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Hope to Die by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hrs
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Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, wraps up the search for Marcus Sunday, leading Cross from D.C. to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Orleans.  Det. Alex Cross has hit his lowest point, effectively having lost everything that matters to him most — his family.  Sunday has found exactly the weakest point in Cross’ character, and he seeks to exploit it to prove his own theories that the perfect detective does not exist.  Patterson is at his best with these latest two novels — Cross My Heart and Hope to Die — because Alex Cross is tested beyond anything ever before.  As he is emotionally low, he has to wrestle with the moral dilemma before him — give in to the murderous demands of a kidnapper or lose his family forever.

Cross has to take a backseat for a while as Sunday keeps tabs on his suffering remotely, but even that doesn’t last for too long.  Concussed Alex Cross is soon on the road with his foster daughter, seeking answers to the mystery of Sunday and his desire to see Cross and his family suffer.  The audio books are the best way to listen to this series because they are thrilling productions with music and sound effects, and actors who do not merely read the books but act them out.

Hope to Die by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and  Scott Sower from Cracker, is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will leave readers of the series on the edge of their seats.  Will the entire Cross family survive this ordeal and if they do, how will it change them?  Patterson has taken this series to the next level and gotten back to the roots of what has made this series an enduring hit.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, Read by Henry Rollins

Source: Audible
Audio, 7 hrs
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The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, read by Henry Rollins, examines rock and roll history in a unique way, threading together not only U.S. history and the British invasion, but also the influences and changes that occur when new artists take on old songs and make them new.  The artists breathe new life into these songs based on their own experiences and influences, and while the songwriters are often in the background and not praised as much for their work writing them, they provide the backbone that sets these No. 1 hits on their paths to greatness.  Each chapter of the book is broken up to discuss a particular song, but Marcus’ writing style often seems like he’s just producing a name-dropping litany, rather than fleshing out the history of those songs.

The songs he selected were Shake Some Action; Transmission; In the Still of the Nite; All I Could Do Was Cry; Crying, Waiting, Hoping; Instrumental Break; Money (That’s What I Want) Money Changes Everything; This Magic Moment; Guitar Drag; and To Know Him Is To Love Him.  While the Beatles could not be ignored given their wide-ranging influence on rock and roll, Marcus does select songs and singers who were not necessarily as big, including Joy Division and others in Motown and other genres.  Rollins does a great job at pacing his reading of this book, but readers will still hear the run-on sentences and the excessive use of commas, as well as the tangential stream-of-conscious discussion that is all Marcus.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus, read by Henry Rollins, is an experimental thesis that the genesis of music is the interplay of chords, song, voice, and other factors, but it also strives to demonstrate how music from all genres influences not only what is produced today, but what has been produced previously.  While many would say that there is nothing new in music, Marcus would disagree — as he does in the interview with Rollins — saying that each artist places their own flavor and influence on a song, making it into something new.  The possibilities are endless.  While readers can appreciate Marcus’ musical knowledge and experience, as well as his tracking of history, the execution of this book bogs down the pacing and will leaver readers’ minds wandering.  An experience that, perhaps, could have been improved by some audio snippets of the songs he discusses.

About the Author:

Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train (1975), Lipstick Traces (1989), The Shape of Things to Come (2006), When that Rough God Goes Riding and Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus (both 2010), and other books. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America (2009). In recent years he has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, Minnesota, NYU, and the New School in New York. He lives in Oakland, California.

Cross My Heart by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hours
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Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a slowly evolving novel that demonstrates not only how much family anchors Det. Alex Cross, but how it can become a weakness when the wrong people decide to target you.  With one kid away at school, another child just getting a handle on her high school work, and a seven year-old son just looking forward to growing up, Alex Cross has a lot to loose when killers come knocking.  As a series of murders push the murder rate up across the city and the police department continues to feel the pressure of a possible federal government takeover, Cross is under even more pressure than usual.  In the midst of all this, a woman is kidnapping babies.

Thierry Mulch has stalked Cross and his family, and despite all the signs, Cross is simply spread to thin to put the evidence together in a clear picture.  His wife, Bree, Nana Mama, and his children Ali, Jannie, and Damon always have filled in the gaps left by Cross’ busy schedule as a detective, and while there are family resentments about his absences, they are all well aware that his job is important.  Patterson slowly unravels how Cross finds himself on the razor’s edge of revenge at the beginning of the novel, and readers are anxious throughout as the stalker gets closer and closer.  Many villains have tried and failed to beat Alex Cross, but Mulch has been studying a long time to become the perfect criminal.

