Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Desperate Undertaking

This latest addition to the Flavia Albia series, not to mention the Falco series, is a sit on the edge of your seat thriller.

Desperate Undertaking by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a decided fondness for authors who can create, and sustain, a series with characters and locations that are compelling. In this case, two series.

For those of us Falco Fans, Albia comes face to face with people that Falco and Helena encountered 15 (20?) years prior. It wasn’t a joyful situation.

This situation adds layers to the tapestry that Davis created when she developed both the Falco and Albia series. There is some cross-pollination simply because of the ebb and flow of people that come and go in our lives.

The killings are brutal. There is no doubt that whoever came up with the scenarios (yes, plural) is creative. The horror of discovery is matched by the desperate search to find and stop those responsible. Motive is a huge question – why were these people killed? The answers are chilling on several levels.

As I listened I found myself in awe of the creativity of the writer. While there is a lot of detail regarding a lot of things, thankfully there is not too much detail about certain things. If you have a fluid imagination be warned. On the other hand, the settings and background are beautifully rendered. I admit I would have liked to have a map but one really isn’t needed.

The characters are beautifully rendered. As usual, there are new folks we haven’t encountered in addition to those who came from prior books. The location is also brought to life. Rome in all its complicated majesty is almost a character in and of itself. Not surprising all things considered.

While I would strongly recommend this book to any Falco or Flavia reader, I do think that if you are new to the series you might be a bit lost in understanding the history of the people involved. But that is just me.

That being said, I am going to find the book that this particular work springs from and dive back in. As I recall from the last time I listened/read it, it was one of Falco & Helena’s best adventures.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Murder Through The English Post

Or, how I spent yesterday. 🙂

Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This 6th addition to the series has been a joy to listen to. Combined with a poison pen letter mystery is a bit of introspection by all of the main characters. When you consider that Beryl has only been at the Beaches less than a year, a lot has happened since the beginning of the series.

The letter mystery is beautifully crafted – I had no idea until the very end. I also thought the solution was quite unique, at least I’ve not encountered anything similar.

As for the individual characters, Ellicott has once again brought each into focus and reminded us of where we started. The pleasure of these books is the way the characters, and the stories, are crafted. There is a clear deliberation on every detail that creates a lovely tapestry of the location, time, and people. And the dog!

Yes, each book can be read on its own, but I strongly urge new readers to start at the beginning and work their way forward. They won’t be disappointed.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Death Beside the Seaside

Death Beside the Seaside by T.E. Kinsey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A breath of fresh air!

I always enjoy spending time with Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid, Flo. This time was no exception.

The writing is sharp, funny, and very enjoyable. The mystery kept my attention and made me put on my thinking cap. The historical bits were well researched – I love the description of the car!

All in all, this was a great book to curl up with on a rainy day. Since I primarily ‘read’ via audiobook, it was a great accompaniment to some Solitaire during a rather noisy rainstorm.

All in all, a great adventure for any time of the year, but especially as a summer read.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: Death In A Blackout

Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book. I love the Beryl and Edwina series from this author. That might be a bit unfair to the author, but there it is.

I didn’t dislike the book. There is potential with the setting and the characters. The solution to the mystery was quite unusual and actually interesting. No cookie-cutter construction which is a blessing for those of us who abhor those kinds of books.

The first issue I encountered was the development of the foundation of the series for the reader. Necessary, yes. A bit too long for me, however. If memory serves it took 11 chapters before our two protagonists were in the same town. I understand the requirement to set the scene, but … This leads to the second issue I encountered; our female protagonist seemed to magically acquire abilities that were not even mentioned previously in development. I have to wonder what might have been edited out just to get the book ready for publishing.

All that being said, I will keep an eye out for the next addition to the series and see if I’m inclined to listen in. Speaking of listening, the audiobook reader did an excellent job, so no issues there!

