Monday, September 22, 2014

Audiobook Round-Up: Cats and Cops

My daily commute has been a bit of a trial lately so I thought it was high-time I got back into the swing of things with audiobooks.  It's better than listening to terrible DJs on the radio who play the three same songs over and over again.  Plus if I keep track of what I listen to?  It pads my yearly reading totals and I don't look like so much of a slacker.  It's win-win people!  Here's what I've listened to lately:

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye is a book that has intrigued since an ARC landed on my desk back at The Old Job.  And naturally, since romance novels take up a huge chunk of my time, I never got around to it.  I was at a library recently for a meeting and saw it in their audiobook section and viola!

This is a historical mystery set in 1845 New York City and follows Timothy Wilde, a bartender saving up money to marry the girl of his dreams.  Until his little corner of the City literally goes up in smoke taking not only his job, but his money with him.  His brother is a cog in the political machine and gets him a position with the new formed police department.  A job Timothy has no interest in, mostly because he'd be beholden to his brother and politics (which he loathes).  But he ends up taking to it like a duck to water, and finds himself playing detective when a young Irish girl, in a blood-soaked shift, literally runs into him on the street.

This had excellent period detail, although it's what I would classify as an "ugly history" book.  There's nothing pretty about this, but then we're talking New York City in the mid-19th century.  Pretty was hard to come by.  A huge chunk of the story revolves around the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant sentiment at the time, and without going into too much politicking of my own - I think this would make an excellent book club read when you juxtapose 19th century anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment against - well, what we're seeing in the United States today....and I'll just leave it at that.

That said, this is a Bad Things Happens To Kids book (two words: Child. Prostitutes.) and with the historical details comes period language (largely slang).  I know how I am, and I think this would have been a "hard read" for me - but on audio it was excellent (I'd rather see Shakespeare preformed than read it ::shudder::).  Steven Boyer was a wonderful narrator, I thought he handled the accents well, and it kept me glued to my car seat....as it were.  Highly recommended.

Grade = B+

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun is the first in a series and was originally published in 1966 - and boy does that show!  I loved this series as a teen and kept reading each new installment as an adult even though they devolved into saccharine messes featuring Stepford-like characters who lacked a sense of irony.  What can I say?  Nostalgia can be a killer.

Anyhow, revisiting this first book reminds me that once upon a time there was a little bite to this cozy series, namely Jim Qwilleran's a recovering alcoholic and his journalism career is in the toilet.  Where this series doesn't hold up is, naturally, with technology and anytime when the cost of things (oh, like rent) are mentioned.  But the really glaring instance of Oh How Times Have Changed comes in the form of a secondary character (and possible murder suspect) who is the most stereotypical depiction of a lesbian ever put to paper.  Seriously, the woman's name is "Butchy."  No, I'm not making that up.  Which reminds me of the one big quibble I always had with this series.  Braun was crap for writing female characters.  They're either obnoxious, offensive, or waif-like sparrows who need protecting from The Big Bad World.

I would still recommend this for anybody interested in the history of the cozy mystery sub genre, especially in regards to the US market.  Yeah, yeah - Agatha Christie.  But the cozy market as we know it today in the US (magical baking knitting cats that solve crimes!) can directly be led back to Braun.  Anybody not interested in genre history?  Meh.  Still, it was fun to revisit for me and I'll probably listen to more in the series.  Because, you know, nostalgia.

Final Grade = C

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B008ARPPL4/themisaofsupe-20
Afraid To Die by Lisa Jackson is the fourth in a series that I impulsive-grabbed off a library shelf because I was desperate to avoid DJ chatter until some of my holds came in.  I got through the first two CDs (out of 10) and called it a day.

The first strike against this book was the narration.  When it was descriptive passages or internal monologues I was fine.  Natalie Ross tended to be overly dramatic for my tastes - but it was still OK.  Until the dialogue portions, and then it was eye-rollingly awful.  Male voices were just....bad.  Also accents, especially Detective Alvarez's, were completely fluid.  

I might have kept up with the book though if the story had caught my attention - which it didn't.  Chalk it up to reading too much category romance, but filler drives me crazy and this story had a ton of it.  Do I care about the police station's Secret Santa exchange that both Alvarez and Pescoli are dreading?  Do I care about the secretary who is such a Little Miss Mary Sunshine that whenever she opens her mouth she barfs up stereotypical Christmas cheer?  Do I care that Pescoli's kids are terrible human beings that I want to reach through the car speakers and strangle?

The answer would be no.  To all of that.  If it doesn't pertain to the whack-job serial killer and/or catching said whack-job?  I.  DON'T.  CARE.  Where's my red pen when I need it?

Also how Alvarez reunites with a long-lost lover strains at the seams.

Nothing was happening that I liked, so back I went to inane DJ chatter.

Final Grade = DNF

4 comments:

azteclady said...

Well, damn.

I've found that I'm too picky for audio books, so The Gods of Gotham probably would not work in that format for me, but still, now I'm intrigued.

(Though I'll say that at those prices, I'll be looking for it at my friendly neighborhood UBS.)

Wendy said...

AL: As luck would have Mean Fat Old Bat read it recently as well. She brings up a lot of really great points - nothing I disagree with and she goes into more detail than I do:

http://tinyurl.com/kf8y6go

It was nominated for an Edgar Award, so it should be easy to find used or at a library.

cleo reader said...

I remember reading a couple Cat Who mystery books as a teen - I had no idea that the first one was published in the 60s. And Butchy sounds like one of those characters who was probably a little ahead of her time, but is painfully behind our time.

Wendy said...

Cleo: The first 3 or 4 were published in the 60s, and then Braun fell off the face of the Earth. It was a surprise to everyone when she revived the series in the 1980s and that's when it really started to take off.

A lot of readers I know feel the series lost it's edge once she moved Qwill away from the city and made him a rich man. For me it didn't really start to fall apart until the end, when she started spending too much time sugar-coating all the cutesy small-town antics and spending less time delivering on the mystery end of things.