Listening to Chet the Dog

I have found a new series to listen to as I drive around the Quad Cities and beyond.  It is the “Chet and Bernie Series”  from Spencer Quinn who introduces the world to two-legged Bernie, a down in his luck private detective and his four-legged pal Chet—a canine with a penchant for solving mysteries. In an interview with the author on how he decided on this series

Q. How did you come to write Dog on It?
A. My wife said, How about doing something with dogs? The basic building blocks came to me right there at the kitchen table: two detective pals; narration by the four-legged one; and all in the first person, which I’d never tried before in a novel. Plus the most important thing – Chet would not be a talking dog (or be undoggy in any way) but would be a narrating dog. Anything that thinks and has memory must have a narrative going on inside. I went to the office – over the garage, commuting distance fifteen feet – and wrote the first page. Then I wanted to know what happened next.

Chet is a mixed breed law academy dropout. Bernie is a retired police officer trying to be a private detective. Between Bernie’s divorce, Charlie his sone and Susie Sanchez, Bernie’s reporter girlfriend, Chet can’t catch a nap and is always on the alert. Chet has a dry sense of humor, which the reader, Jim Frangoine, does well.

These are wonderful books for those who enjoy the narrator being the four legged kind.

There are three books in teh series so far:  Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail and the newest book, To Fetch a Thief.

Book vs. DVD: The Time Traveler’s Wife

For this installment of Book vs. DVD, I did something a little different.  Instead of reading a book, I listened to an audiobook.  The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of a man who is, as Kurt Vonnegut so elegantly put once, “unstuck in time.”  Since the age of 9, Henry DeTamble regularly found himself naked in an unfamiliar place and time, visiting strangers, his loved ones, and occasionally himself, several years in the past or future.  When Henry is 28 and working as a librarian in Chicago, he meets Clare Abshire, a beautiful woman who tells him that they’ve met before, despite Henry not remembering.  As a man, Henry has time traveled to Clare’s childhood, and it is there that she first met him.  The book contains chapters alternately told by Henry and Clare detailing their stages of courtship and married life, including their attempts to find a cure for Henry’s condition and trying to have a baby.  This beautiful and at times heartbreaking story is well-told by audiobook readers William Hope and Laurel Lefkow, who evoke such emotion into their telling of the story that it’s hard not to feel like a part of Henry and Clare’s story.

The movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife follows fairly closely with the storyline of the book.  Henry and Clare are played by Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, respectively, and both were very close to what I imagined when listening to the audiobook.  The two have beautiful chemistry that feels very true to Henry and Clare’s relationship in the book.  The only changes that are made to the story are certain scenes from the book being shortened or completely cut out.  This isn’t surprising, as the book is rather lengthy and a film true to that would have been several hours long.

After trying out both the book and the DVD, I have to say that I was left a little disappointed by the movie.  Though it is well-acted and the story is incredibly romantic to see unfold before your eyes, something just feels missing once you’ve read the book.  Parts of Clare and Henry’s story are left out or rushed over, and I was left longing for them.  I would highly recommend that anyone who wants to watch the movie check out the audiobook or the book version of The Time Traveler’s Wife first, because it helps to fill in those little details that you might be confused without.  But of course, no movie can be a perfect adaptation of a book, and I felt that this one did a fairly decent job.

Books on CD- The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

“They can’t make me be a princess…I mean, this is America for crying out loud.”

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot is not only one of my favorite book series, but also one of my favorite audiobook series. In fact, I have only “read” the final two in the series–the first eight were purely experienced by audiobook! I seem to gravitate towards audiobooks where the story is in diary format (Princess Diaries, Bridget Jones, Confession of Georgia Nicholson, etc). They are usually light and funny, and I do not lose track of the story if I get distracted by something else for a second.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Princess Diaries’ movies starring Anne Hathaway (her first role, in fact!) and Julie Andrews, the series follows a girl named Mia Thermopolis as she deals with being invisible at school, having a crush on her best friend’s older brother, seeing her mom kiss her math teacher, and, oh yeah, finding out that she is the sole heir to the throne of a small European principality (the made-up country of Genovia). Mia is incredibly big-hearted and intelligent, but also quite dramatic and neurotic. Thus, she gets herself into all sorts of hilarious entanglements much to the enjoyment (and sympathy) of the listener. Also, almost everyone I know who has read this series has become infatuated with the character of Michael Moscovitz–as in he is right up there with Mr. Darcy for romantic literary figures. If that won’t get you to read/listen to it, I don’t know what will! (and extra bonus, the movies’ version of Michael was played Robert Schwartzman, who will be in the Quad Cities on August 6th to perform with his band Rooney at the Redstone Room.)

Books on CD – NPR Funniest Driveway Moments

My favorite audiobook is NPR Funniest Driveway Moments. The premise, of course, is that you’ll be sitting in your driveway in order to finish listening to the story. I don’t know about that but I did sit at a red light on 4th Street laughing helplessly while Scott Simon interviewed the outrageous Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries).

As far as I’m concerned, you can’t ask more than that of an audiobook. Goodbye road-rage, goodbye work stress. By the time you get home, you’re relaxed and serene.

All the NPR compilations are reliably good listening due to the fact that they are scripted and edited  by consummate professionals. If you are a fan at all of public radio, you’ll appreciate the skilled interviewing and marvelous voices of  Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Renee Montagne and, of course, the great Scott Simon.

