Audiobook Review- Two Kinds of Truth

Just like getting back in touch with an old friend!

It’s been some time since I’ve last read a novel from the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, and returning back to LA with Detective Bosch has reminded me how much I love this book franchise!

Over the past few years if I’ve returned back to the LAPD to solve another case with Detective Harry Bosch- it had been to listen to old titles which I had skipped over in the past, as I had listened to the books out of order (I’d been listening to whatever the library had on its shelves). So it’s been a very long while since I’ve listened to a Bosch novel which is more up-to-date with the present day.

Two Kinds of Truth is the 20th title in the Harry Bosch series (2017), Harry is now a volunteer detective for the San Fernando police department working cold cases from an old jail cell which is now his office. He and his small department of San Fernando detectives are called to a double homicide of a father and son pharmacy business, in what seems to be a botched robbery. Meanwhile an inmate on death row, whom Harry and his partner had put away back in the 80s, claims that he has been wrongfully imprisoned for the past decades for a crime that he did not commit, and now there was DNA evidence which proves his innocence – that puts into question Bosch’s slam-dunk case and also puts into question his methods and his 30+ year detective reputation.

The novel is a definite page turner, fast-paced as the duel cases unfold in parallel, which keeps driving Bosch forward to uncover the truth – and with Mickey Haller (Bosch’s brother-from-another-mother) weaved into the story-line, the detective and law-room drama makes it a very compelling and satisfying read indeed!

For me I particularly enjoy the Harry Bosch series and the way Michael Connelly embeds his character in the present day, therefore as current affairs, technology and culture evolves in reality, this evolution and passage of time is also reflected in the fictional life and times for Harry. Therefore as we, Michael Connelly’s audience, grow older, so does Harry Bosch and all those around him. Therefore after so many years of separation, picking up this novel has felt like I’ve been reunited with an old friend, catching up on how he’s been and what he’s been up to in the intervening years. It’s a little sad to see that Harry is now a relatively old man in his 60s, but I guess we’re all getting long in the tooth as well.

So if it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a book from the Harry Bosch series, you’d be pleased to know that the novels are only getting better as Michael Connelly pens his 20th book in the series. And at present, Book 21 (Dark Sacred Night) and Book 22 (The Night Fire) are also out and available for your listening pleasure.

And for the past years, I’ve been avoiding Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series, due to the fact that I’m not a big fan of the courtroom drama genre, and frankly the name Mickey Haller didn’t capture my imagination. But after Mickey’s cameo appearance in ‘Two Kinds of Truth’, I’ve actually warmed to his character and after two weeks I’ve already smashed through the 1st (The Lincoln Lawyer) and 2nd novel (The Brass Verdict) in the Haller series.

If you want to check out all of Michael Connelly’s titles to see what the prolific author has been up to recently – please click HERE!

Audiobook Review- Roma Sub Rosa Short Stories

A series of short-stories to fill in the life-story gaps of Rome’s most skilled ‘Finder’!

If you’re already a fan of Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series, featuring B.C’s most skilled detective – Gordianus the Finder – then you’ll love the short-story collection ‘The House of the Vestals’ and ‘A Gladiator Dies Only Once’!

I first stumbled upon Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series over a decade ago, I was probably searching the keyword of ‘Ancient Rome’, and found and read The Venus Throw- the 9th in the Roma Sub Rosa series. And over the subsequent years, I’ve read a further 6 novels from the Roma Sub Rosa series all out of sequence- so naturally I just blamed myself when the life-story of Gordianus seemed jumbled and seemed like I’d missed chunks of his life-story, i.e. the growth of his family and the growth of his assets/wealth. But now I’ve learnt that regardless of the order in which I experienced them, there were always gaps in Gordianus’ tale, and Steven Saylor’s 2 short-stories compilations (written in ’97 and ’05) have been designed to fill in those chronological gaps.

The House of the Vestals (80-72 B.C.)

