I love Robert B. Parker’s mysteries. I’m a big fan of both Spencer, his Boston boxer-detective, and Jesse Stone, his laconic small town police chief.

So when Mr. Parker passed away in 2010, I mourned not only one of my favorite authors, but Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .) as well.

And when I learned that Mr. Parker’s family had made to decision to allow other authors to continue these series, I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand: more Spencer and Jesse (and Hawk and Sally and Suitcase and Vinnie Morris, and . . .)! On the other: who could possibly write Robert B Parker’s characters as well as Mr. Parker himself?

Parker Lullaby AtkinsIn my opinion, Ace Atkins can. He picked up Spencer in Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby and ran with him through four more books, all of which have the snappy dialogue, moral quagmires, and occasional brute force that a reader could hope for. The style may not be identical, but it doesn’t have to be—Mr. Atkin’s isn’t ghostwriting for Robert B. Parker, he’s honoring him.

Fool Me Twice BrandmanI wish I could say I liked the Jesse Stone books as much, or at least the first one I’ve tried. Unlike the Spencer series, each of these new mysteries was written by a different author—I don’t know whether that was the publisher’s idea or the authors declined to pick up the series in favor of their own characters, or if the publisher hasn’t found the right fit yet.

Part of my troubles with Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice, by Michael Brandman, might be because I listened to the audiobook first. No matter how talented a voice actor is (and James Naughton is very talented), if the reading doesn’t match how my beloved characters sound in my mind’s ear—and I’ve had years to fix these voices the way I want them—I have trouble getting past how things are said to pay enough attention to what things are being said.

This isn’t a fair assessment of Mr. Brandman’s writing, so I tried it in print . . . and still didn’t care for it.

I know that these books aren’t going to be perfect—every writer will bring a different style to the same story, even Ace Atkins. But while I think the styles of Mr. Atkins and Mr. Parker mesh well, the style that Mr. Brandman brings is too far off what I expect from a Jess Stone novel. The dialogue is excellent, but there’s too much omniscient narration and parts of it—particularly the sections that aren’t from Jesse’s point of view—read more like background notes than a story. The bare bones of the plot are intriguing . . . but that’s what the whole book seems like to me: bare bones.

Or maybe I just miss Mr. Parker too much to enjoy Jesse Stone’s adventures without him.

Will I give a different author’s Jesse book a try? Sure.

But this time, I’ll read it in print first.

Do you think a book series should outlive its author?

Do you enjoy the post-Parker Spencer or Jesse Stone novels?

Can you recommend a post-Parker Jesse Stone novel you really enjoyed?

Did you love Fool Me Twice?  Please let me know why in the comments—I’m willing to be convinced!

TaxiYou’d think that summer would mean spending less time driving the Mom Taxi, but even though there’s no school commutes, there’s day camp, play dates, vacation trips, and So Many Birthday Parties.

Since my pre-teen and I have a mutual dislike of each other’s favorite radio stations and my eight-year old’s tummy rebels when she reads in the car, audiobooks are a peaceful way to stave off boredom when the conversation runs out on those long rides.

As long as we all agree on the book, of course.How they Choked

A co-worker (the librarian who selects the audiobooks for our three library locations) recommended How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous, written by Georgia Bragg and read by L. J. Ganser (CD NF 920 BRAGG GEO)

This book is a collection of the biggest LifeFails of fourteen historical figures, from Marco Polo (even Kubla Khan knew better than to send him into battle) to Amelia Earhart (her fame took off without her) to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson (baseball done him wrong).

As we listened, it became clear that the phrase “awfully famous” could mean “really famous” or “really awful”. Or both. This book provides ‘behind the scenes” 411 on well-known people who worked through their failures to achieve greatness . . . and those who refused to learn from their mistakes.

(My family will never look at Queen “You Should Have Expected The Spanish Inquisition!”Isabella of Spain the same way.)

Whether inspirational or a dire warning, each of these stories is fascinating and L. J. Ganser’s voice lends a certain dry sarcasm that perfectly matches Ms. Bragg’s wry and witty tone. He even manages to read the lists of fun (and “not so fun”) facts at the end of each chapter in a way that made us look forward to them (who knew George Custer was a clothes horse?).

There were even a few times that we arrived at our destination and didn’t leave the car until the chapter was over. That’s one sign of a pretty good audiobook.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to successfully convince my kids to clean their rooms by withholding chapters of How They Choked—because I didn’t want to wait!  But I’m planning to follow the example of Susan B. Anthony, learn from my failure, and try, try again.

juneaudioSo June is National Audiobook Month. What does that mean for you?