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Wizard’s Butler

The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this one on Audible during a 2 for 1 sale. The title caught my attention but the tagline (they didn’t tell him about the pixies) sealed the deal.

The narrator did an excellent job – Unlike some, I had no issues with the speed of the playback – capturing all the individual voices perfectly. The author brought out an interesting story with a different perspective and presented it with a deft touch.

I love a book that will keep me up late. This one kept me up all night. While there is no edge of your seat pyrotechnics or major battles, there is enough in the story to keep you involved and engaged. If you need a lot of noise and movement, this book is not for you.

I don’t know if this will become a series or not, I understand a sequel is in the works, but as a standalone, it is an excellent work if you want something to engage your brain without upping your stress level.

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Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Course of Honor

The Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having inhaled the Falco and Flavia Albia books, I’ve been looking around to see what else Lindsey Davis has written. Thanks to Falco, I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for Vespasian, so this book was a natural addition to my reading list.

Good historical novels bring the reader (in my case listener) right into the story and good authors provide enough information to make that other world vibrant and absorbing. Not to mention relatable.

Davis created a love story between two historical people that provides context, background, and plausibility, especially since we know that the two main characters actually did have a long relationship.

Davis provides a colorful backdrop not only of the city of Rome but the Empire and its history as she relates the story between Vespasian and Caenis, two people who are at once difficult and complicated.

All in all, this work has been a treat and a treasure that I’m looking forward to listening to again and again.

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Audiobooks · Books · Media · Movies · TV

To Binge Or Not To Binge

I admit I’m still trying to maneuver my way through the streaming process. I’ve been around for quite a while. When I began watching TV, there were three – yes 3 – networks, no cable, satellite, recording or streaming. Shocking to some, I know. LOL!

All that means is that I have a different POV than some. And, odd as it might sound, a different appreciation, too. You see, I’m one of those folks who love the extras that were on the DVDs. You know, the behind the scenes, deleted scenes, etc. I’ve spent time on film sets on back lots, and parking lots, too. As a result, I appreciate what it takes to produce what you see on the screen.

I often recall a time when I had two recorders set up to capture a week’s worth of programming that I would work to keep up with in addition to what I watched ‘live’. I haven’t done that in years – mostly because there really wasn’t enough that interested me to watch.

Cable and I have had a mediocre relationship since the beginning. Way back when it was interesting and exciting. Now, the majority is simply boring and repetitive. My opinion, true, but I am certain I’m not the only one who thinks that, too. As a result I haven’t had cable in 2 decades. I have tested it out on occasion just to see if I was missing anything and, much to my dismay, I wasn’t.

I find it interesting that so many cable outlets have discovered that (a) they needed to provide their own material and (b) the audience isn’t going to sit around until they figure it out.

One of the biggest complaints about cable was being stuck with channels you never watch but had to pay for. Streaming took that out of the equation and for the consumer (me) it was the beginning of an entirely new world.

Thanks to On Demand I can pull up things I want to watch when I want to watch and not have to set a machine to capture it all. This means that I can indulge in some amazing programming or ditch a show when it just doesn’t capture my attention.

Which brings me to binging. Some shows are meant to be binged. Some really do need a break in between episodes to allow the viewer (me) to contemplate what I’ve seen.

A few years back I discovered Agents of S*H*I*E*L*D on whatever streaming platform it was on at the time and was hooked. Good thing, too, because – if memory serves – season 4 was coming up. That discovery literally made my summer!

I recently checked my watchlist over on Hulu and found Only Murders In The Building. I sat down to watch the first episode to see if it might make the cut and 5 hours later I’d seen the entire first season. (And that soundtrack is simply delicious!)

Other shows like Murdoch Mysteries or Frankie Drake Mysteries I take a couple of episodes at a time. Both end up on my list after the first run of their season so I am obliged to either wait until the entire season has dropped or keep up with them weekly.