It is ancient Rome, and Gordianus the Finder has a knack for finding trouble. Known to many as the one man in the ancient world who can both keep a secret and uncover one, Gordianus lays bare some of his most intriguing and compelling adventures. The House of the Vestals collects nine of the award-winning Stories of Gordianus the Finder, filling in some of the gaps between novels and revealing the intrigues in the secret history of Rome. In “Little Caesar And the Pirates”, Gordianus must act as a go-between for kidnappers, but he begins to wonder who is really being held hostage. In “The Alexandrian Cat”, a mischievous girl and a tell-tale sneeze reveal an ingenious plot of murder and thievery. In “The House of the Vestals” blackmail goes horribly wrong, and there is no one to take the blame.

A Gladiator Dies Only Once (77-64 B.C.)

A Gladiator Dies Only Once is the second collection of short stories featuring Gordianus the Finder. Set between the events of his novels Roman Blood and Catilina’s Riddle, these nine stories are previously untold adventures from the early career of Gordianus, when his adopted son, Eco, was still a mute boy, and his wife, Bethesda, was but his slave. Included are “The Consul’s Wife,” which involves a twisted search for truth behind a threatening blind item in the Act Diurna. In “The White Fawn,” Gordianus must deal with a kidnapping and murder during the revolt of Sertorius. “Archimedes’ Tomb” tells the story behind Cicero’s discovery of Archimedes’ tomb. Finally, “If a Cyclops Could vanish in a Blink of an Eye” brings up a perplexing domestic situation in Gordianus’ own home. 

Upon reflection, I think what I like the most about Steven Saylor’s style, and why his Ancient Roman mysteries are such page turners for me, is due largely to Steven Saylor’s ability to paint a vivid and convincing picture of Ancient Rome for his reader – thus transporting you and I back to the B.Cs. His attention to detail is so pedantic that I feel as if I’ve lived through the toga and dagger toting Republic days! By no means are Steven Saylor’s mysteries complex, as half of the short-stories you can guess the end outcome, but it is still a thrill and delight when Gordianus eventually solves the mystery as the reveal is so worth it! And a final mention is to Steven Saylor’s ability to use traditional Latin terms and in their original context in his writing, which both educates and astonishes me when I learn of how the original word was intended and used.

Unfortunately the Roma Sub Rosa series is not available from Audible, the original audiobooks were produced by Blackstone Audio (Ashland, Oregon). However following the above links will hopefully help you to get your hands on a copy, either as a physical paperback book or as a Compact Disc set.

Audiobook Review- China Rich Girlfriend

Even more polarising than the first?

I think it’s a sign, when you can’t be bothered to blog about something and you literally have to force yourself to do it, 2 months after the fact. Yeah, I’m talking about my review of the second book in the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ trilogy- ‘China Rich Girlfriend’ by Kevin Kwan.

From what I’ve read online, all the reviews have been glowing and the second book has received critical acclaim- some even saying that it’s even better than the first book!? What the? Have they even read the second book?

You see, the first book was revolutionary! A book which depicted Asians as something cool, something non-Asians could be envious of. The story was of romance, there was intrigue like how would Rachel respond when she finds out that Nick is from a filthy rich family? And the story-line was universal enough, that a global audience were able to embrace the characters and the storyline. But on the other hand, China Rich Girlfriend is fragmented, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, and introducing the China rich into the mix – I don’t think it has much global appeal? All I know is that the China rich are buying up our land and resources, pushing up property  prices around the world – which has made it hard for average you and I to afford a place anymore, and seeing these excesses play out – I didn’t develop any emotional attachment to those characters.

In a nutshell, China Rich Girlfriend picks up the Crazy Rich Asian story 2 years down the track. The book follows 3 main plots- Rachel and her discovery of her father and paternal family; Astrid Teo, Nick’s fashionable cousin and the deterioration of her marriage to Michael Teo; and the mostly pointless story of Kitty Tai (aka Kitty Pong), and her exploits while she attempts to be accepted into Hong Kong’s elite.

My largest criticism of the book is that just when one of the three stories gain momentum, the novel cuts over to one of the other two narratives, thus it always seems to be choppy and the book just doesn’t flow all that much. And the annoying thing is that the three stories by-in-large are stand-alone tales, thus the constant cutting back and forth between the stories isn’t necessary. But the stories do finally cross over at the very end, which sets up for the one and only interesting twist in the book. And the second annoyance I had with the book is some factual inconsistencies from the first book to the second? I know that it is just a minor aspect, but oddly it really, like really annoyed me! In the first book we were led to believe that Kerry Chu (Rachel’s mum) fled to America and on her own raised Rachel to adulthood. But in the second book, we’re introduced to a large extended family from Kerry’s side, which was contrary to our perception of them as a mother-daughter duo who only had each other to rely on. And I don’t understand why Kevin introduced Rachel’s extended family, as with their presence it didn’t add to the story, but it only placed into question the factual inconsistencies between the books.

