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!

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s co-authored epistolary novel has a very long title: Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: being the correspondence of two young ladies of quality regarding various magical scandals in London and the country. Please don’t judge it by this wordy title or by its tragically hideous cover. It’s great!

It’s Regency England, magic is real, and cousins Cecelia (Cecy) and Kate correspond over the course of a summer, unraveling alone and together the mystery surrounding the titular enchanted chocolate pot and the “Mysterious Marquis.” The action is very exciting, the letters brisk and forthcoming, the characters sympathetic, the romance delightful, the magic subtle and delectably menacing. It’s a delight – the only complaint I can offer to temper my enthusiasm is that Cecy and Kate are virtually indistinguishable. I cannot recall a single difference between them, whether in temperament, opinion, age, physical appearance, or letter-writing style. The only difference between them is that Kate is in London and Cecy in the country; or did I switch that around? I’ll have to look back at the letters to check.

By sheer good luck, my reading of this novel overlapped with my listening to the also epistolary, also long-titled, also co-authored, and also excellent The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This was an enormous hit with book clubs a couple of years ago, but if you missed out on it then, treat your ears to this audiobook right away! It has become my standard audio fiction recommendation, even surpassing At Home and Twenties Girl. Juliet Ashton corresponds with and befriends the people of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel which was occupied for 5 years by the Germans during World War II. Each character’s letters are read by a different voice actor, and the result is entirely winning. It’s a lovely book read by lovely people, and it’s about resilience and friendship and bravery and the love of books. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

If you adore Harry Potter, do yourself a favor and check out Harry Potter: Page to Screen, the Complete Filmmaking Journey. It’s a big, heavy, hardcover behemoth absolutely stuffed with photographs and text from all 8 Harry Potter films. Interviews with the cast and crew give insider information, and viewpoints from the set designers, costume designers, directors and actors show how meticulously the details of these movies were planned. From the small things – Hermione doesn’t wear red or green, as “those are Ron colors,” the story behind Harry’s blue eyes (a controversial change from the books’ oft-referenced bottle green), and the talon design of Bellatrix’s wand – to the big things: hours of makeup for dozens of actors cast as goblins; the complex design of the set for Snape’s final scene; the massive miniatures built to stand in for Hogwarts castle, and the equally massive undertaking of covering those miniatures with “snow” for the winter scenes (and then meticulously brushing and cleaning that “snow” away before the salt it was made of could corrode the material beneath).

Whether you’re into the boy wizard or just into movie magic, you’ll adore this book. It inspired me to re-read the novels and re-watch the movies, which of course launched a relapse of full-on Potter mania at my house! These are some of the other library items I’ve been checking out:

For this installment of Amazing Audiobooks, I have a jumble of fun, funny, exciting, just-plain-great fiction that didn’t fit with the previous three categories. But you have my word: all these are winners!

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. You’ll laugh out loud at this one, in which the Apocalypse goes all wrong when an angel and a demon accidentally swap out the Antichrist for a normal human boy.
  • The charming Flavia de Luce Mysteries by C. Alan Bradley, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
  • 11th Hour, the latest from James Patterson (or if you’re new to the Women’s Murder Club series, start at the beginning with 1st to Die)
  • …In Death series by J.D. Robb: a futuristic police procedural – particularly recommended for those who like listening to sexy, seductive, lilting Irish accents.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball phenom (I reviewed the novel in June)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A deeply sad but very sweet and rewarding novel; tells the story of a girl who learns about death and love while helping her parents hide a Jewish man from the Nazis in a small German town. Appropriate for teens and older kids as well as adults.
  • Stephen King’s latest hit, 11/22/63, about JFK’s assassination and time travel.
  • The Night Circus, a lovely atmospheric love story brought to life by Jim Dale. Lexie reviewed this on the blog back in October. There’s a movie version in development scheduled for a 2013 release, so get in on the ground floor of opinionated ‘book-was-better’ arguments by reading the book first!
  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: listen to Lara, a twenty-something Brit, spar with the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie, whose 23-year-old form has come straight out of 1927 to beg the living girl to track down her missing necklace. It’s a hoot!

Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.

 

Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.