on-the-DVD people, you might find this an interesting read.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: A Tempest At Sea

A Tempest at Sea by Sherry Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read (listened to) the entire Lady Sherlock series, I’m used to (i.e. spoiled by) the storytelling. Add Kate Reading’s fabulous talents as a reader of the audiobooks and the experience is a luscious treat.

This latest addition to the series is unusual in that it brings together many characters from the other books and puts them on a ship much like the one Agatha Christie created in Death On The Nile. They are stuck together with at least one murderer among them.

Every part of this book is interesting on its own. From the resolution/evolution of character arcs to the mystery itself, each is well developed and engaging. Toss in the story arcs with various characters and the book really shines.

I like the way each character’s flaws and limitations are brought forward. There are places where the prose makes them visceral, to say the least. I’d mention a couple of characters here, but readers will have their own particular, um, favorites.

I also like that the book has included the ship plans for the reader, which makes figuring out locations easy. The audiobook has an attached pdf to download.

Yes, you can read it out of order and enjoy the story, but if you have read the entire series you will get more from this encounter with particular characters.

I’m curious to discover how many more books will be in the series. At this point, I can contemplate at least 2, maybe 3, more. What I can’t, and frankly don’t want to, contemplate is how those stories will develop. I’m more than happy to wait and see.

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Books · Media · Musings · TV

Revisiting the Peanuts Gallery

I really can not recall a time when the comic strip ‘Peanuts’ wasn’t around somewhere. I even recall watching the very first Peanuts special (‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’) way back in 1965. Actually, I recall watching every ‘Peanuts’ special from the very first showing. Yeah, I’ve been around that long. 🙂

The thing is, Charlie Brown and friends have been companions in many ways over the years and in some odd way have transcended childhood to adulthood without losing any of their wisdom and magic.

I’ve often been amused when people comment about cartoons or comic strips as only for children and not deserving attention from adults, let alone appreciation for the art form. And they are art forms.

Peanuts may look like just a bunch of kids meandering through their childhood but when you sit down and pay attention you realize that the conversations run deeper than expected, touch on topics you never considered, and often strike a nerve.

Do I have a favorite character? Well, I named my dog Snoopy and I find myself drawn to both Linus and Charlie Brown, so I guess you could say I do. But I appreciate Marcie for her unique outlook. Pigpen is one of those people who live life by their own rules while existing within society’s boundaries. Rerun highlighted the pleasures and perils of being a little kid…especially on his mom’s bike. The kid learned courage early!

I’m glad to say that I have the original specials not only on VHS but also on DVD. I strongly recommend them as additions to any media library. You never know when you might need a visit by the Great Pumpkin in the middle of Summer.

Don’t overlook the movies! Visually stunning, the storylines are interesting and enjoyable. A great way to spend an afternoon or evening with popcorn.

Peanuts is a treasure for so many reasons. Like fine wine, it just gets better with age.

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Vesuvius at Night

Vesuvius by Night by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally (!!) picked this up on and am I glad I did.

If you are a follower of the Falco series, you should know at least one of the main characters. If you aren’t it won’t matter. The difference, at least for me, is that I remembered that person from when he was a lot younger, more nieve, and a bit adventurous. It mattered.

I’ve studied what happened at Pompeii a lot in the past couple of years, but I have to admit that there was a head-slap moment when I realized that there was more than one way out of town, and it did not involve the water. [ Insert head-slap.] Yeah, it just never occurred to me. The other point is that apparently the majority of people started leaving early on. Call it a memory of the earthquake that almost destroyed the town a few years before. Archeologists have found many buildings still under repair from that earthquake.

All that being said, this was a powerful piece that resonated long after I finished listening.

This one will stay with you a bit and I think you will recall it if/when you watch any Pompeii walkthrough tours.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Filling In The Blanks

Or, what do you do in between books in a series?

A couple of years ago I found myself in the middle of a Sherlock Holmes binge. If binge is what it could be called. Frankly, I’m not sure.

The problem is not new. It is also rather simple. Simplistic? <sigh> The problem is what do you do when you are in between books in the series you follow. You’ve read all the books by your regular authors, you are up to date, you are ready for the next adventure, but… The next book won’t be out for months yet.

To quote Charlie Brown, “Aaaarrrrrrrrgh!”

I’ve been blessed this past year or so to find a couple of new authors and series that have captured my imagination. When I look back at my book list I’m astounded – One series in particular has over 20 books.

On the other hand, I’ve dropped one author of a long running series who seems to have either given up or just gone off the rails. I honestly don’t know. I’ve another author, also of a long running series, who usually produces a book every 3 years or so but for reasons beyond explanation (or at least made public) this last offering took 7 years to appear. I have it, but I’ll be honest and tell you I haven’t opened it.