In the end, the book didn’t draw us in, Nick and his rich-ass family were    relegated to minor characters in the book; the introduction of new characters Carlton Bao and Colette Bing were annoying characters who were given too much air time; and Kitty Pong, a minor character, from the first book, was given a lead role – which was probably the most boring of the 3 sub-plots.

In my opinion China Rich Girlfriend is an easy miss! Don’t tarnish your positive memories of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by reading book 2! The silly thing is that we purchased books 2 and 3 immediately after we finished book 1 – so because we’ve already spent the money on it, I feel obligated to read/listen to the final book of the trilogy. I wonder if it gets worse. Or can Kevin Kwan turn this Asian let-down around?

Audiobook review- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

You’ll never look at a type-face the same way ever again……

A church-side post-wedding conversation led us to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore- authored by Robin Sloan. Probably like us, you’ve never heard of this title or its author before? But having too many Audible credits (we weren’t able to accumulate any more before we started to lose them), we started madly buying books, and one novel we shrugging-ly dropped into our virtual shopping basket was Mr. P’s. We honestly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

This novel was published in 2012, but I have to admit that this novel was the most ‘present-day’-feeling book I’ve ever read! It wasn’t futuristic, but it just felt so ‘now’! The story centers around a young laid-off tecky named Clay Janan; being unemployed, he takes any job on offer, this being a night-shift shop assistant at a dusty old 24-hour bookstore, which doesn’t sell many books and doesn’t see many customers. But things aren’t what they seem to be, and just when you start to think ‘Where the heck is this book going?’ WHAM! The story takes turns you’d never expect coming!

The writing style is modern and playful, the main character Clay is a character you’d love to have as a mate and you totally get right behind his cause, and although the book is relatively short (audiobook is slightly under 8 hours long), you’re completely invested all the way through to the end, hoping real hard that everything works out well for all of the characters (unfortunately there isn’t a sequel).

I personally think one day this book will be noticed by the masses, and bigger things will unfold for Robin Sloan! For example, George R. R. Martin’s novels remained relatively unknown for 20 years before HBO turned it into a hit TV saga. Thus although Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is still relatively unknown, even though it’s been on bookshelves for the past 7 years+, with next to no web-presence/footprint – I’m a believer that one day it’ll be turned into a movie! It just has all the elements for the big screen – mystery, intrigue, tech, romance, and a secret society……Oh no, I’ve said too much…..

And the audio version of the novel was narrated and edited so well, one of the best audio experiences in recent memory – we’ll definitely be searching for more books narrated by Ari Fliakos- who did a great job bringing to life each of the characters.

“Good job, my boy”.

If you’d like to check out Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for yourself, just click HERE!

Audiobook Review- Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World

I’m sure a portion of you who end up reading this post, have seen the YouTube video of William H. Mcraven’s Commencement Speech at University of Texas at Austin. You only need to be an attendee at any work team-build session in the last 5 years to be exposed to this YouTube clip – and if you haven’t seen it? I’m sure you’ve heard people quote from the book.   

So when we were looking for titles to spend our hoarding of Audible credits on, we ordered the first thing which came to mind – that being Admiral William H. Mcraven’s book ‘Make your bed’. If you’ve sat through the full 19 minute version of his commencement speech, the audio book isn’t much longer than that (1 hour 45 mins in total), the book is essentially an expanded version of his speech with more stories as examples to emphasize the point (with a 19 minute transcript of his original Commencement speech as an appendix included into the total duration of the book ). So if you’re a value for money kind of guy/gal, you might say that ‘Make your bed’ perhaps isn’t worth the Audible credit. But if it motivates you in any-way, then that’s $AUD 16.45 well spent!

But if you want a try before you buy? Here is a high level summary of the 10 little things that may help you change the world!

One. Start each day on the right foot by achieving a goal- it could be as simple as making your bed!