Audiobook month is an attempt to increase the amount of book listeners. It is also an attempt to create awareness of audiobooks.  While some people cannot live without their audiobooks, other people have never listened to one.

I admit that I was skeptical of audiobooks.  I enjoy reading so why would I want to listen to someone read a book to me?  But seven years ago, I was going on a long car trip.  The thought of all those hours in the car doing nothing but listening to the same music over and over again was not appealing.  So I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on audio.  I had heard that the narrator, Jim Dale, was phenomenal.  And he is.  Jim Dale was won a Grammy award, five Grammy nominations and he has won seven Audie awards.

The hours in the car flew by.  I loved listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I was a little disappointed when I reached my destination because I did not want to stop the book!  I have been hooked by audiobooks ever since.  I listen to audiobooks in the car all the time.  I often sit in my car in the garage listening to my book until I reach a good stopping point.

I admit that not every audiobook is phenomenal.  Some are just okay and others are unbearable.  Don’t be discouraged by a bad narrator!  Just because one narrator was bad does not mean that you should give up on audiobooks.  I recommend that people check out an extra audiobook just in case they do not like their first pick.

Davenport Public Library owns several audiobooks.  Most of your favorite books have been made into audiobooks.  So next time you go on a road trip, stop by the library and pick up a few audiobooks!

If you have not listened to an audiobook before, I strongly encourage you to try it. It is amazing how many books you can listen to during your daily commute.  The Davenport Public Library owns a variety of audiobooks! Whether you like myseries or fantasy or thrillers or any other genre, the library will have something for you.  If you are new to listening to audiobooks, I recommend listening to biographies and memoirs. Most celebrities will read their own memoirs for the audiobook and they are highly entertaining.

The following audiobooks are biographies and memoirs that will be new to the Davenport Public Library in May:

i must sayI Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short-Comedian Martin Short, best known for his roles on Saturday Night Live, Three Amigos and Father of the Bride recounts his often funny and sometimes tragic life.  Short reveals the stories behind some of his most famous SNL characters as well as shares the spotlight with his friends and costars, such as Steve Martin and Tom Hanks. But not all of Martin Short’s life has been funny. He talks about losing his brother and parents before the age of twenty and as well as losing his wife of thirty years to cancer all with his upbeat personality.

hooeyA Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk – You probably know Bob Odenkirk from the television show, Breaking Bad and its spin-off, Better Call Saul.  But before Odenkirk starred in these shows, he was an Emmy award winning comedy writer on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Odenkirk’s debut is a collection of funny short stories, resembling a hilarious sketch show.  If you enjoy laughing and like comedy sketch show, then this audiobook is sure to please.

 

eleanorAutobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt – An insightful look at one of our country’s best known women, Eleanor Roosevelt.  Niece to President Theodore Roosevelt, and wife to Franklin Roosevelt, she witnessed life during the Gilded Age through the Great Depression up to the Cold War.  Eleanor was a champion for those less fortunate and used her influence as First Lady to help those in need. Often called inspiring and controversial, she continued to work for the downtrodden throughout her lifetime. Written in her own words, Eleanor Roosevelt comes alive telling her story of her life, living with her husband, her life as First Lady and years of work abroad.

Special DeluxeSpecial Deluxe: a Memoir of Life and Cars by Neil Young – In this memoir, Neil Young recounts his childhood in Canada and his family. He also discusses his living like a rockstar and his passion for cars. Young talks about his life with his collection of vintage cars. He has also been devoted to clean energy and converting his collection so that it does not have a negative impact on the environment. Witty and candid, this memoir will please fans.

brooke shieldsThere Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me by Brooke Shields – Brooke Shields began modeling at the tender age of eleven months. Her mother Teri manager her career but in private, Teri was troubled and drank heavily.  Brooke describes her changing relationship with her mother over the years, including how Brooke was a mother to her own children. Teri passed away in 2012 with Brooke by her side.

 

It Was Me Allit was me all along Along: a Memoir by Andie Mitchell – Many people comfort themselves by eating and Andie Mitchell was no exception. But when she weighed herself at the age of twenty, she was shocked to see that she weighed 258 pounds. Knowing that she needed to make some changes, Andie leaves Boston and heads to Rome. She trades pre-packaged pastries for handmade pasta and loses half of her weight. Andie discovers that balance and learns to find beauty and acceptance in herself.

