Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Commentary on Audiobooks in General, Dark Highlander Specifically

I am a book addict.  I have at least 2 books going at any given time.  If I include the books I use for my spiritual practice the number approaches double digits.  I also hate to wait. 
I don't like lines, driving to get somewhere, sitting in a doctor's office waiting for my appt. I want to be doing something, anything instead of waiting.  To help with my angst, of course, I read.  It turns that annoyance into an opportunity to get a few more pages in. (Note: I included driving in the above list and we all know one can't read and drive at the same time.  I will be honest and at one time thought stop lights were really just another chance to get a paragraph read.  I have stopped that practice and not because I was in an accident either.  I just realized what an idiot I was being.)
So I turned to audiobooks.  I wasn't sure I would like listening to a book.  When I read it is my imagination that puts the gravel in a voice, the feel of silky hair against skin, or the gasp of shock in a taut moment.  The writer has a voice and I put my own spin to that voice when I read.  You can't do that with audiobooks.  The narrator is giving the book life.  All those things I create in my head when reading a book are turned over to the production of the audiobook.  I know you know what I mean.  We watch tv and we have agreed to see the show as the producer/director/actor intended.  It is the same with an audiobook.  Cool, I can do that.  I love a good audiobook.  It makes me think of my grandparents and how they must have sat around the radio to listen to "The Shadow" or "Mutt  and Jeff".  It is great on a long drive to have a companion like a good book to keep you entertained and awake.
Just like tv and the movies there are shows or performers I like and those I don't.  I really enjoy Jonathan Marosz who does the narration for most of the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben.  I also enjoy Lorelie King who reads the Stephanie Plum series.  These readers have, for me, really captured the story.  They don't use falsetto voices, bad accents or strange enunciation s.  They aren't trying to show off.  They are just reading the story.  In fact I forget I am listening and can start seeing in my mind how a character looks or sounds in the same way I do when I am reading.
Then there are those readers who I don't like. They are acting out the book and while I love good acting I don't really think acting has a place in reading. When a reader over acts the story then I can't engage.   Recently I was listening to "Dark Highlander" by Karen Marie Moning.  I am a big fan of Ms. Moning.  She writes strong characters and even stronger erotic scenes.  The reader for "Dark Highlander" was Phil Gigante. He used a Scottish accent for the men and a falsetto for the women.  He enunciated each  "t" and "d".  The accent was really quite good but it was really strange to go from the rolling burr to middle american over pronunciation.  I could deal with that but then these women who are supposed to be strong and intelligent sounded breathy and silly thanks to his falsetto voice.  It was horribly distracting.  Ms. Moning writes great graphic erotic scenes and when Mr. Gigante was reading as the Scotsman I was in the moment and then he would ruin it with that female falsetto or his too perfect speech.  I mean he really killed the mood!
In closing I would like to offer a caution to authors who are getting their books recorded.  Be careful of who you get to read your book out loud.  A book is not a movie.  It isn't a radio show.  It is a book and it is audio only.  Find someone who will read clearly, who will bring the tension, the sensuality, anger, sadness or joy through the words and leave the acting to the tv and the movies.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Repairman Jack doesn't do Windows... F. Paul Wilson series

I don't like to get in ruts and I find myself in them all the time.  I love the Tom Kha Gai soup at a local Thai restaurant and I have been known to eat it every day for a week.   Then I have to go have a salad or sandwich just to break the routine.  I love the TV show Criminal Minds and I will tivo 5 or 6 episodes and then over a weekend it will be all I watch.  Then I have pick up a book to get all those serial killers out of my head.
I get into ruts with my reading too.  I will get hooked on a genre or author and for weeks will only read Susan Elizabeth Philips or paranormal romance.  Recently I have found myself in a Young Adult fiction rut so I decided to go a full 180 and not only select a different genre but I selected an author I have never read before, enter, CrissCross by F. Paul Wilson.  I see another rut coming on.

CrissCross is the 8th book in Mr. Wilson's Repairman Jack series.  I picked it up for two reasons.  The first reason was the cover art.  The photographs of  New York landmarks taken in gray tones told me this was going to be a gritty novel.  I knew that this series wasn't going to be anything like the Plum series or Goldy the Caterer series.  This wasn't going to be light or cute.  This was going to be dark.  The second reason reinforced the first.  It was the quote by Dean Koontz on the cover.  "Repairman Jack is one of the most original and intriguing characters to arise out of contemporary fiction in ages."  If this was good enough for Dean then it would be good enough for me.

I was expecting Jack to be an assassin or maybe a P.I. or maybe Robin Hood.  He was all of these and none of these.  He is truly a unique hero.  He fixes things. If you need to be extricated from a horrible situation or you need your life patched up he is the guy to call.  He doesn't advertise in the Yellow Pages nor does he have a Facebook page.  His business is word of mouth referrals only.
Jack is everyman while being no man. His identity is a secret and yet at the same time he has a real relationship with his family. He doesn't lead a dual life....exactly.  His dad knows he doesn't have a 'regular' job and doesn't ask a lot of questions.  His girlfriend, Gia, who knows he "fixes" things understands it's safer to not know the details. He prefers to make all his repair jobs seem natural or accidental.  Killing is always an act of absolute last resort. It takes a lot of work to make a bad situation go away permanently without killing and he has an entire network of helpers who get him what he needs when he needs it.
I entered this series 8 books in and there are huge pieces of this character I am missing.  (Tricky authors make you have to get another book to know what is going on.) When I picked the story up Jack is expecting his first child with his girlfriend.  He's  trying to figure out how he could move back into the mainstream with his true identity so he can be a real dad to his baby.
He has 2 "fixes" in CrissCross.  The first one is a simple missing person case.  Elderly, wealthy mom wants her wayward son found to make sure he is ok.  She believes he has joined a cult.  All Jack has to do is find him and tell him to call home.  The second case is more unsavory.  Sister Mary Margaret is being blackmailed and she wants it to stop.  This case appears to be a pretty simple case since Jack has had dealings with this blackmailer before. For the first 40 pages this book appeared to be exactly what it was, a good suspense novel following an interesting character through his journey of beating the bad guys at their own game.  As always nothing is as it seems.  Page 41 showed up along with a strange piece of skin he keeps hidden in a closet in his apartment.  Down the rabbit hole we go.  Somewhere in an earlier book Jack came into possession of this interesting item and he has even tried to get rid of it but it keeps showing up.  Nothing goes as planned for Jack in this story.  People don't behave as expected.  Jack has to do a lot of improvising and he mentions several times he hates to improvise. 
The missing person case takes him deep into the Dormentalist Church. This is a church/cult organization that Mr. Wilson likens to Scientology.  Jack locates the missing son rather quickly but his curiosity is piqued about the organization with all its security cameras, acronyms and the mysterious globe in the office of the leader.  He just can't seem to leave well enough alone.  That is why he was selected for this job.
The blackmail case is more straightforward but then becomes enmeshed in the other case. Even though there a successful resolution to the blackmail case Sister Maggie comes to a very bad end.  Jack's anger and need for justice creates an even more ugly solution to the evil plans of Dormentalism.  Adversary and Ally take on a whole new context in a book that takes a strange turn in to the Other Worldly.  I understand why Dean likes this series.  Good and Evil meet and make for very strange situations.
I cannot say I loved this book but I couldn't leave it alone either.  I would put it down and then be glad to pick it up again.  I had to know where this crazy rabbit hole was going to end up.  I am still wondering.  I have already picked up book one "The Tomb" and I will keep you posted if the rest of this series holds up to this really weird 8th book.