Two. You can’t change the world alone, you’ll need help- find others to paddle with.

Three. Nothing matters but your will to succeed- measure a person by the size of their heart, not by their appearance.

Four. Get over the fact that life isn’t fair or perfect- if you don’t you’ll spend your life focusing on the negatives. Sugar cookie anyone?

Five. You will fail and fail often, but don’t let the fear of failure stop you from attempting your goals.

Six. Sometimes you just need to take risks and try something different to succeed in life.

Seven. When circled by sharks, don’t be afraid, don’t run away, don’t back down- stand your ground and fight!

Eight. Be calm when things reach their worst state, rely on yourself- be your very best in the darkest of hours.

Nine. The power of hope- one person can change the world, by instilling hope in others.

Ten. Don’t ever give-up, don’t ever ring that bell to signify failure.

And there you have it, 10 simple ways to change the world! Maybe it’s easier said than done. I’ve actually been going through a rough patch at work ATM, and at times when listening to the Admiral’s book- it gave me a drive to stick it out, and face my problems head on. But in the end my flight instincts won out over my fight, so I’ve rung-the-bell at work and have been given my marching orders. So when listening to the second half of the book when I’d decided to leave my problems behind, I just felt even more weak and pathetic. *Sigh*.

But if you feel like you need a pick-me-up, check out ‘Make your bed’, if anything it makes for a good read.   

Audiobook Review- Lolita

I don’t know why and how I manage to add Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita to my audiobook wish-list. But a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to clean-up my horribly oversized wish-list, working my way up from the bottom – I ended up downloading this book to my phone.

Big mistake?

After the first 30 minutes, I told myself I wasn’t going to listen to this anymore. As after the foreword and first few minutes of the narrative, I knew that morally this was not a book or topic I wanted to be engrossing in. I’ve admitted in the past that I virtually listen to anything and what I am is an eclectic reader- but a story of hebephilia?

But curiosity is the darndest thing, knowing that I shouldn’t be doing something? So I found myself sneakily listening on, until my wife told me that she had already read-up on Lolita from Wikipedia (btw I tell her everything) and she was aware of how the book was going to unfold and  left me with a warning to not get too caught up in it.

I’m not going to recount the novel, as it contains R-levels of adult themes, but at least the book does not contain actual sex scenes like modern day books – just hints and some seriously heavy adult themes.

The audiobook which I listened to was read by Jeremy Irons, who captured perfectly the neurotic nature of Humbert Humbert the protagonist of the novel. Aside from the themes, the novel isn’t an easy read either, with much word play, double entendres, multilingual puns, anagrams and the use of made-up terms (which has become apart of our modern day language) – therefore there are parts which required much concentration to be able to follow on with Humbert’s crazed narrative.

But what the book Lolita did get me thinking about, was the concept of attraction, or the more sinister term……. Fetish. How strange it all is, how and why people are attracted to what they are attracted to. It was the first time I’d heard someone explain why an adult could be sexually attracted to an early pubescent teen. According to the book, Humbert as an early teen had fallen for a girl his own age, but she had died that same year from a disease (which we have now eradicated in the modern day). But due to this early impression on him, Humbert finds himself attracted to other early teenage girls he meets in the future who reminds him of his first love. And the sad thing for him, was that as the years went by and he grew older and older, the source of his attraction still remained the same age. A seemingly innocent thing when you’re 14 years of age, but something oh-so-illegal in all 50 states when you’re 40-50 years old.

For me, seeing things through this perspective, gave me a slightly new insight into monsters like paedophiles and hebephiliacs. You have to feel the slightest sense of pity for these people if you think about it. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have our ‘fetishes’, don’t we? Be that an attraction to blondes, or Asians, or knee-high boots or whatever? But for the majority 99% of us, we have to be thankful that our attraction remains on the right side of the law. So you’d have to feel some sorrow for those poor sods who find themselves like Humbert Humbert, horribly attracted to something which society condemns. I don’t like what you’re doing Humbert Humbert, and that’s just not right. But I can’t judge, ‘he who is sinless, cast the first stone’.

Lolita is a strange book indeed, not a book that I’d happily recommend to others, but surprisingly thought-provoking and a bit of a page-turner.