The narrator for Cross and Sampson continues his good performance, though his voice for Sampson still seemed a bit forced and jarring.  Tom Wopat speaks for Mulch and the other criminals in the novel, and he does an excellent job of maintaining a cunning and dispassionate character.  His villains are practical and diabolical.

This novel shows Alex Cross at rock bottom, particularly as it comes to a close.  Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a cliffhanger that will have readers chomping at the bit to read the next, Hope to Die.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is another suspenseful romp through D.C. chasing bad guys and trying to balance the life of a high-profile homicide detective with family life.  A new marriage, 1 son in college, 1 daughter and young son at home, and 1 foster child keeps the Cross house on its toes, but when a journalist has it out for Det. Cross, things get Topsy-turvy.

Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Elijah Creem has gotten away with things that even Alex Cross doesn’t know about, even though Cross busts him at a party with illicit drugs and underage models.  While dead girls are piling up who are slim with blond hair — or at least that’s the hair color the medical examiner thinks it is since these women’s locks are shorn off and they are nearly scalped — other bodies are discovered along the river.  Cross finds himself in the middle of several cases that could be the work of one or more serial killers.  Michael Boatman does a great job as the voice of Alex Cross, but his rendition of his pal Sampson is a bit forced and comes off a bit comic.  Steven Boyer who does the narration for the killers is fantastically creepy and eerie, and in many ways is the star of this production.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is a back to basics cop novel with killers on the loose in the city, and less about the FBI, which is good to see once in a while.  Cross still has trouble balancing home life and work life, but it’s good to see that his priorities are straight when their foster child goes missing.  The audio productions are a great way to spend a couple afternoons or a few commutes into work.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson, narrated by Zach Grenier, David Lee on The Good Wife and Andre Braugher, Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has a number of plots going on at one time.  From the kidnapped children of President Coyle — a second high-profile kidnapping of children for Detective Alex Cross — to terrorists making their presence known in the nation’s capital.  Like police work in real life, not all of the cases are solved, and Alex is pushed past his ethical and moral limits as he struggles to find the kidnapped children.

The gem in this book was Zach Grenier’s narration as the kidnapper, who is diabolical and broken at the same time.  He’s shifty and he’s intelligent, and the voices he makes to differentiate between the kidnapper and the terrorists are fantastic.  Hiring actors to perform these books is a stroke of genius because it brings Patterson’s plots to life.  There are a ton of twists and turns, and while I may not approve of Cross’s methods in this one and believe they are out of step with the character he has become, the conclusion of these events was ok for me.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson is less about killing Cross than it is about the numerous threats facing our nation today.  Terrorists are often seen where there are none and there are threats that go unseen on a daily basis until it is too late.  Kidnappers are waiting in plain view in some places, while terrorists are blending in with the rest of society.  But then there are those who seem suspicious who are not threats at all.  Patterson’s novel does touch on the idea of perception and what threats we see and don’t see and why.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Cross Fire by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6.5 hours
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Cross Fire by James Patterson pits Alex Cross against his arch-nemesis, Kyle Craig, and other elements from his past.  While his private psychiatric practice has become more of a part-time gig with underprivileged kids, Cross still uses his skills to profile criminals loose on the city to capture them before they do further damage.  Ripped from the headlines, including the D.C. sniper case (which was a little too close for comfort for me), Patterson has done his homework on the police in the nation’s capitol and has a firm grasp of the ins-and-outs of the FBI.  I was pleased to see Kyle return because he is the kind of enemy that challenges the main character’s morality and wits, while remaining cunning enough to even gain the respect of readers.

These audio productions are more about the twists and turns of Cross and the puzzles he must unwind, rather than like in the Women’s Murder Club series where it is heavy on sound effects and music.  Those audio productions read like high-flying summer blockbusters, while these creep up on you like dark suspense dramas.  This one has two narrators, one for Alex Cross’ chapters and one for those with Kyle Craig, and both are excellent — though for some reason I kept picturing Cross as Tyler Perry because the narrator’s voice is close to his.  Previously, I had pictured Cross as Morgan Freeman, which is probably because those are the movies I saw first before reading the books.

I digress.  Cross Fire by James Patterson places the main protagonist in the middle of Craig’s sights, and his family is right there with him.  The terror permeating the city as the snipers travel around the city adds another layer of suspense, which is handled well in this production.  Patterson is good at creating suspenseful dramas, and this one is no slouch in that department.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook,  7.5 hours
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Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro has the women of the murder club scrambling away from terrorists and searching high and low for a killer bent on revenge.  San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer is enjoying her motherhood, even as her job continues to be demanding and murderers and terrorists remain on the loose in the city.  The FBI becomes involved in a belly bomb case that threatens the city, but Boxer is like a dog with a bone — she won’t let go and insists on investigating despite the restrictions.  Even this routine investigation is turned upside down as Mackie Morales reappears in an FBI photograph — she’s the one that got away and she’s been on the run since Boxer and the police killed her lover.