 

closeResilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness by Jessie Close – Sister of actress Glenn Close, Jessie Close recounts her struggles with living with bipolar disorder. After five failed marriages and living on the brink of suicide, she struggled with symptoms for decades until Jessie was finally diagnosed in her fifties.  Included are vignettes from Glenn Close that offer an alternative perspective. Just in time for Mental Health Month, Resilience describes what it is like to live with a mental illness.

A Touch of StardustA Touch of Stardust  by Kate Alcott is a novel about the filming of the movie, Gone With the Wind.

Fictional character Julie Crawford is new to Hollywood and is pursuing a career as a screenwriter. A female screenwriter is a rare thing in 1938 Hollywood so she gets a job working at Selznick International studios to earn some money. Julie’s first day on the job is the first day of filming Gone With the Wind. The first scene of GWTW that was filmed was the burning of Atlanta. Producer David O. Selznick decided to burn down old movie sets in order to make room for the new GWTW sets. At this point in time, Selznick had not cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara. The front runner for the role, Paulette Goddard, has not been able to convince Selznick that she is right for the part. Julie has been given a message to give to Mr. Selznick but she cannot get near him due to the crowds and the fire department keeping her away. When she finally finds David Selznick, he promptly fires Julie for giving him the message too late. The note told him that actress Vivien Leigh would be visiting the set and that she was interested in playing the lead, Scarlett O’Hara. Selznick had been talking to Vivien Leigh for the past hour.

Actress Carole Lombard takes pity on Julie and hires her as her personal assistant. Julie now has a front seat to the developing romantic relationship between Carole Lombard and actor Clark Gable, who stars in Gone With the Wind as Rhett Butler. Julie is constantly in Carole’s movie set trailer signing autographs for the actress or at Carole’s house helping her with a project. Carole Lombard becomes a true friend to Julie. She advises Julie on life and the way that Hollywood works. Carole and Clark even invite Julie to dinner at their home. Julie also spends a lot of time with David O. Selznick’s fictional assistant, Andy. Andy invites Julie to come on set and watch scenes being filmed. She witnesses Vivien Leigh’s first day on set, the siege of Atlanta and  the desolation of Tara among other scenes.

Another aspect of the story is the growing tension in Europe. The film industry was trying to ignore the growing war overseas. Some people in Hollywood believed that the war should be addressed while others thought that a war movie would bomb at the box office. Julie’s boyfriend Andy is Jewish. He has family in Germany that he worries about. Julie’s parents would not want her dating Andy because he is Jewish which is a source of tension between the pair. Along with that tension, the African American community has reservations about the making of the movie GWTW.

70th Anniversary Edition of Gone With the Wind

70th Anniversary Edition of Gone With the Wind DVD

A Touch of Stardust is a coming of age novel about friendship and relationships centered around the filming of Gone With the Wind. Author Kate Alcott’s late husband, Frank Mankiewicz, grew up in a film family (his father was a screenwriter and his uncle was a director) and shared many stories about Old Hollywood with Alcott. Included in the novel are stories about what it was like on the movie set and working for David O. Selznick.

A Touch of Stardust is available in print and in audiobook.

 

TaxiI’ve been driving the Mom Taxi at least twice a day for the past ten years and getting my fares—I mean, kids—into the car on time has been something of a struggle, especially on school mornings.

But one day, I forgot to stop the audiobook I’d been playing on my way to pick them up and we listened to it on the way home. The next morning, both kids were up and ready as quickly as I could have wished, asking if I was going to let them listen to more.

How could I say no?

I did say no to portions of it; I’d checked out Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie, which is fantastically funny and has a manic-depressive beagle in it, but is still an adult romance.  I occasional had to lunge at the fast-forward button in the effort to avoid questions  for which I wanted more preparation time (say, ten to twelve years) to answer.

The kids still enjoyed it—partly because of the lunging, I suspect—and after the book was done, they asked if I could get another audiobook.

This time, tired of fast-forwarding (and rewinding after I’d dropped them off), I headed for the children’s section. All the branches of the Davenport Public library have audiobooks that appeal to my second-grader and others that appeal to my pre-teen.

It was trickier to find ones that would appeal to all of us.

Knights Tales Collection - MorrisEnter The Knights‘ Tales collection, written by Gerald Morris and read by award-winning voice artist Steve West.

The four tales included on the five CDs are about the adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great (“He’s sooooo handsome!”), Sir Givret the Short (and his friend, Sir Eric the Not Too Bright), Sir Gawain the True (and his frenemy, the Green Knight), and Sir Balin the Ill-fated (whose mother just wants him to marry a “nice Nothern girl.”).

The main characters spend a lot of time getting into impossible situations that are unraveled by a piece of astoundingly simple logic. They’re funny and clever and twisty and very well-written.