So, how have I managed to survive the time in between? I’ve re-read (re-listened, actually) to quite a few books in a series. I’ve looked for new authors. I’ve revisited classics. I’ve gritted my teeth and pulled up my library list from Audible to see what I haven’t listened to lately. 🙂

Speaking of, I am extremely grateful for their Audible Plus Catalog. (If you want details, check out their website.) In addition to the credits I purchase every month, I have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of books to tickle my fancy. Remember that series I mentioned … the one with the 20 books? Found it in the Audible Plus Catalog. 😀

Over the years I’ve had several authors who made my ‘Hardback List’. They were the ones I didn’t wait until the new books made it to paperback, I got them as hardbacks. Sadly, those authors have passed away. I have many, if not all, of their books on audio, so I can indulge as I choose. I can’t complain as I get to visit with old friends every times I pick up one of those wonderful books.

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to explore and find new authors. I look for different times, timelines, subject matter, you name it. It really is like wandering through the local book shop to see what catches my eye and my imagination.

Don’t Forget Those Readers!

One other thing I’ve been doing is following my favorite readers. For audio book fans, the readers can make or break the book. Here are a few of my favorites:

The amazing Jim Dale gained fame voicing the Harry Potter books. I love listening to his work! Stephen Fry is not only an excellent reader but has produced several fascinating books on a variety of topics that he has also read. Well worth checking out. Scott Brick is an excruciatingly busy reader! I find him reading many adventure books by different authors.

Simon Prebble is a long time favorite. His distinctive voice and excellent vocalization takes any work up a level. Davina Porter is one of the most interesting readers I’ve encountered. She manages not only a large number of characters but also a variety of accents and languages with apparent ease. Barbara Rosenblat is the reason I started reading what turned out to be one of my favorite series. Her work is impeccable.

I’m glad to say that I have a few items on my Pre-Order List to look forward to. Maybe relieved would be a better word? Let’s just say I’ve got things to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ve taken the time to go back and revisit authors and series to make sure I’ve not missed anything.

On to the next adventure!

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: A Catalogue of Catastrophe

A Catalogue of Catastrophe by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had to re-listen to this several times because I knew I’d missed things. I’d be doing the same thing if I had a paper, or electronic, copy. There’s a lot to take in.

Once again, Jodi has taken us on a wild ride. Once again she has provided some astounding storylines. Once again she’s managed to blow my mind.

The biggest thing I came away with after reading/listening to this book: How does she keep it all straight?

This series, as well as the Time Police books, is so well crafted that you often don’t see what is right in front of you. I’m at the point of going back and revisiting all of the books. The nuggets are buried among the bits and pieces of other stories and plot lines.

This takes me back to my overall question: How does she keep it all straight?

If you have not been a visitor to St. Mary’s or the Time Police, what has kept you? If you have, how do you recover?

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Books · Media · Musings · TV

Why Do We…?

I’ve been pondering something lately. Have you ever thought about why we connect with certain shows, books, or characters? What compels us to keep up with series – be it TV, movies or books?

Some folks spend decades deeply involved while others can take it or leave it.

For instance, I’ve spent decades keeping up with a book series or two, only to walk away after all that time because, finally, something just…snapped. Either my patience with an author ran out or there was no real evolution or movement to keep me interested. Or both.

I’ve been a fan of a couple of TV series that moved into movies (or the reverse, come to think of it). During all the years of engagement, some more heavily involved than others, there have been things that kept me connected, interested, somewhat involved. One, in particular, has had a tremendous growth over the past couple of decades, resulting in some amazing expansion from the original kernel that started it all in the first place.

There are a couple of book series that have been moved into radio, TV, and movies over the years. Each iteration has been interesting. Some were carefully crafted to stay in keeping with the original works, others have veered in directions I’m sure the original author would never have imagined. Some worked, some didn’t.

At the end of the day, I’m still curious about why we stick around. I don’t believe the answer to the question is easy or simple. I think that each individual case is unique. Sometimes we outgrow an idea while other times the idea outgrows us. Sometimes the creator – or creators – can’t maintain the level of creativity that caught our attention to begin with. Sometimes we just really like spending time with characters in places that are familiar.

What do you think?

Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: An Act of Foul Play

An Act of Foul Play by T.E. Kinsey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always enjoy visiting with Flo and Lady Hardcastle, and this visit was no exception. I particularly liked that they were also spending time with friends and family in their own neck of the woods, so to speak.

The mystery was well thought out and the twists and turns were captivating. I had an inkling of the murderer early on but the why and how had to come from the reveal.

Once again, Elizabeth Knoweldon did a fabulous job reading the book (I always listen via Audible). She handles various characters, accents, and genders extremely well. She even did a stellar job handling characters who were pretending to be other characters.

I still want to know what happened to the Rolls car, but I’m sure that will be answered in the next book.

While this is a great book on its own, I do believe that to get the full effect of the series, it is best to start at the beginning.

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