This is another spectacular audio production by Hachette with music and audio gunfire.  I enjoy listening to this adrenaline pumping series on audio more than reading them.  I tend to enjoy them for their pure entertainment, but this one had an oddball case that ensnares Yuki Castellano and her new husband while they are on their honeymoon.  The plot did not seem to be as well thought out, and it seemed like the resolution was a bit too out of character with the stories in this series.  Other than that, Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is a fun listen when your doing the chores.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

About the Co-Author:

Maxine Paetro collaborates with best–selling author James Patterson, co–writing The 4th Of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary and The 11th Hour, just released in May 2012. All are New York Times #1 best–sellers in the Women’s Murder Club Series.

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hours
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12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, narrated by January LaVoy, is a prime audio production with sound effects and music. This is like watching a fast-paced thriller without the images — but those images clearly come to mind.  There are occasions when the narrator forgets what voice should be used, but it is so rare, that readers will forgive the little slips.  This is how I prefer my Patterson these days.  These are adrenaline filled novels that will have readers eager to finish the books in one day.

While some books in the Women’s Murder Club series have fallen flat or have had too many mysteries going at once, 12th of Never is fantastic.  There was a great balance between the personal lives of the women and the cases they were working — from the case of the corpse missing from the morgue to the case of the husband on trial for murdering his wife and daughter.  Lindsay Boxer is on the sidelines for a big chunk of the book because of her family issues after the birth of her baby, but Cindy and Richie are front and center with their personal issues.  Claire is facing professional problems since the disappearance of the body, and Yuki is juggling her personal life with the high-profile trial of a husband who may have killed his wife and daughter.

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, narrated by January LaVoy, is a wild ride!  I was riveted from the beginning, probably because I’m invested in Boxer and her family.  I wanted to know what was going to happen with her and Joe and their baby, while I was disheartened by Cindy and Richie’s troubles.  Yuki is the only character I still am on the fence about, and that could be because I instantly liked the former assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt from earlier in the series.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

About the Co-Author:

Maxine Paetro collaborates with best–selling author James Patterson, co–writing The 4th Of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary and The 11th Hour, just released in May 2012. All are New York Times #1 best–sellers in the Women’s Murder Club Series.

11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hours
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11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro pits Lindsay Boxer against a couple of killers, and the Women’s Murder Club is on the case again.  The first killer, Revenge, clearly has skills and insider knowledge, but the second killer is obscured by the mysterious myths of an estate and its infamous owner.  From drug dealer bodies piling up on the city’s streets to the heads being turned up in the garden, Lindsay has no shortage of gruesome crime scenes to investigate.  As her personal life seems to fall apart, Lindsay has little choice but to throw herself into her work.

While there is more personal interaction between Lindsay and the girls, readers will likely be disappointed that her fledgling marriage is already on the rocks and the law enforcement group bends the rules in order to get a reporter off their backs.  The audio has some great effects, like gunshots, and the narrator does a good job differentiating between the girls.  Like all Patterson novels, it is heavy on plot but even that is not as well put together as it could have been.  There seems to be an overemphasis on drama, rather than on the reality of police procedures — particularly regarding pregnant police and bending the rules to get reporters out of the way (for which there should be real consequences).

11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is heart pumping and full of tension, and there are moments when the women are working really well together and their characters are evolving.  This series seems to have lost a lot of spark in terms of dynamic interactions and well thought out plots that aren’t too convoluted or ridiculous.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

About the Co-Author:

Maxine Paetro collaborates with best–selling author James Patterson, co–writing The 4th Of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary and The 11th Hour, just released in May 2012. All are New York Times #1 best–sellers in the Women’s Murder Club Series.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12.5 hours
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, was our February book club selection.  Henrietta Lacks was a black woman who felt something was wrong, some lump was growing insider her, and that lump she had was eventually diagnosed as a kind of cervical cancer.  Her treatment commenced, but she bore it all on her own, telling very few in her family about it.  She also continued to bear children throughout the process.  Lacks has since become immortal in that her cancerous cells were collected and cultivated by scientists and renamed HeLa.  Those cells were used in the fight against polio and a number of other diseases.  While she was unable to see the fruits of her cells’ labors, she is in a way immortal.