Mr. Morris doesn’t talk down to his target audience (3rd to 6th grade) and his plots and intelligent, witty style won’t bore adults.   Mr. West uses an assortment of voices and accents that make even the minor characters—like the herald Harold, the argumentative Lady Elaine, and the Old Woman of Some Nonspecific Mountain—come to life.

These stories ensure that my kids are eager to get up and get going for the next installment—even on Mondays—and that our morning commutes are full of intent listening, predictions about what might happen next, and a lot of laughter.

For this Taxi Mom, that almost makes up for the dismal lack of tips.

Almost.

 

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot is a great novel for audio, due in large part to the wonderful narrator, Caroline Lee.

Lee’s lilting, open Australian accent is critical to understanding  Alice’s character. The 1998 Alice is wonderfully innocent, quirky and enthusiastically in love with her husband.

The 2008 amnesiac Alice, who is living ten years in the past, is, in her own mind, still that person. She gradually begins to put together the puzzle of her new identity. To the listener, it’s almost like a mystery. You wonder who the new Alice is and how she got that way. Like Alice,  you’re also relying on what people are telling Alice, and no more. Both Alice and the reader/listener are frustrated when it seems other people are withholding information.

Liane Moriarty’s breezy style keeps the story light, while delving into the darker sides of Alice and her family’s journey over the last decade. Life has gone on; there have been births, deaths and marriages. Alice confesses to her sister that she has no idea how to feed and take care of her children, or any children for that matter. She speculates that a diet of sausages would probably be popular.

Elizabeth, her older sister, is a great foil; she had always been Alice’s protector and support which allowed Alice to be the funny, spacey one. One of the mysteries is why they had grown apart. The many well-drawn characters make this rather long audiobook absorbing to the end.

I Remember NothingA key to good readers advisory is to be able to remember titles and authors.  One of my favorite audiobooks is I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron. The problem is that I can never remember this title. Not only do I keep checking it out, thinking I haven’t listened to it before,  I also fail to remember the title when I’m telling staff and patrons what a great Book-on-CD it is.

And it really is. Ephron read the book herself and she has a marvelous voice and impeccable timing.  Particularly interesting, I thought, were the stories about her early career in newspaper and magazine journalism. She isn’t shy about dishing about the legendary writers and publishers she worked with, whose names I can’t recall (except for Katie and Phil Graham of the Washington Post).

She also has some handy tricks for social situations in which names (or whether you, in fact, really know a person) escape you.

Recommendation:  check the box marked “Reading History” in your library account, and you’ll always have a record of what you’ve checked out.

 

deathofceasarBeware the Ides of March.  Do you know what this famous phrase means?

If you are a fan of William Shakespeare you will know that this phrase is from the play, Julius Caesar.  The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar that he will die on March 15.  While the phrase sounds ominous to us, it would not have sounded strange to Julius Caesar.  The Romans had different names for different days of the month.  If Caesar had received this warning, he would have just thought, “March 15h might be a bad day.”

The assassination of Julius Caesar is arguably the most famous assassination in world history.  On March 15, 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was murdered at the Theatre of Pompey.  The members of the Senate plotted to murder Caesar.  They surrounded him and stabbed Caesar to death.

But there is more to the story.  Author Barry Strauss just released his new book, The Death of Caesar: the Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination.  This new audiobook promises to shed new light on one of the most famous days in history.  Strauss details the key players and events that led to the assassination of Julius Caesar and he reveals a person that few people know about.  Decimus, one of Caesar’s generals and a lifelong friend, was a mole.  His betrayal was worse than the betrayal of Brutus.

The Davenport Public Library has a lot of information on Julius Caesar as well as William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.  If you would like to learn more, talk to one of our reference librarians today.

 

book headphonesDid you make a New Year’s Resolution to read more books? Are you already struggling to find time to read to a book?  If so, you might want to try audiobooks.

Many Davenport library users have made comments about how they can listen to audiobooks while doing other things.  Some people listen to them in the car while others say they listen to audiobooks while cleaning the house.

The Davenport Public Library offers different audiobook options. You can come to the library and check out CD or MP3 audiobooks. The library also offers Playaways. Playaways are devices that have an audiobook already recorded on it. All you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen! They are small enough that you can put them in your pocket.

If you don’t have time to come to the library, you can download audiobooks from home. One Click Digital is an online resource that offers eAudiobooks to download. RiverShare Digital Library offers both eAudiobooks and eBooks to download.

To learn more about downloading audiobooks, visit the e-Books & More section of our website.