Normally I don’t mind reruns but there is one show I don’t watch as a rerun; NCIS. I love NCIS! For some unknown reason, however, I don’t look for reruns of the series. The entire catalog is on Paramount+, so it isn’t as if it isn’t available.

One thing I have to say is that I appreciate it when providers like Paramount+ or Disney+, to name only two of what is available, provide a wide variety of programming. I’m a PlutoTV fan, too. These providers allow me to pick and choose what I want to see, not what they think I want to see. And, the icing on that cupcake: The price is fair, too.

For an old codger like myself who remembers a time when you made the time to sit down to watch a show or you hoped the rerun would air so you didn’t miss anything, this new era of streaming is almost a wonderland.

To binge or not to binge… Depends upon the day, the inspiration, the show, and whether or not you are ready to move on without taking a break in between.


Audiobooks · Books

From The Reading Table: The Ides of April

The Ides of April by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently started to re-listen to this series. I am constantly amazed at how much I discover when I go back to a previously read (listened to) book!

Having endured the angry teenager from the Falco series, the shift to focus on said no longer teenager has been quite enjoyable. That being said, in the first part of the book, we are dealing with a cynical, still angry adult who has become quite jaded in her opinions and behaviors. Yes, she’s been through a lot, but still.

It wasn’t until she actually met and started to work with “the Runner” that these behaviors started to temper. Much like his did. Knowing how this relationship evolves, it is an interesting experience to see how two people can affect each other so profoundly.

I’ve been listening to the entire series and am enjoying not only the new characters, but the occasional visits with those from the original series. This literally ties all the strings of a family together.

I still strongly recommend this series and am looking forward to the next installment. Can’t come soon enough!

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Audiobooks · Books · Media · Movie Night · Movies · One of My Favorites

Movie Night: The Hunt For Red October

Back in 1990 I stepped into one of my local movie theaters to check out a new movie starring Sean Connery and a host of other favorite performers. It was an experience I didn’t expect and has been repeated frequently over the years. The viewing of the film, that is.

The Hunt For Red October came from the Tom Clancy book of the same name, published in 1984. The story is about a high level Russian submarine that may, or may not, be defecting and the high octane multi level chess game (my description) of the efforts to find her before the Russians can sink her.

The film clocks in at 2 hours 15 minutes. It is worth every second.

There’s a funny thing about me and this film. I enjoyed the first viewing so much I went back a few times to try and spot the technical details I enjoy in films. (I’m one of those geeks who love the extras on the DVDs – I love the behind the scenes stuff.) I finally gave up because inevitably I’d find myself walking out 2 hours later having totally gotten lost in the plot. It is that good.

The book, in case you are interested, is as good. If you are not experienced reading Tom Clancy consider this fair warning. He didn’t write small books, nor did he write simple plot lines. Brace yourself with an estimated page count of 387, I don’t recall how many characters or subplot lines. Consider the movie the condensed version. 🙂

Even after all these years, I have no idea how many viewings, I love this film. I must, I own two copies and I have both the paperback and the audio version of the book.

The cast is the cream of the crop. The production values are stellar. The story is compelling, and if you like edge of your seat adventure, this is the film you should see.

Have you seen, or read, The Hunt For Red October?

Audiobooks · Books

Reading Table: Nemesis

Nemesis by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve loved the entire series but this book is quite special. It brings all the strings from all the books in the series together and provides a most interesting and satisfying solution to a problem that has been around for a long time; Anacrites.

I have to give it to Ms. Davis, she writes a very excellent mystery in addition to creating a magnificent world to host it. She literally brings Rome (city and empire) to life in ways that I can’t imagine anyone else doing, much less attempting.

As a side note, I haven’t binged a book series in decades, so the ability to find, and dive into, this one has been quite a wonderful ride. Of course, it is also the entry into the Flavia Albia series, which I have also inhaled with great enjoyment.

The readers, Christian Rodska and Simon Prebble, were fantastic.

A fitting end to a wonderful series and a great beginning to another.

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