Rebecca Skloot injects herself into this narrative, which becomes part memoir as she recounts her interactions with Lacks’ children, especially Deborah.  Skloot discovered that this family had been bombarded by requests for information long before she decided to write a book about Lacks and her cells, which had made them less than willing to speak to her.  Despite the many set backs and the paranoia that often ruled Deborah’s reactions to her questions, Skloot made headway and even took family members on road trips in ways that brought the true past of their mother back to the family.  In many ways, this is not just a story about Henrietta Lacks, how her cells helped science and cured disease, or about medical ethics, but it also is a story about a family regaining its connections and its past.

The audio production was well done, especially differentiating between Deborah’s thoughts and that of the author, making them easily discernible.  This audiobook also included an interview with the author about her research and her interactions with the Lacks family, as well as her writing process, which was fascinating.  And although the story shifts from the past to the current research, the book’s narrative flows well and is immediately engaging for those with an interest in science, medical research, and the history of HeLa.  But even then, this is a human interest story about how a family struggles to learn about their mother and her cells and what happened in the past.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, packs a punch — hitting the heart of medical research and the debate about who cells belong to, what rights patients have to their own cells, whether there should be more restrictions on their use, and whether compensation should be offered to those who donate their cells.

About the Author:

Rebecca Skloot is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Her award winning science writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.

Book Club had to be postponed due to a snowstorm, but I cannot wait for the discussion in March!

The Trigger by Tim Butcher (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 hrs.
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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher, narrated by Gerard Doyle, is a mixture of travelogue and a sort-of-biography of Gavrillo Princip, the man who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and set the wheels in motion for World War I.  Princip has been considered a radical in many texts, but Butcher seeks to remedy that image and bring to life a more rounded view of the assassin, who eagerly sought the unification of the Slav people in a single nation of their own.

Butcher travels as Princip had traveled from his days growing up and in school and until he joins a group aimed at creating a unified nation free from foreign rule.  Moving from the feudal frontier village of his birth through the mountains in the northern Balkans to Belgrade and Sarajevo where Ferdinand was murdered.  While the story of Princip is engaging, the constant reflections on Butcher’s life as a war reporter in the 1990s during a more modern war in Bosnia draws parallels while pulling readers out of the story about the assassin.  Butcher meets some well-meaning people on his journey and some have no information about Princip, while others have pre-formed perceptions of the teen.

Doyle does an excellent job narrating and maintains the readers attention with his inflections and enthusiasm for the subject.  Butcher’s reminiscences about growing up in Britain after WWI and reporting on modern war are distracting.  The most interesting parts of the story are obscured by the travelogue for the most part and could have been reduced significantly to ensure the history shines through.  Readers interested in the history of the region and why Princip assassinated Ferdinand would be better served by another account of the man’s actions.  The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher, narrated by Gerard Doyle, takes too much time outlining the travels of Butcher and his past, focusing merely one-third on Princip, how he was shaped, and why he assassinated the archduke.

About the Author:

Tim Butcher is a best-selling British author, journalist and broadcaster. Born in 1967, he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, covering all major conflicts across the Balkans the Middle East and Africa. Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to journalism and writing, he is based with his family in the South African city of Cape Town.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller (audio)

Source: Audible
Audio, 9+ hours
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The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller, narrated by the same, is a memoir about reading and books.  It begins with the “List of Betterment,” on which he lists books he has talked about in the past or claimed to have read, but has not.  These books reflect the type of person he envisions himself to be. He reads 12 of the 13 books completely and is awed by them, but to complete the list and be “like” Mr. Darcy and have integrity, he must complete Of Human Bondage as his penance, or so he tells his wife.

“It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.”

There are a number of footnotes in the book, which the audio calls attention to with an audible ding so that readers do not become confused.  However, because of these footnotes, it may be easier for readers to see them on the page, but I didn’t mind the alerts and digressions since most of us digress in traditional conversation and that’s what many of these footnotes seemed to be.

“A love of books and a love of reading is not the same thing,” Miller says, but even so, he is seriously enthralled and expands his list of books. Of particular interest to me were his comments on One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is the first book I quit after not quitting any books in 2014. His comments rung true to me, though he also piqued my interest in the overall meaning of the novel and perhaps renewed my interest in returning to it at some point.

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller, narrated by the same, is a fantastic read on audio or in print or ebook for any book lover and reader. Many of us are reading to escape our lives, but what if we read deliberately? Would we be able to achieve our goals and what books would be on your list of betterment?

About the Author:

Andy Miller is a reader, author, and editor of books. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Esquire, and Mojo. He lives in the United Kingdom with his wife and son.

 

 

 

 

A list of betterment (or books I wanted to read):

  1. Persuasion by Jane Austen (read in 2014)
  2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  4. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  5. Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
  6. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  7. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  8. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (I started this in a read-a-long, had a baby, and never got back to it — it’s been 3+ years; I may have to start over!)