Books on CD – The Harry Potter series

Every day, I have to drive across the bridge to get to work and back home.  Inevitably, cars are backed up for miles and I end up idling on I-74 for long periods of time.  Luckily, I always have an audiobook in my glove compartment for just such an occasion, and the ones that I come back to most often are the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling.  My personal favorite of the audio series is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

For an audiobook, the most important thing to have is a good narrator, and Jim Dale is one of the best.  He has won countless awards for his vocal portrayals of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Hogwarts gang.  Even if this is your fifth time hearing the story, Dale manages to evoke such excitement into his presentation of the text that it feels like a whole new experience.  You feel as though you are there at Hogwarts carrying on a conversation with your fellow Gryffindors.

My favorite to listen to has to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Jim Dale gets everything right, from the light moments to the dramatic.  I have found myself more than once having to pause the CD so that I wouldn’t be driving and crying over the climactic battle scenes  at the same time.  I highly recommend this series, or any other audiobook read by the fantastic Jim Dale.

Books on CD – Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

In addition to listening to an audiobook while on a long car ride, books on CD are a great way to pass the time while gardening or listening to while cleaning the house, or just about anything else!  One of my most recent discoveries is a great mystery with a hint of “chick lit,” Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

Young, London-based businesswoman Lara Lington has just learned that her 105-year old great-aunt has just passed away – an aunt that she did not even know.  While attending Sadie’s funeral, Lara hears voices and catches an occasional glimpse of a young woman dressed in 1920s attire.  She then realizes that the young woman is not an illusion but is actually the ghost of Sadie at age 23!  Sadie has decided to relentlessly haunt her grand-niece in order to nearly force Lara to help her find her most prized possession, a dazzling, diamond, dragonfly necklace that was stolen before she died.   The pair form an unlikely duo that argue, confide in each other and share a friendship in the most unlikely of ways – all while solving the mystery of the missing necklace.

Twenties Girl has a little bit for everyone -mystery, romance, intrigue and comedy.  A definite recommended read – you may find yourself  circling your block a few dozen times to find out how the book ends!

Books on CD – Driving Along with Vampires

Summer often means road trips – vacations to visit distant family or to enjoy some of the spectacular landscapes of America. To help pass the time, especially through some of the less interesting sections of highway (can we say “Nebraska”? or “central Illinois”?) – or just to ease your daily commute! – our blogging librarians have some suggestions with their favorite Books on CD. Rita gets us started with something for the vampire fans.

Some years ago, a friend introduced me to the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. Since I enjoy Audio Books, and not just for trips, I decided to try the series. Here at the Davenport Public Library we have the series read by Joanna Parker. The main character is Sookie Stackhouse. The series is a first-person account of Sookie’s life as a barmaid and telepath in the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Her life includes vampires, including Elvis/Bubba, werewolves, faires, and other supernaturals. Joanna Parker is an excellent reader. She has distinctive voices for each character, which makes the story seem very real. It is my favorite series with my favorite reader.

Another good series for short and long trips is the Undead – Betsy Series by MaryJanice Davidson. Betsy Taylor turns 30, gets laid off, is killed by an SUV and wakes up dead all in the same week. The vampire community is convinced she’s their prophesied Queen. But she’s not having any of it—she’s got shoes to buy! And now the undead world is being turned upside-down by a Bela Lugosi throwback and her subjects expect her to take care of it! Why didn’t she read the handbook? But her would-be consort, Eric Sinclair, is (annoyingly) ever-present. If only he wasn’t so tall, dark, gorgeous…and undead. The reader for this series is Nancy Wu, and she has the 20 something whine down pat. They are fun to listen too.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The audiobook, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch,  read by the author,  is bittersweet because he and the audience know his time is short. A computer professor who is aware that he has less than a year to live wants to leave his children and students a legacy of the principles, ideas and beliefs he has gathered over the years.

In this lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch is brutally honest about himself and his disease, yet he never loses his sense of humor.

Parenthood, marriage,education, science and Walt Disney are all examined. He is not falsely modest, and attributes his success to being able to learn from others and his mistakes.

It makes you wonder – what lessons you would impart to the next generation?

Hit the Road

Authors and publishers aren’t fools.  It was a cold and calculated move.  When those drafts were turned in over half a year ago – long before they warmed up the presses – they knew what you were going to do once you put away the winter wardrobe.  Folks are starting to think about getting the heck out of dodge, and along with gas prices is a rising need to clutch a bestseller…in a hammock, passenger seat, or an audiobook blasting out of your center console.

That was kind of a roundabout way of pointing out it probably wasn’t a coincidence that several heavy hitters are dropping in June.  Reserve them now.

Eric Van Lustbader — Bourne Objective

James Patterson — Private

Janet Evanovich — Sizzling Sixteen

Laurell K. Hamilton — Bullet

Dean Koontz — Frankenstein: Lost Souls

A Flux Capacitor for your Ears

I always feel a little like Marty McFly when I listen to old-time radio shows on my iPod or computer. Here are several websites that give free downloads and/or streaming of a variety of programs:

WizzardRadioWizzard Radio hosts about 85 different podcasts relating to old Radio Broadcasts including:


Radio Lovers allows listeners to revisit the listening experience of hundreds of vintage radio programs such as western hero Hopalong Cassidy and comedy classic Amos & Andy.

Agatha Christie Radio MysteriesMy favorites are the Agatha Christie Radio Mysteries. Unfortunately, the site no longer produces new feeds, but you can still download old episodes from the website.